William Fox-Pitt’s storybook comeback is one step closer to reality following the conclusion of dressage at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. No one could catch his leading 37.0 score with Chilli Morning from yesterday, so William remains in first place for Team GB as we look ahead to cross country tomorrow.
Second place also remains unchanged, with Chris Burton and Santano II hanging onto second place for Australia on their dressage score of 37.6. The best test of the day came from Mathieu Lemoine and Bart L, who scored 39.2 after the lunch break to sit in third place.
“The French team is quite a new team, so we’re all trying to work together,” Mathieu said. “We trained together for 20 days, and the goal was really to form this new team and build the links between competitors.”
Mathieu and Bart L, a 10-year-old Dutch gelding owned by Pierre Defrance and Jerome Pechenard, won a team bronze medal for France at the 2015 European Championships last fall, and now they are hunting for a medal of the same color but on a very different world stage.
We saw four scores in the 30s in all, with Ingrid Klimke and Horseware Hale Bob scoring 39.5 to deliver the best German score and slot them into fourth place. “I was so pleased. He was quite excited outside. It was quite noisy, and he even bucked a little. But he contained his excitement during the test, and it was pure fun. We could not do any better,” Ingrid said.
Michael Jung and Sam, who sat in third place overnight on their score of 40.9, now round out the top five after dressage. While Germany does not have an individual rider sitting in the top three, they are still holding on to the top of the team standings on a score of 122.2, with three of their riders in the top eight
France sits in silver position after dressage, with all four of their team riders in the top 15. Australia sits in bronze territory, boosted both by Chris Burton’s lovely test yesterday and a solid performance today from Shane Rose and CP Qualified, who scored 42.5 to sit in 13th place.
Team USA is tied for sixth place with New Zealand, with Phillip Dutton and HND Group’s Mighty Nice coming through with a clutch performance as the penultimate pair to go, throwing down a personal best of 43.6 to sit in 15th place as the best U.S. combination after dressage.
They unfortunately missed on the last flying change, but aside from that it was a steady, fluid, solid performance for “Happy,” 12-year-old dark bay Irish Sport Horse gelding, whose super groom Emma Ford said has been very relaxed all week here in Rio.
“My ride could have been better — obviously my last flying change wasn’t great — but you know there’s a lot of atmosphere there, and I couldn’t be more proud of my horse,” Phillip said. “We were hoping we’d get close to 40, and that’s close to as good as he can do, I think. He’s really come along. I think he’s liking being here and getting the individual attention and having Emma to himself.”
While Boyd Martin and Blackfoot Mystery delivered a personal best yesterday, both Clark Montgomery and Loughan Glen and Lauren Kieffer and Veronica did not get the scores they were hoping for (click here for quotes from Lauren on her test), which made it all the more paramount that Phillip come through for the team.
“Everybody’s just trying to do their best. It’s the sport, and sometimes it doesn’t always go quite right. But this is a cool horse, and he’s really starting to understand the sport,” Phillip said. “There was a lot of atmosphere in there, but he knew his job and he’s getting better and better, and I’m glad that it’s helping out the team.”
Phillip and Mighty Nice lead the way for the U.S. in 15th on 43.6, with Clark and Loughan Glen in 24th on 46.6, Lauren and Veronica in equal 33rd on 47.3, and Boyd and Blackfoot Mystery in 35th on 47.7.
Rebecca Howard and Blithe Hill Farm’s Riddle Master were the last to go this afternoon for Canada, scoring 49.4 to tie with teammates Kathryn Robinson and Let It Bee as the highest-placed Canadian pair in 41st place.
“He stayed quite rideable in there and with good relaxation relative to some of the tests he’s done. The key is to keep him relaxed and loose in there. The horse has a ton of quality in the way that he goes,” Rebecca said. “There were some key moments where I didn’t feel I was able to show him off quite as well — he got a bit wiggly in one bit of the trot work, and then finished off well — and then the canter just lost a bit of rhythm in a couple of the changes.”
We saw a number of horses come undone in the atmosphere today, but Rebecca said she went into the stadium with a plan. “I made a conscious effort to help him feel like it wasn’t that (electric). I went in and started him quite long and low and loose, like he’s just doing a warm-up or a cool down. He’s a horse that doesn’t miss a thing, really. So, I keep him down there where he doesn’t really see much. He stayed loose, and then I have him come up, and he looks to me for what to do next.”
Jessica Phoenix and A Little Romance are in 50th place on 52.0, with Colleen Loach and Quorry Blue d’Argouges in 57th place on 56.5 after loud feedback from the sound system unfortunately startled “Qorry” during her test. You can read her comments on what happened in our lunchtime report.
Now it’s go time as we look ahead to Pierre Michelet’s monster cross country course. As Ingrid Klimke so aptly put it: “Dressage is history now.” You can get a full look at each fence on the cross country course, plus Team USA’s comments and analysis, in our full course preview.
Ride times are are at this link, with Jessica Phoenix and A Little Romance first out on course at 10 a.m. local time, 9 a.m. EST. For those of you who can’t watch live, we’ll be running live updates on Twitter @eventingnation and running an open thread here on EN. Click here to catch up on all of EN’s Olympic coverage so far. Go Eventing.