2006 Palm Beach Dressage Derby, Wrap-Up
March 3- 5, 2006

Leslie Morse and Tip Top 962 Win FEI Grand Prix Freestyle at the Palm Beach Dressage Derby CDI***/CDIY

LOXAHATCHEE, FL – March 5, 2006 –

Leslie Morse of Beverly Hills, California, riding her Tip Top 962 earned a score of 76.175% to claim victory in the FEI Grand Prix Freestyle today at the Palm Beach Dressage Derby CDI***/CDIY in Loxahatchee, Florida. The top 15 riders from the 37 that competed in the Grand Prix yesterday qualified to compete in the musical freestyle competition. Canada’s Ashley Holzer aboard her own Imperioso scored 73.900% for second place. Colombia’s Cesar Parra riding Galant Du Serein for Horse Unlimited earned 70.475% for third.

All three of the top-placed horses are stallions and both Holzer and Parra were riding their mounts from the 2004 Athens Olympic Games. Morse was a member of the 2005 Bronze Medal winning team at the 2005 CDIO in Aachen, Germany, with her stallion Kingston. Tip Top 962 is a 12-year-old black Swedish warmblood stallion that Morse has owned and ridden for three years.

Leslie Morse and Tip Top 962
Photo: Susan J Stickle

Morse choreographed her own freestyle with a music track created by Karen Robinson. She had practiced it only once before debuting it at the Palm Beach Dressage Derby. Morse noted one of the most technically difficult aspects of the ride she created was the passage half-pass followed directly by a trot half-pass. “Basically I think the reason the trot and passage tour is challenging is because of all the transitions, which Tip Top does so beautifully,” Morse pointed out. “His rhythm is such that he can go from passage to extension to passage to trot. He has an amazing elasticity so I really try to show that off in my choreography.”

The Derby was Morse’s first show with both of her stallions, Kingston and Tip Top, since she represented the U.S. in Aachen, Germany, seven months ago. “Over the two days and four tests, I’ve learned a lot and I started to get the feeling back again by the time we went into the freestyle,” she said. “The second we started with the small eight-meter circle in the passage I just thought ‘that felt good’. I just love the music so much, it’s just so fun.”

Morse’s soundtrack is a medley of danceable swing music. “It’s like real dance music that people dance to,” she said, noting that she particularly wanted to illustrate the concept of dancing with her partner in her freestyle. “The overall freestyle really shows the elasticity of Tip Top and the fact that he just leads me along – it’s all about lightness and ease and really fun music.”

Morse assessed that Tip Top’s best execution of a movement was in the two-tempi changes on a 20-meter circle. “I’m really proud of those.” She also was pleased with Tip Top’s double-canter pirouette. “It’s a hard freestyle,” Morse stated pointing out how rapidly the movements follow each other in the performance. Morse also noted that she got ahead of her music in the canter coming into the one tempis and described how she got back in time. “I had to sit there on the half halt and wait four steps while the music was playing,” she explained. “What I love about Tip Top is that he’s so on the aids that I could push him in and out of the four steps and make him wait on a half halt until the music changed. Again that shows the elasticity and the suppleness of him.”

Overall, Morse’s impression of her musical freestyle was very positive from several perspectives. “I’m elated! I’m very excited about it,” she enthused. “I’m so glad that it got such a rave review. All of the spectators loved it. I just felt that excitement and it was a blast. I felt everyone having fun with it and that’s what we want to do with freestyle. That’s the point of freestyle – to show the fun side of what we do.”

Leah Wilson Wins FEI Young Riders
Earlier in today’s CDI classes in the international Arena 1, Leah Wilson riding Amusanat won the FEI Young Rider Freestyle with a score of 68.875, topping the three-horse field. Tara Dougans aboard Nashua placed second with a score of 62.250%. Catherine Golulet riding Orgon was third earning 61.792%.

Ashley Holzer Wins FEI Grand Prix Special

Ashley Holzer on Gambol
Photo: Susan J Stickle

Canada’s Ashley Holzer continued her winning streak at the Derby, notching her third CDI win at the show. Holzer earned this victory with Gambol in the FEI Grand Prix Special, soundly outdistancing the field of 15 horses with a score of 69.080%. Leslie Morse and her stallion Kingston placed second with a score of 67.800%. Arlene Page of Wellington, Florida, and her gelding Wild One claimed third place with 65.840%.

Holzer was awarded the Gifted Memorial Trophy, the perpetual trophy for the CDI Grand Prix Special. Olympic Team Bronze Medalist Carol Lavell (Gifted’s rider at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics) and her husband Tom Lavell made the presentation.

Gambol is a 12-year-old Dutch stallion Holzer owns with Ellen Lazarus. She has had the ride on the talented black for four years and is competing him in his first year of Grand Prix. Though the warm-up ring put three stallions and a mare together prior to the ride, creating some distraction for Gambol, Holzer noted that in the arena, the stallion was all business. “Once he’s being ridden and he canters down that centerline it doesn’t really matter what’s going on, he will put his mind to the job and he just does his job,” explained Holzer. “It’s a very difficult test for a horse in his first year of Grand Prix, but he doesn’t really seem to be put off by the difficulty. He really finds it easy and he almost likes it more. He likes to do his job.”

Holzer acknowledged that she has been on a winning streak, but described her philosophy on the string of victories. “I’m not going out to win. I’m going out to just ride good clean tests,” she said. “My horses are going well, I have a good team, and I’m getting good coaching. My horses are right where they need to be right now. I’m surrounded by a lot of positive people, which I appreciate, especially before the World Equestrian Games.” Holzer also noted that her teammate at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, Evi Pracht, has provided excellent help for her in Florida. “She knows the right thing to say to keep me relaxed and focused on riding – not focused on winning.”

Holzer is aiming to qualify both Gambol and Imperioso for the 2006 World Equestrian Games in Aachen, Germany, and explained that the experience at the Derby CDI was helpful to her in the Canadian rider rankings and in preparation for the ‘head-to-heads’ in Canada that will determine the team. “It’s a great positive thing for me to have this under my belt – to know that I can ride well, and that I can ride clean and I can do well – that’s a very good feeling coming into the finals.” Currently the two stallions are one point apart in the Canadian rankings. “It’s a very amazing spot to be in,” Holzer said.

Assessing Gambol’s winning performance in the FEI Grand Prix Special today, Holzer said that what she appreciated most was, “his effort. The horse just puts out every time he goes down the centerline. I know he will fight for me and that’s a great feeling. There are lots of horses that you can’t count on, and that’s not the case here. I can completely count on him.”

Ashley Holzer and Pop Art Win FEI Prix St. Georges

Ashley Holzer on Pop Art
Photo: Susan J Stickle

Canada’s two-time Olympian Ashley Holzer riding Pop Art topped a field of 37 horses today to win the FEI Prix St. Georges at the 2006 Palm Beach Dressage Derby CDI***/CDIY in Loxahatchee, Florida. Holzer, who resides in New York, New York, earned a score of 72.650% aboard the nine-year-old Dutch gelding by Amsterdam. Ian Nicoll, Holzer’s father, owns Pop Art.

Claiming second place was Lars Petersen of Denmark riding Dacardo for owner Melissa Taylor Yee. Petersen, who resides in Wellington, Florida, earned 69.300% aboard the seven-year-old Swedish warmblood by D-Day. The third place ribbon went to Nicole Bellah of Lake Worth, Florida, riding her own Avant-Garde. Bellah and her 17-year-old Dutch gelding by Beethoven scored 68.10%.

The 2006 Palm Beach Dressage Derby CDI***/CDIY (March 3-5) at the Horse Park at Equestrian Estates features USEF High Performance Qualifying Competition for the 2006 World Equestrian Games Selection Trials, the USEF National Grand Prix Championship, the USEF National Intermediaire I Championship, the USEF National Grand Prix Freestyle Championship/US League Final, and BLM Qualifying Competition.

In today’s FEI Prix St. Georges, a qualifier for the USEF National Intermediaire I Championship, all five judges at the international Arena 1 placed Holzer first. “I feel very lucky about that,” Holzer said of the unanimous decision. “I’ve had an incredible season with this horse. He really just goes in there and performs.”

Holzer also credited her support team for today’s victory. “They knew this CDI was very important to me,” she said. Holzer plans to compete Pop Art in the small tour (Prix St. Georges/Intermediaire I) at one more CDI this season and then will advance him to Grand Prix. “I really wanted to do very, very well. My coach and everyone have been drilling me to make sure that I’m clean. My dad’s out there video-ing, everyone’s out there video-ing to make sure that we’re cleaning everything up the best we can in his last two shows at this level,” Holzer said. “This win is an accumulation of a lot of effort from a lot of people.”

Holzer is coached in Florida by her 1988 Seoul Olympic Games Team Bronze Medal teammate, Eva Pracht. “It’s great to have a former teammate as my coach at this point in my life – to have someone there helping me out that little bit,” Holzer said. Holzer also receives coaching from Norbert Van Laak, the Canadian Dressage Team coach who has been flying in from Germany to work with the Canadian riders in Florida this season.

“The best thing today was that “Poppy” stayed on my aids and gave me a great feeling the whole way through the test,” Holzer enthused. “He went through clean, but more than that he gave me an incredibly active feeling. He’s a very true horse.” Holzer has been riding Pop Art for two-and-a-half years and trained him from Second/Third Level to the FEI level. Pop Art received his name from Holzer’s mother-in-law, Jane Holzer – one of artist Andy Warhol’s famous stars during his reign as the innovator of ‘pop art’. The chestnut is known as “Poppy” according to Holzer because he “kind of pops when he goes – he lifts his legs high.” She noted that today he felt “like a very polished and experienced horse overall” and that the Prix St. Georges test was “easy for him.”

Holzer, who was a member of Canada’s 1988 Seoul Olympics Bronze Medal Team and also competed at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, stated that she is aiming the talented Pop Art for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

Officiating at the international arena today were: Anne Gribbons “I” USA at E; Lorraine MacDonald, “I”, Canada at H; Axel Steiner, “O”, USA at C; Beatrice Buerchler-Keller, “O” Switzerland at M; and Evi Eisenhardt, “O”, Germany at B.

Ashley Holzer and Pop Art Win Intermediaire I Freestyle

Wrapping up the competition at the 2006 edition of the Palm Beach Dressage Derby, Ashley Holzer once again claimed victory and as the sun set she rode her fourth victory lap of the CDI.  All told, Holzer claimed four wins out of the five CDI competitions at the Derby.  Her final win of the show was in the last class, the FEI Intermediaire Freestyle, where she rode Pop Art to 74.80%.  It was a hat-trick for the talented nine-year-old Dutch gelding who won all his classes in the small tour at the Derby. 

Christopher Hickey riding Regent earned 69.6% for second place.  Emily Gershberg aboard Pancratius also earned 69.6% but was awarded third place as the tie was broken on the ‘artistic’ score (in addition to the percentages, freestyles also earn a score for artistic and technical aspects).   In fourth place was Canada’s Dominique Culham riding Matisse who earned 68.700%.   Fifth place was awarded to Canada’s Tom Dvorak aboard Fortissimo, who was awarded 68.05%.  Two riders tied for sixth place with a score of 67.425% each – Sharon McCusker with Weltheir and Brazil’s Pia Aragao riding Nirvana Interagro.


High Score Awards Sponsored by Dietrich Insurance & Forge Hill Sculpture
High Score for USEF Training Level: Gwen Poulin, Marjan De Destinada, 78.846
High Score for USEF First Level: Kelly Irving, Woden, 72.963%
High Score for USEF Second Level: Krystalann Shingler, Tiuidor, 71.622%
High Score for USEF Third Level: Cesar Parra, Furst Fabio, 67.556%
High Score for USEF Fourth Level: Diane Creech, Fabiene, 69.302%
High Score for USEF Prix St. Georges: Jennifer Staton, Al Pacino, 68.250%
High Score for USEF Intermediaire II, Grand Prix, and Grand Prix Special: Nancy Polozker, Day Dream, 66.585%

High Score of the CDI***
Ashley Holzer, Pop Art, 73.333% (Intermediaire I)

The Derby 2006 Overall High Score Winner
Gwen Poulin, Marjan De Destinada, 78.846 (Training Level Test 4)

For complete results of today’s competition, visit www.pbderby.com


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