The first nine of the 32 horses entered in the FEI Nations Cup at Great Meadow International danced in the dressage on a warm afternoon in The Plains, Virginia, and Canada leads the way in the early going. Jessica Phoenix and Pavarotti, a 15-year-old Westphalian gelding owned by Don Good, scored 44.0 to sit in first place overnight.
If you read Maggie’s detailed analysis of the field, you already know that Jessica and “Rotti” have scored in the 40s or below in 87% of their dressage tests at three-star level. With an average score of 47.1 over the past two calendar years, they shaved 3 points off that margin today with their performance in the sandbox.
This is Jessica and Pavarotti’s first international appearance since Kentucky CCI4*, where they finished 17th, and she said she was pleased with the test considering it was his first major outing since the spring.
“Really you never know if they are going to go in and be a little bit fresh and lit up because of the atmosphere at Rolex, but he was such a workman,” Jessica said. “He went in there and was so professional and a pleasure to ride.”
Jessica is competing three horses at Great Meadow, with Pavarotti as her ride for the Canadian Nations Cup team. Led by Chef d’Equipe Dr. Rob Stevenson, who also chairs Equestrian Canada’s Eventing High Performance Advisory Group, Jessica said the team is “a very close-knit group of riders — like a big family.”
“We have some old faces and some new faces (on the team), and we’ve got some really exciting individual riders here this weekend as well,” Jessica said. “I think we’re feeling very optimistic for the weekend. The course looks great and is well suited to our horses, so we’re really excited.”
Jan Byyny and Inmidair, an 18-year-old New Zealand Thoroughbred gelding she owns with her parents Dick and Jo Byyny, are competing as individuals for the U.S. and sit second on 46.6. Considering they performed a three-star test for the first time since 2014, when Jan and “JR” last competed at this level, she should be pretty dang happy with that!
Kurt Martin and Anna Bella are another pair we haven’t seen at this level in a lengthy period of time — since The Fork CIC3* in 2015 when they finished seventh — and the 11-year-old Holsteiner mare owned by the GSC Syndicate delivered a lovely performance to sit third on 46.7. To make it even more impressive, they missed their personal best at three-star level by only 0.2 marks — talk about coming back with a bang!
Justine Dutton and Jak My Style, a 12-year-old Thoroughbred gelding owned by Kathleen Cuca, were the first pair to go for Team GB, scoring 56.4 to round out the top five. Team GB will also kick off the action tomorrow morning, with Matt Heath and One Of A Kind as the first pair out at 8 a.m. EST.
The fantastic team led by Darrin Mollett always puts on a show-stopper at Great Meadow, and we have to send a huge shout out to the organizers, officials, volunteers and everyone playing a part at the only FEI Nations Cup leg in North America.
Jessica Phoenix said it best: “Honestly, this event means so much to us. When you go to a big-time event in Europe or a big-time championships, this is what it feels like. It’s amazing to be able to have this literally in our backyard. Add in the incredible footing and the beautiful cross country — it’s unbelievable.”
Speaking of the footing, Nick Attwood and the Attwood Equestrian Surfaces team deserve a massive thank you for working incredibly hard to get the footing in the arenas in picture-perfect condition following this morning’s torrential downpour. Kudos and thank you!
Be sure to check EN’s Instagram for bonus photos, and click here to catch up on all of EN’s coverage from Great Meadow so far. You can preview all of the fences on Mike Etherington-Smith’s cross country course here. Go Eventing.