Wow! What a shock today has been. First of all I had to take myself out of sleep mode after three blissful days of camping with my husband and girlfriends in the desert. And what sharper contrast to pristine wilderness than the world of drive-through wedding chapels and Elvis impersonators?

Things did not go as expected for a whole pile of folks out there in the Thomas & Mack arena today. Here are the lowlights, as well as the highlights: unlucky number one in the ring was Jan Ebeling and the lovely but overwhelmed Rafalca. If we are to pluck a silver lining out of the cloud of his Worst Score Ever, it is that he somehow got Rafalca through the test, and even managed a very good set of one tempis. Let’s just say Jan didn’t let Rafalca’s meltdown make him lose his cool. The final blow came at the draw for Saturday’s start list, when it was announced that he hadn’t met the minimum score to qualify for the freestyle.

• unluckier number two was the other wild card pair, Leslie Morse and Kingston. I was just writing in my notes that Kingston looked lame in the trot half passes when Maribel Alonso at C (more on that later) rang the bell. An official statement came out later, to the effect that he had something go suddenly wrong with his left front leg when he started his test. How awful it was to watch Leslie wave to the audience, dismount and lead him out of the ring. Full credit must go to the crowd for giving both Jan and Leslie their heartfelt support. The personal heartbreak in front of our eyes was not lost on such a knowledgeable DQ audience.

• unluckiest of all (and unlucky us, too) was Adelinde Cornelissen who had to withdraw when her Parcival suffered a tendon injury earlier in the week. Wah! In 2007 it was Matine we lost, now Adelinde. I thought she just might give the usuals a run for their money, and I was really looking forward to seeing her – real time and life sized as opposed to youtube sized – for the first time.

• And now for a bit of cheering up: if there were a prize for the happiest looking pair, Ashley Holzer and Pop Art would win by a country mile. Ashley was charming as ever and Poppy looked like he had grown some new muscles since Hong Kong. They deserved every last bit of their score, especially for what I think were the best piaffe-passage transitions of the day – it’s tempting to say they deserved even more, but of course I’m no judge, am I?

• His shenanigans in Hong Kong notwithstanding, Satchmo is not a horse that we expect to have silly little mistakes, nor is his much-decorated pilot. Isabell did seem awfully cautious in the trot tour, but ok Satchy kept a lid on it for the piaffes. He had a really good stare at something by E – then in the canter work, a mistake in the zig zag (did I see a rueful smile on Isabell’s face from my seat over C, or am I imagining it?) was followed by a big boo-boo when he fell out of the canter in the first pirouette. In the press conference afterward, Isabell was asked by a photographer – who apparently has an extra testicle where his brain should be – why she seemed unhappy at times in her ride. Her reply was that she wasn’t unhappy but she would ask the photographers to be a bit more considerate with their clickings. I’m sure she and Satchy will be right back on form for Saturday. You don’t get to be World Champion by letting something like a bunch of gnarly photogs get the best of your composure.

• If you were watching Anky from the stands today, I have one thing to say to you: See, I told you so! Anky really does have to ride Painted Black – he needs the foot on the gas pedal rather than the brakes, but man is that little stallion adorable. Wheels-on-fire trot work made up for mistakes in the twos and Anky pulled ahead of Isabell. But to me the best thing Anky did today was in the press conference. She sounds like she is suffering through a chest cold, with more than a couple of frogs in her throat. Someone asked what was with her voice, and she replied “I was very late in the bar last night drinking and smoking.” Then she laughed and said she had gone to bed at 10 because of her sore throat.

• Viva Steffen Peters in Las Vegas! With Brentina’s retirement ceremony scheduled for tomorrow, Steffen and Ravel hit their stride just in time to be America’s next dressage sweethearts. I am almost as speechless at their test as Steffen was when he saw his score. It was without the slightest doubt the best test today, and one of the best I’ve ever seen. You would never have known from the noise of the standing ovation afterward that the stands were half empty today. To say the crowd went wild would be like saying Steffen had a nice day. Way to kick the World Cup’s butt Steffen. America is awaiting your freestyle.

Those horses I didn’t mention simply didn’t have a wonderful or awful time out there today. There were a few horses I hadn’t seen before, and two of them really caught my eye: Heath Ryan’s Regardez Moi (pretty and small of course!) and Monica Theodorescu’s Whisper. Neither of them had best-ever rides I’m sure, but both horses were immensely pleasing to watch.

Apparently FEI TV didn’t bother broadcasting the GP today (so much for exclusive and complete WC coverage), and I don’t know how quickly scores will hit the www, so here is a quick rundown of the totals:  

1. Steffen Peters – Ravel 77.915% (yowzah!)

2. Anky Van Grunsven – Painted Black 74.170% (Steffen! You beat Anky!)

3. Isabell Werth – Satchmo 73.745% (Anky! Painted beat Satchmo!)

4. Hans Peter Minderhoud – Nadine 73.064% (HP! You almost beat Satchmo!)

5. Ashley Holzer – Pop Art 72.511% (Ash! Top 5 in WC Final!)

6. Jeanette Haazen – Nartan 70.383% (why such a big horse for such a little lady?)

7. Monica Theodorescu – Whisper 70.170% (lovely, lovely horse, Monica)

8. Jan Brink – 70.043% (Briar you are so cute, and youthful too)

9. Minna Telde – Don Charly 68.979% (nice horse, ugly brown bridle)

10. Michal Rapcewicz – Randon 68.128% (another pretty and small one!)

11. Heath Ryan – Regardez Moi – 64.638% (Heath, you forgot the rein back)

12. Marco Bernal – Diamore – 62.553% (nice horse, need to light the wheels on fire)

13. Jan Ebeling – Rafalca – 53.830% (this pair will see a brighter tomorrow)

Oh there were just so many things going on today, from the music playing during the rides (Paint It Black for Anky, Elvis for Steffen, Over the Rainbow for Hans Peter), to Brian O’Connor yelling that ‘we have a new winner’ every time a new top score was announced (a new LEADER Brian, not winner. Winner is known only after all the competitors have gone), to the longest and most drawn out rendition of the Stars and Stripes anyone has ever heard. Oh yes, and Steffen cried. No wonder everyone adores him. What’s more lovable than a man who isn’t afraid to show his emotions? I’ll stop here, having delivered the basics for today, but in case you like attaching importance to numbers (not me – I think superstitious people have bad luck), here is the draw for Saturday:








Hans Peter





Jumping starts at 7 pm, so look for another update tomorrow some time, as long as I manage to stay out of the clutches of a few party animals tonight.