SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO, Calif. (AP) -- Steffen Peters took the national Grand Prix dressage championship and earned one of four Olympic berths Sunday by winning the freestyle event at the Olympic dressage trials at Oaks Blenheim Farms.
Peters, from San Diego, scored 79.5 percent out of a possible 100 percent in the freestyle and won the overall Grand Prix competition with an overall score of 75.863 percent aboard Ravel, a Dutch Warmblood gelding.
Debbie McDonald of Hailey, Idaho, finished second overall by scoring 73.627 percent riding Brentina, a Hanoverian mare.
Courtney King, of New Milford, Conn., took third with a score of 73.333 percent on Harmony's Mythilus, another Dutch Warmblood gelding.
"This is the culmination of 21 years of work," King, 30, said of her first Olympic berth. "I just feel really grateful because you can work as hard as you can and be a great rider, and you never get this chance."
Peters is competing in his third Olympics and McDonald in her second. Peters won the bronze medal in team dressage in 1996 and McDonald won it in 2004.
Leslie Morse, of Beverly Hills, Calif., earned an Olympic berth despite finishing sixth with 68.551 percent aboard Kingston, a Dutch Warmblood stallion.
Since King and Peters finished fourth and fifth on other mounts, Morse qualified as an alternate. McDonald held the overall lead as Peters entered the arena aboard Ravel as the final rider. But Peters' routine led him to receive the highest score from any of the five judges, 84.5 percent.
"Ravel has such a big canter," Peters said. "Putting this freestyle routine together has been a chore, finding the timing, making it just perfect, putting all that into the right spaces in the arena. I'm really happy with the way it turned out."
Peters and King believe the United States has a good chance to win a medal.
"In an Olympic year, everything is a little unpredictable," Peters said. "Germany and Holland are very strong, but let's not forget that New England didn't win the Super Bowl and Big Brown didn't win the Triple Crown."
Added King: "There's going to be a real fight for the bronze medal. The Danish can be pretty strong. The British can be pretty strong. We can be pretty strong."
Steffen said, 'Yeah, that's why we have to go for silver.' "
Dressage is a series of sequential skills that trains a horse for riding by developing its athletic and performance abilities. It entered the Olympics at the 1912 Stockholm Games.