Live Updates: The Tokyo Dressage All-Nighter, Part One

Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Friends, Romans, countrymen: lend me your groggy eyes and weary earsies, for I am hyper-caffeinated and far too excited for the start of the Tokyo Olympics. Whether you’re also watching along in the wee hours of the night, or whether you simply want to sleepily scroll along, I’ll be updating you on everything that’s happening in the ring, as it happens. Let’s do this thang!

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3.30: Oh, and if you need easy access to like, ALL THE THINGS, our ultimate Tokyo hub will sort you right out:

The Ultimate Guide to Eventing at Tokyo 2020

3.19: While you’re patiently awaiting the next session of dressage in a mere six hours, why not brush up on your knowledge of the field of competitors with our team and individual form guides, plus our at-a-glance stats?

Form, Function, and Fun Facts: Your Guide to the Tokyo Eventing Competitors

Making Moves for Medals: Your Guide to the Tokyo Teams

Need-to-Knows: The Tokyo 2020 Eventing Line-Up At a Glance

3.18: The market is open if you haven’t secured your Eventing Manager team yet! Get it pinned down and then join our EN league – the code is EQYLJD.

3.14: Here’s a link to the full scores so far. The next session starts at 5.30 p.m. Tokyo time, which is 4.30 a.m. Eastern/1.30 a.m. Pacific/9.30 a.m. British time. Our first in the ring will be India’s Fouaad Mirza and Seigneur, who I think will surprise you all. Here’s the full list of times.

3.08: Here’s the top ten after the first session of dressage: 

2.58: And that’s that for the first session of dressage at Tokyo! Stand by for our current leaderboard.

2.56: Poor Tom looks really disappointed after that. He gets a 46.7 – which, hey, sure, there have been better scores. But this is Tom’s first Games, and he’s making history as the first Olympic eventer for Hong Kong. He’s here to learn and lay some foundations and he’s doing that! Keep doing your thang, Mr Ho. You’ve got this.

2.54: Naughty Tay! He’s doing some interpretive dancing in the changes. And in the canter half-pass. What a saucy little old man this horse is!

2.51: Tom Heffernan Ho in now for Hong Kong with 20-year-old Tayberry – the oldest horse in the field. This is such a lovable little horse.

2.50: 47.5 for Francisco and Source de la Faye. Onwards! Upwards! Grab a beer and go walk your course, kiddo, because who cares about the sandpit anyway.

2.48: Well, they’ve got that behind them, and they, too, can look forward to the fun bit now. I suspect they’ll be great fun for us all to watch, too – I reckon this horse will attack the course like the tiger she obviously is.

2.47: Oh dear. The problem with a hot little horse like this is that sometimes they bubble over in the changes – and that’s what we’re seeing here. It’s all falling apart after the first explosive change. Francisco is sitting quietly and nursing her through.

2.45: Spain’s individual rider Francisco Gaviño Gonzalez in now with spicy little chestnut Source de la Faye. God, this is a lovely stamp of an animal. Looks like it requires tact and sympathetic riding but wow, you can see how clever and sharp the horse is.

2.43: Can’t tell if Lauren is wiping away a tear or some eyeball sweat, but she looks delighted with Purdy nonetheless. Onto the fun bit now for them! 39.8 on the board for Puerto Rico. Ended their test on a good transition into halt, but not square in front, which was a shame.

2.41: Losing a bit of the rhythm in the canter half-pass to the left, but it’s better to the right. The changes are a bit kick and pray but he’s getting them.

2.40: Lauren Billys and Castle Larchfield Purdy in for Puerto Rico now. At 19, this horse is such a cool campaigner. He does a super reinback – just one solid step after another, with no fuss.

2.37: 33.8 for Miloslav Prihoda and Ferreolus Lat! Super start and no real mistakes there, just a tiny jog step in walk. This is definitely my new horse crush. Think the rider could be a dark horse entry into the eye candy stakes as well, mind you.

2.35: Gosh, this is a nice horse. Still obviously green at eleven and will need to establish a more consistent contact but wow, the raw materials are there!

2.33: This is one of three Jaguar Mail sons here – the other two are Andrew Hoy’s Vassily de Lassos and Austin O’Connor’s Colorado Blue.

2.31: It’s 35.6 and provisional 14th for Colleen Loach and Qorry. They didn’t do much wrong out there – these judges are hard to impress! Now we have Miloslav Prihoda Jr in with Ferreolus Lat for the Czech Republic. This is a lovely looking horse.

2.29: First change clean but slightly stilted, second clean but slightly flat. Third is super, into a very active half-pass, and the final one is a bit hoppy – fractionally late behind. Off topic, Qorry has the same sire as Swiss horse Toubleu du Rueire, and they really are twins.

2.28: Qorry is workmanlike, rather than ultra-flashy, but that’s no bad thing. He and Colleen have such a super partnership and look like they’re out to solve a puzzle together.

2.27: Now we’ve got our sole Canadian pair in the ring: that’s Colleen Loach and Qorry Blue d’Argouges, who hold down the fort following the withdrawal of Jessie Phoenix and Pavarotti before the jog. Looking good so far, but slightly swings his quarters to the right in the reinback and is rather shuffly.

2.25: What a lovely, chunky monkey of a horse Carlo Grande is – he and Alexandr Zelenko score a very respectable 30.9, putting Belarus well on the map. They originally had two riders here, but Alexandr Faminou opted to withdraw his horse, Martini, a couple of days ago.

2.22: We’re back from the drag break for the final group of riders in this first session of dressage. Now we’re looking at individuals, rather than team competitors, and first up is Belarus’s Alexandr Zelenko and Carlo Grande Jr. It was Alexandr’s birthday two days ago – happy birthday, Alex!

2.09: A really sweet test from elegant Glenfly, who gives his all for his rider. Love, love this Munnings painting come to life.

2.07: Marcelo Tosi in now for Brazil with Glenfly, the only full Thoroughbred in the field. This horse sold for nearly €45,000 as a yearling but was pretty rubbish at jumps racing.

2.05: Not quite the new leader but a great starting score for Julia and ‘Mandy’ – they put a 25.2 on the board for third at this point. Not a shabby place to start out!


2.03: Julia is an absolute maestro on the flat. She produced Chipmunk, ridden here by Michi Jung, to four-star and posted a 19.9 on him at the 2018 WEG, so she has serious form. There were some tiny little joggy steps in here but this could well be the new leader.

2.01: Julia Krajewski and Amande de b’Neville in now. God, I love this mare, who Julia describes as ‘like riding a lion.’ She’s got big shoes to fill: Julia would have ridden her top horse, 5* winner and Olympic mount Samourai du Thot, but he was retired earlier this year after losing his eye in a freak accident.

1.59: It’s a 30.7 for Jonelle and Grovine de Reve, who head into the misting tent to cool down. Jonelle looks disappointed with that – she knows there’s more in there, but this is still actually about a mark better than the horse’s 4/5* average.

1.56: Another one who nails the walk to counter canter transition. The second change is tense and hollow, third is better, and the fourth and final is resistant. This will likely prove expensive – remember, changes are nearly 20% of the marks in this test.

1.55: Not quite square in the halt before the reinback for Jonelle and Reve. Lovely transition from the half-pass into the shoulder in! That’s a really tricky thing to do well, but it looks easy when these horses and riders nail it.

1.54: Jonelle Price in as trailblazer for New Zealand now! She rides Grovine de Reve, previously campaigned by fellow Kiwi Dan Jocelyn, who rode him at the 2018 WEG. Jonelle and Reve finished third at Kentucky this spring.

1.52: Big smiles from Sam as he and Flamenco finish their first Olympic test. It’s a 32.4, which puts them off the pace at the moment – but it’s a score that can easily be climbed from.

1.50: Sam has a yellow ribbon pinned on his lapel in honour of 15-year-old Tiggy Hancock, a very talented young Irish eventer who tragically died in a training accident in June.

1.49: Ireland’s Sam Watson and gorgeous golden Tullabeg Flamenco in the ring now in Sam’s Olympic debut! We’re all cheering this real good egg on. They look a bit rushed in the early part of the test. Breathe and enjoy!

1.45: Bless his heart – Super Cillious is getting a bit insecure in the ring and alternately running off with Vitto or dropping back behind the bit. She’s riding so tactfully to nurse him through. He hops his way down the final centreline in canter, but lovely Vitto laughs as she gives him a pat. She’s a great horsewoman.

1.41: 29.6 for Christopher Six and Totem de Brecey! Next in is Italy’s Vittoria Panizzon and Super Cillious.

1.40: This is just one of those pairs that makes me want to stand on a rooftop and BELLOW about how much more attention we should be paying them. They’ll be great fun to watch in the cross-country!

1.39: Totem isn’t flashy but he’s such a lovely little try-hard horse, and Christo is really working to keep things crisp and accurate. This horse has lovely canter half-passes.

1.37: Christopher Six and Totem de Brecey in now. Love this underrated pair, who were fourth at the 2019 European Championships and best of the French. Christo doesn’t come from a horsey background or money, and only got his first horse when he was 20 – and this was a client’s horse who was sent to him to keep ticking over while she went to university. Now, they’ve given him the ride and even turned down a big money offer from Team Japan after the Euros in 2019.

1.34: 28.1 for Therese and Viscera! A super start, but she looks a little disappointed — she knows she can go low-20s. She should be so proud, though; she’s never even done junior or young rider teams.

1.32: Lovely, sharp transition into the counter-canter. Therese is riding like this is her fifth Olympics, not her championship debut.

1.30: Therese Viklund and Viscera in now for Sweden. I LOVE this game mare, who has done some seriously smart tests at four-star level and is fierce in the best sort of way. She has one eye after losing one due to uveitis in 2018.

1.28: Fantastic Frieda isn’t a first-phase phenom and that’s fine – she knows what she’s here for. There were some bits of that test that were much improved from previous work I’ve seen from them, and Joanna is really tactful in coaxing the best out of her horse without expecting her to be something she isn’t. It’s a 40.5 for them.

1.25: We’re back after the drag break with Poland’s Joanna Pawlak and Fantastic Frieda, which is truly the best horse name in this field. Poland, of course, suffered a real blow yesterday when their lynchpins, Pawel Spisak and Banderas, were spun at the first horse inspection. They would have been in the hunt for a top ten individual placing.

1.11: A fist pump from Alex as his score is confirmed as 23.9! That puts him 0.3 behind leaders Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class.


1.09: First two changes super. Tiny bobble in the head in the half-pass, but third change also super. Alex’s girlfriend is top dressage rider Sarah Higgins – so there’s no excuse for not nailing this phase! They finish the test and Alex looks pleased. Good boy Don!

1.08: This duo finished in the top ten at Rio, and it would be wonderful to see it happen again this year, when China has their first-ever eventing team at the Olympics. Alex has worked so hard with China to develop the sport, with the help of Tim and Martin Lips, who have been training the team.

1.07: Alex and the Don are SUCH a lovely pair on the flat – when Psycho Don doesn’t come out to play. He’s having to be a bit careful in the halt and reinback, which looked quite reactive. Don didn’t stay straight at all.

1.06: Aah, it was a technical hitch, with movements being scored an erroneous 0. It’s a 31.7 for them to go ahead of Doug and Vandiver, who are now on 33. China’s Alex Hua Tian and Don Geniro in now!

1.05: We’re seeing a lot of scores getting adjusted: the TV says Shane and Virgil are in the 41 region, while the live scores say 31.7. Not like that’s a big margin or anything, lads.

1.04: Curious about the likely leaders in this first session of dressage? Our in-house stats analyst Maggie Deatrick has crunched the numbers and produced some absolutely fascinating graphs predicting how this’ll play out:

Dressage Powerhouses of Tokyo: Session One

1.03: Virgil looking a little argumentative in this canter work. The extended canter was smart, but he looks like he wants to go cross-country stat. They finish on a lovely halt and Shane looks delighted with his old buddy.

1.02: Australia’s Shane Rose and Virgil are in the ring now. This man has had so. Many. Injuries. Apparently he’s also injured right now. I’ve catalogued his previous lumps and bumps in our form guide, which has everything you need to know about every horse and rider in this field.

Form, Function, and Fun Facts: Your Guide to the Tokyo Eventing Competitors

1.00: 26.1 for Kazu and Vinci. That’s three marks better than the horse’s 4 and 5* average!


00.59: Even though there are no spectators, everyone has gathered to watch this test – and as Kazu finishes, there’s a roar of cheers. He’s beaming. I’m crying. What a gorgeous test, and what a gorgeous transition into the extended canter. He took all the right risks today, and I hope that pays off for him.

00.58: Beautiful into the counter-canter, but a fraction early. If he’d left it a stride though, he’d have risked the horse anticipating and breaking into canter – and missing that counter-canter.

00.57: A tiny error in the transition to walk. The rest is looking good, but it would be nice to see Vinci stretch a bit more in this walk.

00.56: You can get to know Kazu a bit better in this episode of The Eventing Podcast.

00.55: Kazu, who trains with William Fox-Pitt, has led this phase at 5* before. He’s an extraordinary dressage rider, even though he only started this sport in 2016 – he was a showjumper before that.

00.53: Next in the ring is the first of our Japanese riders, Kazuma Tomoto on the former Astier Nicolas ride Vinci de la Vigne. This must be one of the most popular riders in the world – he’s sacrificed an enormous amount, is incredibly talented and hard-working, and is probably the nicest person I have ever met. Yeah, I might cry through this test.

00.51: Colero looks a bit fizzy and forward today – he’s quite a blood horse, so he can’t hide it as well as some if he goes against the bit. This won’t be a personal best for them.

00.49: It’s nearly 1am here in the UK and so I think maybe we all just need this as a pick-me-up:

Felix Vogg and Colero. Photo courtesy of Massimo Argenziano.

00.48: Oooh, we have our first eye candi-date of the day. Switzerland’s Felix Vogg and Colero prepare to start their test. They lead on day one of dressage at Kentucky in 2019 and finished sixth.

00.46: An argument in the final change, too. This is a very short test with four changes in it, which means that the changes are worth just shy of 20% of the whole test. They come up in quick succession, too, so it can fall apart easily in this movement. Doug and Vandiver miss two changes, which puts them on 32.9 – it’s going to be tough out here, folks.

00.45: A couple of wobbles in the contact here for Vandiver, and a slightly uncommitted reinback. He struts his way through the walk like a panther, picks up the walk to counter-canter transition beautifully, but then has a little argument in the first change.

00.44: Horses really do pick their moments, don’t they? Vandiver decides to have a poo in his extended trot, which does make it rather harder to be flashy, I would think. I hasten to add that I don’t know from experience.

00.43: The bell rings for Doug to start, and he’s not getting rushed or flustered: he takes his time to get his affairs in order before he enters at A. That’s how it’s meant to be done – there’s always time to breathe.

00.42: It’s a 23.6 for Oliver, and a 42.4 for first in the ring Mint Chavatanont of Thailand. Doug Payne and Vandiver are our next in the ring!

00.40: A great strike-off from walk into counter-canter on the short side from Oliver and Ballaghmor Class. They finish their test nicely – it’s all been very correct, but for a tiny bit of head-tilting, but not necessarily a ‘wow’ test. He’s put the pressure on those to come, but he can probably be eclipsed.

00.38: A conservative but correct half-pass from Oliver and Ballaghmor Class. They aren’t taking risks in the ring, like Oliver normally would – but this is part of riding on a team. Sometimes, you’re told to play it safe.

00.37: We’re right into the thick of it now: Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class are in, and will be fighting hard to put a seriously good score on the board. They’re one of three pairs who could absolutely lead this phase.

00.30: Thailand’s Arinadtha Chavatanont and Boleybawn Prince are our first pair into the ring to tackle this tough, quick test that takes under four minutes to complete. ‘Mint’ also rides pure dressage, and this sweet horse is a game little dude. He does break into canter in that extended trot, though.