March 11, 2015--It's coming down to the last qualifying events for the North American League, and the picture is becoming more clear on who has a shot at going to Las Vegas with the long-awaited appearance of Laura Graves and Verdades last weekend.
Expectations were high for their performance at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival in Wellington, Fla. It was the first competitive outing for the duo since a sensational fifth-place finish last year at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.
Laura and the horse that came her way as a foal didn't disappoint. Although they finished second in the Grand Prix to Denmark's U.S.-based Lars Petersen and Marriett, they ramped up to win the freestyle with a score of 78.875 percent. Verdades' piaffe and pirouettes are impressive, and he obviously is on the rise. Marriett's unbeaten streak for the season ended with an uncharacteristically dull performance and she finished fourth, but Lars still leads the league.
Lars, being a European, would have to get into the finals as an additional rider, beyond the two North Americans who will qualify on the highest average of two scores. Both Laura and Steffen Peters, who scored 80.825 in his first qualifier with Legolas, need that second score to punch their ticket for Vegas. The League is ranked based on the average of two scores.
The odds are that if all goes as well as expected this coming weekend for Laura and Verdades in the final Florida qualifier, they'll be heading for Vegas next month. And you can figure the same for Steffen, who will ride his second qualifier on Legolas the following weekend in San Juan Capistrano.
So far, the marks earned by Laura and Steffen are the best received by anyone in the league. Anything can happen, of course, but these top horses tend to be consistent.
It will be interesting to see what happens with Jan Ebeling and Rassolini, who earned 75.050 in their first qualifier on the West Coast.
There is a chance that the FEI could grant another slot for a starter from North America, but if Lars gets a spot, that might not happen. There's a lot of wait-and-see, but it won't be much longer before the home side will know who they'll be cheering for in the first dressage World Cup finals on this side of the Atlantic in six years.