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Leslie Morse

Leslie Morse

GLADSTONE, N.J. — After a four day battle, the weather and rain finally won at the 2009 Collecting Gaits Farm/U.S. Equestrian Federation’s Dressage Festival of Champions, and collectively the Ground Jury and the management decided that, in the best interest of the horses, the competition was suspended after the Young Riders rode first thing on the final day of competition June 21.

This meant Californian Leslie Morse was crowned USEF National Grand Prix Champion for the fifth time. Morse and her beloved 15-year-old Swedish Warmblood stallion Tip Top 962 put on a dominating performance in the Grand Prix on June 19 on a score of 72.00 percent to win the first leg. The pair tried out a new Freestyle on June 20 and scored 74.250 percent for second place. The Grand Prix Championship was scheduled to be decided June 21 with the Grand Prix Special, but Mother Nature had other plans.

“It feels great to be National Champion,” said Morse, who traveled from Beverly Hills to compete in Gladstone. “Tip Top did a fabulous job. I’m very excited. I leave here and go to England to train with Kyra (Kyrklund) we have a great tour planned and the timing is excellent to help us move forward.”

The final ranking was determined after the two legs of the competition, as only two of the three legs were completed. Morse was the only rider to score over 70 percent in both tests.

“I was a bit disappointed,” Morse said about not riding the third test. “I was looking forward to the Special and to doing better today than yesterday. But the decision was extremely wise.”

Leslie Morse and Tip Top 962 are named National Grand Prix Champions at the USEF Dressage Festival of Champions.

Daniel K. Lew / Horsetrader photo

Leslie Morse and Tip Top 962 are named National Grand Prix Champions at the USEF Dressage Festival of Champions.

Ground Jury President Janet Foy said she knew the decision wouldn’t be easy. “It was a unanimous decision by the Ground Jury,” Foy said. “It’s not bad footing–I don’t know of any footing that could withstand this kind of rain. Our first priority is the safety and welfare of the horses. The (Young Riders) did a great job, but it was deep and slippery and there were still a lot of puddles.”

Pierre St. Jacques and Lucky Tiger were second on the strength of their Grand Prix score of 68.596 percent, and were named Reserve Champions. St. Jacques has taken his time producing the 14-year-old Danish gelding at the Grand Prix level, and his patience was vindicated this weekend.

“I don’t have a sponsor,” St Jacques said. “This is a one man show, so I’m not going to Europe. My goal is Devon, it has been all year. I am going to work on getting Tiger stronger–there is a lot more horse in there, so that’s my goal. Europe isn’t a big part of my plan right now.”

St. Jacques was disappointed to not ride the final leg of the competition but felt the Ground Jury had a tough choice to make. “I’m a competitor,” St Jacques said. “I go out there to compete, it’s not my decision–but I think it was a wise decision.”

The Intermediaire I Championship was also decided by two classes instead of three as originally scheduled. This group of up-and-coming horses put on a great effort in the Prix St. Georges and Intermediaire I test. They didn’t get a chance to perform their Freestyle, but Katherine Bateson-Chandler made it pretty clear she wasn’t going to easily relinquish her top spot with Dea II.

“I would have liked to have done it,” Bateson-Chandler said. “I was really excited and I love my music. So I’m disappointed but I trust the management. I believe she would have been good.”

Her winning scores of 73.105 percent in the Prix St. Georges and 74.579 percent in the Intermediaire I meant that Bateson-Chandler claimed her first National Championship. She was also third with Rutherford. Both exciting small tour horses are owned by Jane Forbes Clark.

Bateson-Chandler had Jan Brons hot on her heels with Teutobod. The pair of Wellington-based riders are great friends and their rivalry was fierce. “I was all geared up; it was that close,” Brons said. Bateson-Chandler agreed and said: “Jan was in fighting form.”

Kassandra Barteau was invincible–the 21-year-old Young Rider claimed her third consecutive National Championship in impressive fashion. Despite the downpour, the gutsy Young Riders completed their competition as they were the only class to go on the morning of June 21.

Riding GP Raymeister, Barteau left no question that her title defense was not negotiable, as her score of 72.368 percent in the Young Rider Individual Test was almost three marks better than Caroline Roffman and Accent Aigu FRH.

“I’m really, really proud of him,” Barteau said about the 9-year-old stallion owned by Ginna Frantz. “He was super today, super steady and was with me. I thought it flowed together nicely. He was a little timid with the puddles.”

The novelty hasn’t worn off–Barteau was very emotional about her win. “I was crying during the national anthem; it means a lot,” she said.

Meagan Davis was third in the Individual Test with a score of 69.984 percent, but her overall percentage was high enough to land her in the reserve champion honors with Bentley.

“I’m so excited to be here after only riding Bentley for seven months,” Davis said about her relationship with the 16-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding. “He was such a good boy and I am so proud of him. Bentley is a really incredible horse.”

For complete show results, visit: http://www.usef.org/contentPage2.aspx?id=dressagefestival

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