The Final Dance-Off: Live Updates from Session Three of Dressage

Malgorzata Cybulska of Poland celebrates a great test with Chenaro 2. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

Welcome back, my dressage-loving little nerdlets, to the third and final session of this hotly-contested first phase at Tokyo. It’s all about to get rather exciting, as this year, none of these teams will have a drop score – so we know exactly what every horse and rider need to do to make the right moves up the leaderboard. Before we get into all that, though, refresh your memory of the individual top ten after the first two phases:

And check out how the team standings are looking at the mo:

Finally, cast your eye over the rider line-up to come, which features the final six individual riders up first, before the last rider from each team will come forward to fight for that podium:

Okay? Okay. Let’s do this.

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3.30: Happy birthday, Michi Jung. Nice way to celebrate.

3.15: I can’t stop thinking about the history of corporate Olympic sponsorships and giggling sadly to myself. God, it’s so 3am, isn’t it.

3.13: Cross-country will start tomorrow at 7.45 a.m. Tokyo time, which is Saturday at 6.45 p.m. if you’re on Eastern time, 3.45 p.m. if you’re on Pacific time, and 11.45 p.m. if you’re in the UK. I’m off to buy more coffee in the morning.

3.09: Here’s an interesting one from EquiRatings. This was always going to be a battle between the Brits and the Germans:

3.03: And here’s the top ten individually. India’s Fouaad Mirza remains the only individual rider in the top ten, after that super test with Seigneur yesterday:

3.00: Here are the team standings going into cross-country. There’s five seconds between Britain and Germany, and 15 between Germany and New Zealand. Japan move down into fourth place, and oh my god, if they finish just off the podium I will be so sad for them. There’s plenty of sport left to come before we reach the end, though…

2.57: 36.1 for Carlos Parro and Goliath, and 103.6 for Brazil, which puts them into 11th, ahead of Poland and behind Switzerland. Stand by for a look at our leaderboard going into tomorrow’s cross-country.

2.54: First change is nice, second is…less so. They get the third off the half-pass, but the horse’s inexperience shows in this lateral work, and Carlos has to keep chasing his errant hindquarters and popping them back into the right place. Great final halt to finish this test, though – a lot to be excited about for the future with this horse.

2.52: The final rider up is Brazil’s Carlos Parro, riding the very, very inexperienced Goliath. He’s doing a lovely job so far – hopefully this nice horse is absorbing some leftover fairy dust from Chipmunk.

2.49: And that’s that: Michi goes into the lead on a 21.1. Germany move into silver medal position on 80.4. Britain are on 78.3, so just five seconds separates the teams in tomorrow’s cross-country.

 

2.48: There just isn’t anything I can really say about that. Michi nailed it. Chipmunk nailed it. Team trainer Hans Melzer looks like he’s desperate to spark up a cigarillo.

2.47: Laaaaaard help me, it’s beautiful.

2.46: Chipmunk was produced by Julia Krajewski, and she coaxed a sub-20 mark out of him at the 2018 WEG. Can Michi match that today? They really do have the best trot half-passes in the biz, this pair.

2.45: 

The silent assassin.

2.44: But, like, what a German we’ve got in now. Can anyone remember a time when Michael Jung wasn’t the Olympic champion?

2.43: There’s a nine being thrown in there for that final halt, and they end up with a very, very good 25.6. New Zealand moves into silver on 86.4. Only Germany can shake up the team podium now.

2.41: If they go sub-30, they’ll move New Zealand onto the podium. So far, they look like they will do – this is a lovely test and a really wonderful stamp of a horse. This partnership looks so well-established already, and Tim is grinning after his halt and salute. He knows he’s nailed it.

2.40: This is just Tim’s fourth FEI start with this horse – at their last, at Barbury, they withdrew as planned before cross-country. That means the Olympics will be his third international cross-country run with the gelding. You wouldn’t want many to try that tactic, but if anyone can make it work, it’s this maestro.

2.38: Tim Price and Vitali in now for New Zealand. He only got the ride on this horse in October of last year, and they won their first FEI event together at Strzegom CCI4*-L this spring. That was Vitali’s first CCI4*-L, just his second-ever four-star, and his first FEI event since 2018, when the horse went to Blenheim eight- and nine-year-olds and led the dressage with James Avery.

2.36: Lots of bits to like there for Sarah and Woodcourt Garrison, but just a couple of costly whoopsies in the changes, plus that break to canter, means they earn 38.1. Ireland will go into cross-country on 110.4, which puts them behind Poland and ahead of Thailand.

2.33: Ireland’s Sarah Ennis and Woodcourt Garrison in now: the extended trot starts out looking ‘wow’ but then the horse breaks into canter. Nice halt, slightly rushed reinback, but it’s correct and all five steps are there.

2.32: 42.9 for Arianna, which puts Italy on 115.4 and moves them below Thailand.

2.30: Oh dear, it’s rather fallen apart in the canter for Arianna and Quefira, who were looking quite lovely in the trot work. They finish their test up with an unplanned change on the final centreline, which tops off a very hectic minute or so.

2.28: This horse’s legs go on for days. As someone whose legs only go on for about as many minutes as this test lasts, I’m terribly jealous.

2.27: 32.4 for Karim, and 95.1 for France, who step up to provisional 7th. Italy’s Arianna Schivo up next with her longtime partner Quefira de l’Ormeau.

2.24: This isn’t a horse that would naturally be put together to find dressage easy, but Karim – who rode on the Rio gold medal-winning team – knows how to eke the best out of it. The canter is quite stilted but they both try hard and get through it all adequately. Karim punches the air with both fists and beams as he finishes – he’s always so delighted with his horses, and it’s such a joy to see. We all love Karim, even if we never really understand what he’s saying.

2.23: Nice walk. Karim is trusting his horse and he’s being repaid for it with a relaxed, swinging pace.

2.22: They’ll need a sub-28.4 if they want to move France up onto the podium provisionally.

2.21: Karim Laghouag and Triton Fontaine up now – they stepped into the team following the withdrawal of Tom Carlile a few days ago.

2.19: It’s a 35 for Ludwig and Balham Mist – Japan will stay ahead of Sweden, who go onto 91.1 and sit in bronze position for now.

2.18: The first two changes are correct but slightly fragile, and the canter half-passes and the two changes between them are rather cobbled together. This horse looks fit, fit, fit – but Ludwig pulls it all back together for the final centreline and halt.

2.16: Balham Mist is prone to just tucking his chin into his chest a bit – you can see Ludwig trying to coax him out and forward. Really like that reinback – he commits to the fifth step, which is where many have faltered.

2.15: Ludwig and Balham Mist obviously want to skip this bit and fast-track to the fun: they jump the grass strip on their way around the outside of the arena. Remember – they need to be sub-34 for Sweden to go ahead of Japan.

2.09: 

2.05: Final drag break now, and then we’ll see Ludwig Svennerstal and Balham Mist. If he scores less than 34, Sweden will move into silver position provisionally, bumping Japan down to bronze.

2.02: Big pats for Jard-not-Hard after that test. Lots of pressure on Jan here to replace Pawel and Banderas, who would have been fighting for an individual top ten finish – or even a podium place. A 33.1 is better than expected and will put Poland on 104.6.

2.00: I don’t know that I particularly envy Jan having to sit this trot, because this horse has quite a lot of knee action and probably isn’t the most comfortable trotter in the field. This is a sweet, functional test so far, though the changes are a tad colourful.

1.59: Jan Kaminksi and Jard are in now for Poland, taking the place of Pawel Spisak and Banderas, who were spun at the first horse inspection. My laptop is certain that this horse is actually called Hard, but he isn’t, because that would be a bit weird.

1.57: 34.4 for Bao and Flandia means they exceed expectations by several marks! Imagine what that’d have been without that mistake. Really, really great start for this pair, and China go into cross-country day on 93.5 – just 0.1 behind Australia!

1.54: An excellent first change from Flandia! She doesn’t always find them super easy, but Bao has worked so hard with Tim and Martin Lips on this phase. Just the final change is a bit iffy, but it’s nothing major. Flandia changes her lead on the final centreline – which is what happened to his teammates Sun Huadong and Lady Chin at Luhmühlen in June. Hopefully it won’t be too costly.

1.53: Final Chinese rider in now! This is Bao Yingfeng and Flandia 2. This little mare is so, so sweet – when I stayed at Lips Stables in Breda in June, she was one of the first horses I saw every morning and she always had a good morning kiss ready and waiting for me. Just a really nice character and a pretty little thing with a heart of gold. Great reinback for them in this test, too.

1.52: It’s a 29.6 for Andrew and Vassily, and 93.4 for Australia to move into bronze behind Japan, pushing the US off the podium.

1.50: First change is the best of the lot – he dives a bit in the second, and the last two are fine but not wow. Vassily doesn’t look like he likes the outside aid for the half-pass, and reacts when it’s applied.

1.48: Economical and correct in the lateral work in trot for Vassily. God, this is a lovely, lovely horse – a product of Tom Carlile’s exceptional production.

1.47: Australia’s Andrew Hoy in now with Vassily de Lassos. This is Andrew’s eighth Olympics, and this exceptional horse could be about to shake things up a lot.

1.46: Japan’s score is 90.1, so they move ahead of the US into silver at the moment.

1.45: 31.5 for Yoshi and Calle 44. Hmph.

1.44: First two changes were good – I loved the second one, which was very decisive. The third is clean, but a bit disconnected. I’d like to see more risk-taking in the extension, but they do just enough and the final centreline is tidy.

1.43: Like this walk, which is a bit of a saunter. They pick up the counter-canter really nicely.

1.42: Good halt into reinback, but the final step of the reinback is a bit shuffly. Their trot half-pass into shoulder-in is accurate and bold – nice stuff.

1.41: Maggie predicts around a 28/29 for this pair.

1.40: Final rider in for Japan now! This is Yoshi Oiwa and Calle 44. Yoshi famously lead the dressage at London 2012, and Japan finished yesterday in bronze position.

1.39: 37.1 for Robin and Jet Set, which put Switzerland onto 99.9 and moves them behind the US.

1.37: Jet Set’s looking a bit spooky in the ring, but Robin doesn’t rise to it. He just keeps smiling, and nurturing, and helping his horse along. Honestly, such an underrated rider, this.

1.36: This horse has never been a showstopper in this phase – he’s a bit of a gangly thing who comes into his own in the other phases. Robin is a seriously good rider, though, and he’s just nursing this through.

1.35: The final Swiss rider in now – this is Robin Godel and Jet Set. Robin is one day off being the youngest rider in the field at 22, and Jet Set was previously ridden to 5* by Andrew Nicholson, who now coaches the Swiss team for cross-country.

1.32: 31.1 for Boyd and Thomas. That puts the USA on a 94.6 after dressage. That’s not going to allow them to climb as much as hoped from ninth, where they sat after day one.

1.31: Aaaahhh, man. That walk to counter-canter transition goes rather dramatically wrong, and Thomas swaps, inverts, and dashes off. They still get a very good first change, though.

1.30: They don’t quite commit to all five steps in the reinback. But now into the walk – Tsetserleg prowls like a delicious little panther. Yum.

1.29: Sexy Legs/Tsetserleg looking very good indeed so far. He and Doug Payne’s Vandiver have the same sire – Darren Chiacchia’s Athens bronze medallist Windfall II. You wouldn’t guess to look at them, mind.

1.28: Well, they’re sub-30 – but only just. It’s tenth place and 28.9 for Tom McEwen and Toledo de Kerser. Boyd Martin and Tsetserleg in now, who Maggie is predicting will earn a 25.8 score or thereabouts.

1.27: There’s not enough kissing or crying on the Kiss & Cry. Come on, folks, offer me some (pandemic-safe) sauce. God, I’ve watched way too much Love Island this month.

1.26: Oof. First change not quite as good as it could be from this pair. Second one comes up fast. They pull it together for the rest and end well, though Toledo threatens to fidget in the halt.

1.25: Mind you, when I say a weaker phase, it’s certainly never been bad. This is a horse who won the Bramham under-25 CCI4*-L as a nine-year-old. This is still looking solid, though Tom has to wipe his brow in the walk. Bit sweaty, champ?

1.23: Lovely through the extended trot. This horse is such a professional in this phase now, which always used to be his weaker point as a younger horse – possibly in part because he’s an exceptionally quirky character. Tom can’t even jump school him at home.

1.22: Okay, Tommy boy! Our final Brit comes forward now. By my maths, even if Michi Jung gets a 20 (which is truly possible), GB will stay in the lead if Tom McEwen and Toledo de Kerser stay sub-30. They almost certainly will.

1.21: Back to Love Island for a moment. I can’t stop thinking about how much better it would be if the Olympics introduced athletes like this:

Rather than like this:

(That’s the face I make when I hand someone my phone to show them a photo and they start scrolling.)

1.19: Lovely first change, and a very good second one, too. Third one looks great and the fourth is well-timed but it looks as though he slightly locks his back legs in the fourth and almost hops through it. It’s very subtle, though, and won’t necessarily be expensive.

1.17: Well this is a lovely little horse, and he’s chrome-y as well, which feels like a very American thing for me to say. Shame about the halt before the reinback, which is just a tad late, not quite square, and they don’t really give us that fifth reinback step. But never mind! This pair looks great otherwise so far. You can see the French influence of Maxime Livio coming through in the elegant way Korntawat sits.

1.15: And we’re back! Korntawat Samran and Bonero K coming forward first in this batch for Thailand. They’re unlikely to move out of 15th place with this test, but it’s not really their priority – this is a history-making first Thai team, and they’re here to gain serious experience.

1.12: Ooh, we’ve got our scream-y tennis(? Basketball? Some other sport, anyway) noises being piped in again. Very confusing.

1.09: Time for a drag break, and then we’ll head into our final batch of team riders, starting with Thailand’s Korntawat Samran and Bonero K. I’ve now fallen down the well of Love Island gifs, if I’m honest.

1.07: It’s a 40.9 for Nicolas and Altier d’Aurois, who Nicolas has previously described as ‘an extremely worried horse’ but looked to me more like ‘a real party animal.’

1.03: Think Altier d’Aurois is thinking too much about tonight’s action-packed episode of Love Island and not enough about doing the sand dancing. Looks a bit unfocused and is very, very green in the changes.

1.01: Ecuador’s Nicolas Wettstein in now with Altier d’Aurois. Nicolas is Swiss by birth, and is based there, too, but was able to claim Ecuadorian nationality through his marriage in 2011.

00.59: Some discussion of Shannondale Sarco in the group chat, where we all agree that many we’ve known have been rather argumentative tanks. Which isn’t to say there aren’t some excellent ones out there, before anyone slides in my DMs with a stern word.

00.57: Tidy strike-off into counter-canter for Mikhail and Imagine If, who’s quite a heavy type compared to some of the horses we’ve seen here. This isn’t going to be a particularly competitive test, but they’re just getting the job done out there. Not sure this is a horse who’s ready for a double bridle.

00.54: Merel’s looking really disappointed, and you can’t blame her. That will have proven expensive – they put a 31.5 up, and would almost certainly have gone sub-30 without that wibble-wobble. Russia back now – this is Mikhail Nastenko and MP Imagine If.

00.52: Oh, bugger! The Quizmaster inverts and says ‘absolutely not, thanks’ as he comes down that final centreline. Not sure what set him off there; that was a real shame.

00.51: Merel Blom and The Quizmaster in for the Netherlands now. She opted for this horse over her Dutch national champion, Ceda NOP, and so far, it’s looking good. This horse just comes to work with a smile on his face.

00.45: While we have a little unplanned gap, let’s talk about teams and predictions. Our stats analyst in residence, Maggie Deatrick, has been crunching the numbers and pulling her predictions for the final session, which you can check out here:

Dressage Powerhouses of Tokyo: Session Three

Maggie is very good at math and stuff, whereas I can just about manage simple addition, but I went ahead and did that simple addition to see what will happen to the team leaderboard if Maggie’s predictions end up hitting the mark. Here’s my homework, Teach:

00.44: A late withdrawal now for Austria’s Katrin Khoddam-Hazrati and Cosma. We don’t have any further information, but are crossing our fingers that it’s nothing serious. Poor Katrin – this was to be her Olympic debut.

00.42: It’s a 46.1 for Miroslav and Shutterflyke. He’ll be disappointed but, I suspect, also quite pragmatic about the whole thing. These ten-year-olds are all pretty low mileage as a result of the pandemic-affected calendar of fixtures.

00.41: Poor Shutterflyke just really felt the pressure of the day in there, and it rather ruined their canter work. A real shame, as this is a really lovely horse, but she’s also only 10 and will likely have been produced much more with Paris in mind. This is all valuable experience along the way.

00.36: Andrey looks really pleased with sweet Gurza, who post a 36.1 for 32nd provisionally in their second Games. Now we have another combination from the Czech Republic – this time, it’s Miroslav Trunda and Shutterflyke. I fell madly in love with the other Czech horse, Ferreolus Lat, yesterday, and I’ve seen this horse as a youngster when they finished in the top ten in the Six-Year-Old World Championship at Le Lion d’Angers in 2017. She’s actually beaten some pretty excellent horses, including Julia Krajewski’s Amande de b’Neville, who currently sits third here.

00.33: It’s so easy for us all to write off these Eastern European combinations, because we rarely actually see them and they often compete against very small fields in their countries – but actually, all of them so far in this line-up have surprised us. There are some little mistakes in this test; the changes, for example, aren’t quite as established as a horse like London 52, but this is a super sweet, blood-looking horse.

00.30: First up will be Russia’s Andrey Mitin and Gurza. They almost look like they’re about to halt and salute at the beginning of the test, but they remember and ride on down the centreline. This horse has the teeny-weeniest tail I’ve ever seen – is she turned out with yearlings? Or goats? Please let us know, Andrey.

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