History is on the cusp of being made in dressage, after Steffen Peters rode Ravel (pictured) to a resounding victory in the Las Vegas Grand Prix — the first American ever to win the first leg of a World Cup final.

His path might have been eased by the absence of title-holder Salinero, but there was plenty to like in Ravel’s joyful, tension-free performance which, scoring 77.915%, was also a personal best.

They finished over three per cent ahead of Anky van Grunsven on her second string Painted Black (74.170), and Steffen was awarded a clear run of nines for his riding. Prophetically, the “sound man” had selected “Viva Las Vegas” for Peters’ background music, and as soon as he had halted, the entire arena leapt to its feet.

“Ravel made me look good today,” said Peters. “ Yesterday, he reacted very well to the crowd who attended the warm-ups so I knew he was relaxed and that I could ask him for more.

“But I know what the two leading ladies are capable of, so I will stick to good advice that Anky has given me before and not change my routine before Saturday.”

Listen to Steffen Peters’ interview

Isabell Werth and Satchmo were third on 73.745. Isabell had remonstrated in the arena with photographers who she said were distracting. Both Satchmo and Painted Black were inconsistent, though Anky said she was “more than satisfied” with the result after her interrupted season.

Peters’ success also compensates for the dismal start of compatriots. Rafalca displayed a growing aversion for any movement within 20 metres of C and only the stoic persistence of national champion Jan Ebeling got them through. Second in, Kingston was visibly unlevel behind in the first half-passes. Vigorous bell ringing indicated the judges agreement, and after a short exchange, Leslie Morse dismounted and led him away.

End of the line for Las Vegas?

This may be the last time the finals are here, for even Vegas is not immune to the global financial crisis. David Holmes, FEI sports director, said the organisers had recently withdrawn their applications to host 2011 and 2013 due to funding concerns.

“That is sad news indeed, for it’s vital that these headline events continue to be spread around the globe,” he said. “Next year’s WEG will be the first outside Europe and it would be a backward step if we can’t continue to build on this momentum, this side of the Atlantic.”

The arena appeared less than a quarter full for the midday running of the dressage Grand Prix, a sign of the times and in stark contrast to the near sell-out at the World Cup final’s debut here in 2005.