Laura Graves rode Verdades to a personal best score of 85.307 percent to place second on April 1 to Isabell Werth of Germany, the most decorated rider in Olympic history, who rode to an impressive score of 90.704 percent on her 2016 Rio Olympic mount, Weihegold OLD, to win the FEI World Cup Grand Prix Freestyle, thus claiming her third FEI World Cup championship.
This was one of the United State’s highest finishes in the World Cup.
In 2009, Steffen Peters won the World Cup finals on Ravel, who was later named Horse of the Year.
Graves also finished second to Werth in the Grand Prix on Thursday.
Fourteen competitors contested the Freestyle before a very enthusiastic crowd of 8,578 at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Neb.
The crowd applauded throughout Werth's test and rose to their feet at the conclusion of her brilliant ride.
"Today was just perfect," said Werth. "I am really thankful and happy. The goal was to have the best competition here in the Freestyle at the end of the season and it worked.”
"I am really proud of Weihegold,” said Werth. “She did really great. She was so focused. I think she knew that it could be her day today. Laura pushed us to show our best, and it worked. It was a fantastic atmosphere, a fantastic competition, and a fantastic prize giving ceremony."
Graves, the 2016 Olympic bronze medalist broke into a huge smile as the crowd began to applaud midway through her test.
"I could feel the crowd smiling the whole time," said Graves. "At the end of my ride I was super excited. I couldn't even hear my music once we broke into that extended trot so I had to guess on the final halt, but knowing that the crowd approved, especially in your home country, is amazing.”
"I didn't realize how badly I wanted to win,” said Graves. “I'm very competitive. When I saw Isabell's technical score go so high, and then they cut to a shot of the World Cup, I thought, 'Oh, I want that so badly.' To be honest, I was a little disappointed to know that I came in second, but coming second to Isabell, who's number one in the world, still feels an awful lot like winning. It was also my first time on a podium as an individual, so that is super special."
Carl Hes Carl Hester of Great Britain, the 2012 Olympic team gold medalist, finished third, scoring 83.757 percent.
He said he believed that it was the best performance that he and his horse Nip Tick have ever had.
"It was my favorite test. I find it quite unbelievable that he seems to not ever really make mistakes," Hester said of the 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood. "I think it was one of the best freestyles he's ever done. I was actually hitting every beat with the music in all the right places. For such a difficult test he made it incredibly easy to ride. He was just the best. "
Kasey Perry-Glass on Goerklintgaards Dublet scored 77.068 percent to finish seventh, and Peters riding Rosamunde scored 75.879 percent to place ninth in the Freestyle.
ON MARCH 30, Werth rode Weihegold OLD to an impressive score of 82.300 percent, the only entry to score above 80 per cent, to win the Grand Prix.
Werth rode the12-year-old Oldenburg mare to team gold and individual silver at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
She previously won World Cups title in Gothenburg, Sweden in 1992 and then in Las Vegas in 2007.
"Today I was well prepared, but you never know what can happen.” Said Werth. “It was expected that Weihegold could get 80 percent, but you never know. I was very happy. She felt tense when she came into the arena because the atmosphere was so electric, and there was big applause when Laura finished. I had to be a bit careful at first, there was a slight mistake in the two tempis (changes of lead every two strides), but it was definitely my fault, it's always the rider's fault. I felt safe after the two tempis and forgot to continue to concentrate, but the rest of the test was fantastic. I am completely happy with today."
Graves and Verdades were a close second, scoring 79.800 percent.
"Basically I came here to win, and finishing second to Isabell still feels a lot like winning," said Graves. "I thought he was really, really honest. I made a couple of unfortunate mistakes. I think we would have been a little closer to Isabell's score. It was mostly rider error. I didn't know what to expect. I actually cannot watch my own class, it makes me too nervous. I didn't see the crowd or the stadium full of people, so I didn't know what to expect.”
"It's super fun to ride in the World Cup,” said Graves. “The crowd sounds louder, and you can feel them riding with you. There's nothing like riding in a World Cup."
Hester riding Nip Tuck again placed third, scoring 76.671 percent.
"The first day test for him was not bad,” said Hester. “The first day is generally hit and miss, and I always say, well, whatever happens on the first day is OK because he's normally great on the second day. I like to ride him conservatively on the first day, conservative and nice. It was a great ride. I am really happy with him. I don't expect to be too far behind on Saturday."
Perry-Glass rode Goerklintgaards Dublet to a score of 73.828 percent to finish seventh and Peters pn Rosamunde scored 72.257 percent to finish eighth.
The scores from the Grand Prix did not carry forward.
The 14 riders receiving scores above 60 percent moved forward to compete in Saturday's FEI Grand Prix Final, the Dressage Freestyle to Music, which determined the Champion of the 2017 FEI World Cup Final.