Paris, France – In their triumphant return to the FEI World Cup Dressage Final, Laura Graves (Geneva, Fla.) and Verdades claimed victory in the FEI Grand Prix on Friday evening to open the competition. On a grand prix personal best score of 81.413 percent, the powerful combination rode the centerline with poise and grace, showing the world that they arrived to compete. Germany’s Isabell Werth and Weihegold OLD placed second with a score of 78.261 percent, while Jessica von Bredow-Werndl (GER) and Unee BB came in third on a 75.668 percent.
“I am very happy with the performance,” said Graves. “It was our first time in this stadium with fans and it is going to be very exciting tomorrow. Everything is special. This is our third World Cup now, and I am hoping maybe third time is the charm for us. Today is actually Friday the 13th isn’t it? That’s supposed to be bad luck, but not for us. So, a lot of special things. This is a big year for us. It is our first World Cup Final in Europe and a personal best today, so I am very excited going into tomorrow, and the rest of this year.”
Coming straight from competing in Florida, Graves and Verdades, the 16-year-old KWPN gelding she owns with Curt Maes, were undefeated at the 2018 Adequan® Global Dressage Festival, scoring over 80 percent in all the freestyle tests in which they entered. At the 2017 CHIO Aachen, Graves and Verdades bested Werth for the first time in the FEI Grand Prix Special with an 81.824 percent, making Friday’s FEI Grand Prix at the Finals their second win over the talented German athlete. View Graves’s winning ride here.
“I always say it is a little scary with such a fierce competitor, because I know [Isabell] is going to ride even harder tomorrow,” continued Graves. “But that’s why I’m here. I like to put myself in a situation to also be challenged. I think it makes me a better competitor, a better rider, and we will certainly continue to put ourselves against the toughest competition.”
The 17 riders receiving scores above 60 percent in the Grand Prix will move forward to compete in Saturday's FEI Grand Prix Freestyle, which will determine the champion of the 2018 FEI World Cup Dressage Final.
Fellow American Shelly Francis (Loxahatchee, Fla.) and Danilo, Patricia Stempel’s 14-year-old Hanoverian gelding, finished the Grand Prix with a score of 68.236 percent. They will be the first combination down the centerline on Saturday in the Freestyle.
Watch it live on FEI TV beginning at 8:00 a.m. EST.
View more information about the 2018 FEI World Cup Dressage Final.
The USEF International High Performance Programs are generously supported by the USET Foundation, USOC, and USEF sponsors and members.
Photos by Shannon Brinkman Photo