Spain’s Juan Matute Guimón marked a momentous day with a plus-80% victory in the Grand Prix Freestyle CDI4*, presented by IDA Development, on Friday, March 4. His win came in the atmospheric evening session in the Global International Arena under lights in week eight of the 2022 Adequan® Global Dressage Festival (AGDF) in Wellington, FL. AGDF, which hosts seven weeks of CDI competition, runs through March 27.
It was clear from Matute Guimón’s reaction at the final halt how much this performance meant to him. Aside from the pandemic hobbling competition and training opportunities for more than two years, the 24-year-old suffered a brain bleed in May 2020 followed by pneumonia and a long road to recovery.
Winner of the qualifying grand prix, Jan Ebeling (USA), had to settle for second with his talented 12-year-old mare Bellena. He posted 75.52% with some green mistakes. Germany’s Christoph Koschel slotted into third with Dünensee, chalking up 75.355%.
“It’s been quite an emotional comeback,” said Matute Guimón, “because the last time I was here was in 2020 with Don Diego trying to qualify for the Las Vegas World Cup Final. And then we all know what happened after that. Now I’m back, and I’m going all out. I want to do it all. I want to go to all of the shows, the European Championships, World Championships, World Cup Final, everything. I want to be in the top sport, and I must take every opportunity I can.”
Watch Juan Matute Guimón’s winning test, presented by Premier Equestrian:
Matute Guimón, who rides for Spain but holds U.S. citizenship as well, could hear the crowd clapping along at the end of his highly technical freestyle test, which he rode to music by Juanes and Bruno Mars that received a score of 80.190%. Quantico, a 16-year-old gelding by Fighting Fit, lit up.
“With horses as sensitive as Quantico they get really electric,” enthused Matute Guimón, who had only ever logged one score over 80% before. “And for the passage and piaffe, this is what we want to see, lots of activity. I had so much fun already, and to earn an 80% on top of that is mind-blowing. Hopefully I’ll be able to keep increasing the scores. That is always the goal. 81 or 82 or 83, who knows? But clean tests with more power, more cadence.”
“A freakish talent” is how Jan Ebeling describes Bellena, the 12-year-old daughter of Bellissimo M who he rode into second place. Originally bought for her owner Ann Romney to ride, Ebeling picked up the ride when they realized how talented she was.
“She’s a horse that can do stuff other horses just can’t,” he explained. “She’s an amazing athlete. Karen Robinson helped me with the choreography and the music, which is Piano Boys. It’s a relatively easy freestyle because she’s a green horse, and I don’t want to push her too much. But I’m thinking about adding in pirouettes in the piaffe and all that other stuff, because I gotta catch up with Juan!”
Third-placed Koschel was riding Dünensee, Diamante Farms’ 13-year-old gelding by Dancier, at his first CDI, performing their first freestyle and making their debut under lights.
“It’s all so new so he was a bit shy and a little nervous, but I think we handled it very well,” he said. “And I used [former top horse] Dom Perignon’s freestyle, which is really difficult, so I think we have to practice it a little bit more. I’m very happy that he behaved so well, because I didn’t know how we would do under the lights.”
Judge Cesar Torrente (COL) was impressed with what he saw: “The first three places were really good,” he said. “Juan’s freestyle, the difficulty was amazing. Jan did a wonderful canter tour. Ballena is an amazing, powerful mare. Watch out, because that one has a lot of power and is a really high quality mare. And Christoph, of course, is a wonderful rider, and he performed to the best of his abilities. It was very good to see such high standard. I would say the choreographies were all good and the music was good, so it was very pleasant to judge.”
The 27-year-old Anna Buffini pulled off the ride of her life on FRH Davinia La Douce to not only win the FEI World Cup™ Grand Prix Freestyle, presented by Sapphire Stables, with a personal best, but also book herself a place at the FEI Dressage World Cup™ Final in April. Buffini’s 79.265% eclipsed second-placed Brittany Fraser-Beaulieu’s (CAN) efforts on All In by just 0.12 percentage points. Alice Tarjan (USA) continued her successful streak on home-produced horses to fill third with a new career high score of 77.64% on Donatella M.
Buffini was awarded two scores over 80% from the panel of five judges and recorded her first ever CDI win aboard the horse bought from Germany’s Anabel Balkenhol two years ago.
On qualifying for the World Cup Final, she said: “It’s totally surreal. I really didn’t let myself think about it because I never want to assume. If we could go in there and do the test I knew she could do, I knew we could get a great score, but it’s my tenth grand prix in my life or so, and we’re still figuring it out.”
Buffini and the 15-year-old daughter of Don Frederico finished fourth in the qualifying grand prix, but she managed to iron out the kinks for their freestyle performance — in which the rider sings herself — gaining the golden ticket to the Final. This will be the first senior championship for Buffini.
“I learn so much after I make mistakes, and we made mistakes yesterday,” she explained. “We fixed that in the warm-up today, and we came out and I was not going to let that happen again. It was our most solid test we’ve ever done. Her canter work was super today. Her pirouettes were very good — we had trouble with those yesterday — and her passage is always a highlight.
“If I could only ride freestyles the rest of my life, that’s what I’d do. Music and horses are my two passions and if I wasn’t a rider, I’d be a singer, so to have both in the same arena, and now to go to the World Cup, I am literally living my dreams,” added Buffini, whose music features the South Korean boy band BTS. “I love BTS so much. I always tell people, my ultimate goal in life is not just the Olympics. It’s to go to the Olympics so I can do a BTS freestyle, so I can meet BTS.”
Buffini will now reroute, and rather than flying home to California, will begin organizing her and Davinia’s trip to Europe for the Final: “Now I have to think about Germany, which is amazing,” she concluded. “This little miracle mare that people didn’t really expect much of is now going to the World Cup. It’s surreal.”
After a five-year stranglehold on the Adequan® Palm Beach Derby, Germany’s Christoph Koschel has finally passed the baton — to his student Benjamin Ebeling. The Derby Prix St. Georges final took place under lights during the freestyle, with a head-to-head between Ebeling (USA) and Germany’s Frederic Wandres, who had both emerged victorious from the semi-final knock-out rounds. In the Derby, riders perform a Prix St. Georges test on an unfamiliar horse, with just five minutes to warm up.
For the final, both Ebeling and Wandres rode Harold Denton’s eight-year-old Atterupgaards Belafonte. The Danish gelding is a sale horse at Helgstrand Dressage, where he is ridden by Amanda Perkowski.
Second to go, Ebeling conjured up a 71.838% out of the son of Bellissimo M, eclipsing the 70.698% laid down by Wandres, who rode with a large heart in the colors of the Ukrainian flag pinned to his back.
Ebeling, who at 23 is the youngest ever participant in the Derby, enthused: “It was really cool. Honestly, I was dreaming of doing this for years, since I first came to Wellington. I saw Christoph win it so many times, and I’ve been training with him for just as long. And it was really cool to kind of keep it in the family.”
On the appeal of riding a strange horse in front of an audience after only a few minutes of familiarization, he added: “I think it’s about showing your mastership of the skills of dressage. I was confident, but of course I had some really good competitors, not to mention Freddie, who has literally beaten me 20 times in a row. So it was nice to finally beat him.”
Both riders praised the horse, and the light-hearted nature of a Derby competition.
“The horse offered a nice feeling and a good contact,” said Wandres. “The Derby thing should always be fun. For sure we are all competitors, and everyone wants to win, but my message today was this flag on my back for Ukraine.
“We are having a good time here, but for other people and other horses, it’s very difficult at the moment. Especially for us in Germany, we are way closer to that whole thing, and the whole world needs to support them. For me it was important,” concluded Wandres, who is donating his prize money to support Ukraine.
From the 19 starters in the Prix St. Georges CDI1*, it was the youngest horse in the pack — the only seven-year-old — who emerged triumphant. Shannon Dueck (CAN) rode her own, Elizabeth Ferber, Kathy Putnam and Julie Skinner’s talented Franziskus daughter Angelika MW to 69.588% at the mare’s second CDI. This marked their first international win, just a day before the mare’s actual seventh birthday. Two American riders joined Dueck on the podium: Tiffany Silverman and Vincenzo 14 produced a personal best of 69.382% to claim second, with Jessica Jo Tate slotting into third on Romeo just 0.02 percentage points behind.
Christian Simonson (USA) and Zeaball Diawind continued their winning streak at small tour, capturing the Intermediate I CDI2*, presented by CabanaCoast. First to go down the centerline, the 19-year-old rider posted an unassailable 70.392% to lead the class from the front on Christina Morgan’s 10-year-old gelding by Fürstenball. Luuk Mourits (NED) climbed a place from his finish in the previous day’s Prix St. Georges to take second with 69.657% on Harmony’s Sarotti OLD. Kristina Harrison-Antel (USA) claimed third on I Felix with 68.873%.
Dressage resumes on Saturday, March 5, with a full day of action, including the feature class, the Grand Prix Special CDI4*, presented by Mission Control. Competition also includes small and medium tour classes, young horse classes, an under-25 grand prix, as well and junior and young rider contests. For more information and results, visit www.globaldressagefestival.com.
Results: FEI Grand Prix Freestyle CDI4*, presented by IDA Development
1. Juan Matute Guimón (ESP) on Quantico, Juan Matute Azpitarte’s 16yo Hanoverian gelding by Fighting Fit: 79.925, 81.45, 78.85, 80.55, 80.175, 80.19
2. Jan Ebeling (USA) on Bellena, Ann Romney’s 12yo Hanoverian mare by Belissimo M: 76.45, 75.975, 74.85, 76.325, 74, 75.52
3. Christoph Koschel (GER) on Dünensee, Diamante Farms’ 13yo Hanoverian gelding by Dancier: 77.15, 76.675, 74.225, 75.025, 73.7, 75.355
4. Pablo Gómez Molina (ESP) on Ulises De Ymas, Javier Bacariza, Cristina Danguillecourt & Yeguada de Ymas S.L.’s 12yo PRE gelding by Seni Indio: 74.825, 76.975, 75.05, 75.025, 68.6, 74.095
5. Ariana Chia (CAN) on Fiderflame, her own 12yo Oldenburg gelding by Fidertanz: 68.9, 74.775, 72.425, 73.25, 72.175, 72.305
6. Jessica Jo Tate (USA) on Derby, Cackie Vroom’s 16yo Oldenburg NA gelding by Donnerwerth: 71.3, 75.425, 71.45, 71.975, 69.775, 71.985
7. Lisa Marriott (GBR) on Valucio DH Z, her own 13yo Zangersheide gelding by Va-Vite: 71.3, 72.95, 69.075, 73.675, 70.175, 71.435
8. Paula Matute Guimón (ESP) Delagronge, her own & Julie McAllister’s 14yo Oldenburg stallion by De Niro: 69.8, 74.95, 70.25, 72.25, 67.825, 71.015
9. Evi Strasser (CAN) on Disney Tyme, her own 14yo Oldenburg gelding by Diamond Hit: 67.05, 72.9, 67.325, 70.975, 65.4, 68.73
Results: FEI World Cup™ Dressage Grand Prix Freestyle, presented by Sapphire Stables
1. Anna Buffini (USA) on FRH Davinia La Douce, her own 15yo Hanoverian mare by Don Frederico: 80.075, 78.375, 78.25, 79.375, 80.25, 79.265
2. Brittany Fraser-Beaulieu (CAN) on All In, her own & Marc-Andre Beaulieu’s 17yo KWPN gelding by Tango: 77.275, 79.55, 81.025, 77.75, 80.125, 79.145
3. Alice Tarjan (USA) on Donatella M, her own 11yo Oldenburg mare by Fürstenball OLD: 75.375, 77.875, 77.575, 79.825, 77.55, 77.64
4. Jan Ebeling (USA) on Status Royal OLD, Ann Romney’s 12yo Oldenburg gelding by Statesman OLD: 70.05, 72.775, 72.95, 69.875, 68.75, 70.88
5. Codi Harrison (USA) on Katholt’s Bossco, her own 15yo Danish Warmblood gelding by Don Schufro: 68.1, 68.6, 70.4, 66.5, 67.4, 68.2