What an exciting finale to dressage at the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event! Allison Springer and Arthur absolutely nailed their test for a score of 39.5 — the only combination in the field to crack the 30s — to soundly hold the overnight lead heading in to cross country tomorrow. Allison said in the post-dressage press conference that Arthur was pretty wild when she rode him during the lunch break, but he was totally on his game by the time they entered the main stadium this afternoon, and Allison said she was incredibly proud of his performance. “We know each other really well, and as a competitor, he’s given me most of my mileage, so I’ve learned to be more relaxed and understanding with what I have,” Allison said.
It was an emotional test for Allison, as she finally has Arthur back at this level after an 18-month hiatus from running four stars, or doing much of anything else for that matter. The horse did not compete last year and just came back out this spring with a goal of making the World Equestrian Games team. There’s still a long way to go until we crown a victor on Sunday, but Allison is sitting pretty going in to cross country tomorrow with a nearly five-point lead over William Fox-Pitt and Bay My Hero. If you don’t get a little choked up at Allison’s reaction upon finishing her test, then the chinchillas question your humanity:
William Fox-Pitt said he was thrilled with Bay My Hero, who had a very good test today sans a few bobbles in the changes to sit in second place overnight on a score of 44.0. “Moonie” was fourth in his first CCI4* at Pau in 2012 and then had a quiet season last year, so he’s flown under the radar a bit. But he definitely put himself on the map with a calm and collected performance in a tense atmosphere this afternoon. “He can be quite easily distracted,” William said. “He’s a great horse to work with, but he likes to look at everything, so I was very pleased with him.”
At the conclusion of dressage, we can officially say that this was a much stronger performance for Team USA than in years past. Last year we didn’t have any Americans in the press conference after day 2 of dressage, whereas we had two today. In all, eight American pairs are in the top 10, which is a definite improvement from four in 2013 and six in 2012. Just four of the top 10 after dressage last year were American, which improved to eight this year. William Fox-Pitt is appropriately the only non-American in the top 10 after dressage, and he’s been in the Rolex top three after this phase for the past three years.
Looking ahead to cross country, Allison said the Offset Brushes are probably the most severe angle she’s ever jumped, and she’s put a lot of thought into her approach through that question. “That being said, I really trust Derek (di Grazia) as a course designer,” Allison said. “There are tough questions, but as a rider, I trust him a lot. And I have a lot of faith in Arthur.” Lauren Kieffer agreed the course is technical but doable: “The lines are there, and the horse can see them if you ride well. You just can’t lose your focus for a second. If you have any weaknesses, they’re probably out there a few times.” Thankfully, mistakes will only punish the riders, not the horses, thanks to Derek’s design.
Random dressage tidbits courtesy of John’s neurotic Rolex archive stalking:
- Just 10 points separate second through 19th place
- Buck Davidson and Marilyn Little have two horses in the top 20; Phillip Dutton has three
- Jessica Phoenix is the highest-placed Canadian rider with Pavarotti in 22nd (54.7)
- Selena O’Hanlon is back to back with her two horses in 27th and 28th
- Mr. Medicott was fourth after dressage in 2012 on 44.2 with Karen O’Connor
- Veronica was ninth after dressage in 2012 on 47.8, also with Karen O’Connor
Many thanks to photographer extraordinaire Alec Thayer for sending a gallery of his favorite shots from today: