Many gave him a run for his money but none could catch Belgium’s Julien Despontin, whose overnight CCI4* lead survived another day of cutthroat competition.
A short list of the best riders in the world that have scattered in his wake…
I could keep going but you get my point. To recap my day 1 dressage recap, Julien and Waldano 36 are having the best week of their lives, having surmounted a career trajectory of milquetoast dressage results with one shining, near-record-breaking score in their second CCI4* effort. Hats off to you, Julien!
As predicted, the scoreboard saw some major shakeups when the big guns came out to play. The day started and ended with a bang, with the first pair in the ring, New Zealand’s Jonelle Price and Faerie Dianimo, setting the stage with an expressive, pristine performance.
Jonelle’s take: “I was surprised how well she did today. She can be quite difficult and it took me a lot of time and work to get her on my side. I knew she had all the potential to do an exceptional test, but she has never been this consistent before.”
Jonelle held fast to 2nd until the final block of the day, when consummate perfectionist Ingrid Klimke snuck in with a virtually mistake-free test on FRH Escada JS. Further proof that Ingrid is no human but a Cylon in a shadbelly: the judge at C, who is everyone’s favorite judge this weekend (more on that later), gave her a rider coefficient of “10.” Boom.
Ingrid’s analysis: “All the dressage work has paid off! Escada was very well prepared and she gave me a wonderful ride. She was working nicely over her back with lots of expression. Her trot was exceptional and her walk was pretty good, too.”
Yesterday I tried to pressure Michael Jung into predicting which of his horses was going to come out on top but he pretended to not understand me. La Biosthetique Sam FBW did the gentlemanly thing and gave his little sis fischerRocana FBW the lead, but just barely — no kidding, only 0.1 of a point separates the two horses.
Christopher Burton and Mark Todd lurk just outside the top five, and also this happened:
The USA’s sole torchbearer, Clark Montgomery, delivered a beautiful test on his equine hovercraft Loughan Glen. They came out of the gate swinging, earning a 9 and a 10 for an airborne medium trot across the diagonal — I’m still not convinced the horse’s feet were touching the ground. A fluke break in the counter canter serpentine weighed their score down a bit but even with a few lost points they managed a 37.1 for 9th place.
Also representing the great continent of North America was Canada’s Rebecca Howard on Riddle Master. This horse has the chops to win anywhere but, like many prodigies, his type-A attention to detail — in this case, crowds of people and billowing flags — can sometimes result in a bit of tension. Rebecca did a brilliant job of channeling it into a solid score of 42.5, good for 15th place.
Chinchwürst and I caught up with Rebecca after her test to recap her ride and talk shop about tomorrow’s cross-country course; you can watch the interview here.
While somewhat improved from yesterday, the scoring today remained wonky with some San Andreas Fault-scale gaps opening up between scores from the various judges.
The crazy cake still belongs to 10th placed Lizzie Brown‘s score from yesterday, which earned an 81.17% from C and a 67.33% from M. That’s a 13.84% spread. Likewise, top-placed Julien’s marks ranged from an 84.83% from the judge at C to a 71.17% from the judge at M. One EN reader likened it to a figure-skating competition. Are they even watching the same test?
One might argue that at least the inconsistencies were somewhat consistent across the leaderboard, with the judge at C handing out points like candy, the judge at M being all Grumpy Cat, and the judge at E plopped down somewhere in the middle. But there are still enough discrepancies at the top of the pack to raise eyebrows. For instance, the judge at M scored both of Michael Jung’s rides higher than she did the leader’s test.
Whatever. This ain’t no dressage show, and today’s leaderboard may well be a distant memory by tomorrow night. I’ll be back later today with a dressage photo gallery and interview with Clark, and brace yourself for another completely insane course preview first thing in the a.m.
CCI4* Top 20: