WELLINGTON, Fla. – Jackie Brooks and Gran Gesto served notice they will be strong contenders for a place on Canada’s Olympic dressage team with a victory in Saturday’s Grand Prix at the Zada Enterprises Florida Dressage Classic at the CN Winter Equestrian Festival presented by Zimmerman Advertising.

The pair posted a winning score of 70.313 per cent with Arlene Page of Wellington and Wild One second on 64.688 per cent and Jan Brons also of Wellington and Jourdan third with 61.667 per cent. The event is being held at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center South Grounds.

So focused is Brooks on pursuing an Olympic team berth, that she has withdrawn her application for the World Cup Final in the Netherlands next month although she is in second place behind compatriot Ashley Holzer in the North American League standings. North America is guaranteed two slots for the final.

“I would really love to do the World Cup because the freestyle is my favorite thing,” she said. “But this year is too hard on the horse to do both

“If we made it to the World Cup Final we would then have to come back home and, if we made our Olympic team, go back to Europe again before going to Hong Kong.

She said the 13-year-old Oldenburg gelding is peaking at the right time having notched two scores above 70 percent in U.S. national tests in recent weeks, almost 68 percent in a CDI a month ago and with two more CDIs in Florida within the next month. An average score of greater than 67 percent in three CDIs is required for consideration for the Canadian team

Brooks, of Toronto, has been working with Holzer while in Florida. She described Holzer as an “amazing” trainer helped Brooks and Gran Gesto translate what they learn into results in the competition ring.

What she is most excited about, she said, is performing her freestyle at the WEF CDI March 20-23 under lights in the all-weather International Arena at PBIEC.

“It is a venue that is most like what will be the experience in Hong Kong under the lights on the same footing,” Brooks said. She was a spectator a month ago when Holzer gave a dressage freestyle demonstration in the International Arena.

“It is the best preparation for Hong Kong.”