As the riders had forewarned, today’s track was technical and demanded an accurate yet forward ride. The style caught many off guard, and at the end of the day 15 had been eliminated and there were only three double clear rounds. Most of the Canadians had a miserable day against the demanding track, but Rebecca Howard and Riddle Master ROCKED IT!
First out on course, Jessica Phoenix and A Little Romance came home with 40 jumping and 35.6 time for a total of 75.60 and a score of 127.60pp overall. “I feel like we are anticipating going out to war today,” she said afterwards. “That is a serious course and I think it’s going to be a real game-changer today.” She described what happened at the first water. “She was just a little bit shy coming out in this venue. She’s never seen anything this big. So definitely I had to really get behind her and get going. She drifted hard left going into that water so we had to be pretty tricky about how we turned back so we avoided that penalty [crossing their own line]. And then, honestly, she dug down and gave it her all and I couldn’t have been more proud of A Little Romance today.” At the end of the day the pair was sitting in 41st spot individually, likely not as high up the leaderboard as she had hoped in the morning.
Kathryn Robinson was disappointed with her ride on Let It Bee when the pair were eliminated at the final water complex after two previous refusals on course. “I was a bit too cautious and a bit backwards,” she said of her ride. “My fault, I was just a bit worried about the turns. He’s a big horse and so I rode a bit overprotective. But we came back in one piece and we’ll do another competition. It’s just a bit disappointing for the team and for everyone involved.” She admitted that it was tough getting into a steady rhythm on this track. “For me, yes it was, just because he’s quite a big horse and it’s quite twisty and turny and it was causing a hell of a lot of problems. It was down to me; I just should have attacked it a bit more.”
The rookies of the team, Colleen Loach and Qorry Blue D’Argouges, fared well on this challenging course despite an unsettling warmup. “I didn’t have a very good warm-up, unfortunately,” she said. “I had a couple of uncharacteristic stops and it threw me off a little bit. I gained confidence as we went around the course. I made a mistake at 9; he fell in and I missed my line for the skinny, so that was unfortunate. The second run-out, a camera was buzzing on the lines right beside his head and distracted him, so I should have been quicker just to take the option there.” With 40 penalties for the two stops and 45.20 time penalties they stand in 45th place with a total of 141.70 pp going into tomorrow’s show jumping. “I’m so inexperienced compared to all these other guys, but I’m pretty happy to have finished even though I would have loved to have gone clear,” she commented.
Last to go for team Canada, Rebecca Howard and Riddle Master took Kathryn’s advice and attacked the course with gusto. This seasoned pair blasted around the clear with just 12.40 time penalties to keep Canada in the game. With a respectable total score of 61.80, they currently sit in 15th place. “I’m thrilled!” she said, delighted. “I’m thrilled with my horse. Mostly I’m relieved. It’s just a huge sense of relief coming in just to have jumped around clear. The horse is an experienced horse and just such a genuine great jumper, so he’s a pleasure to be on out there. He tries his guts out to get through the flags on time.” Howard was determined right from the start box to do her best for the team. “I wanted to come home and not add any more jumping penalties to our team score and I really felt I should be able to do that.” The Canadian Team currently sits in 11th spot with 331.10 pp.
Christopher Barton (AUS) on Santano II took over the lead from William Fox-Pitt and Chilli Morning, who added 30.40pp to their dressage score and dropped to 22nd place. Barton attacked the course on his magnificent nine-year-old that his wife found for him at a dressage yard in England. The gelding didn’t betray any of his inexperience as he successfully completed his first 4*, having just jumped his first 3* this year. “To be honest, I wasn’t expecting this,” said a rather surprised Burton. “He’s exceeded our expectations, this little horse; I was under instructions to take one long route and I didn’t expect him to be so fast around the cross-country course. I’m just going to enjoy today; tomorrow, whatever.”
It wasn’t just Barton, though. The entire Aussie team simply rocked the cross-country like no other nation. With three riders in the top 14, and not a jumping fault between them, the only dark spot was Shane Rose’s disappointing elimination with CP Qualified, but the team still managed to retain the lead with two rails separating them from France in second.
Michael Jung and Sam FBW were the bright spot on the German team, which suffered from the elimination of Julia Krajewski and Samourai du Thot and some uncharacteristic jumping faults from both 2014 WEG winner Sandra Auffarth and Opgun Luovo, and Ingrid Klimke riding Hale-Bob OLD. The favourite for team gold heading into the Games has dropped from 1st to 4th.
Jung, who now sits in 2nd place, less than one show jumping rail behind the leader, said his warm-up was challenging, as Sam saw the other horses out on course and was very eager to get going. “Out of the start box he loves to run fast, fast, fast, so he was really happy to run forward,” he said. “Sam felt really strong; he was too strong in the beginning. From the middle he was much better. He is a horse with a lot of experience; he understands every question and I’m very happy that he was healthy at the finish.”
William Fox-Pitt and Chilli Morning led the British team with 30.4 pp, another team that had a rough day. Ranked 8th in the world, Gemma Tattersall had a disastrous round with Quicklook V, having two refusals and a pile of time penalties to score 89.60. Teammate Kitty King had 53.0 penalties on course riding Ceylor LAN, while Pippa Funnell and Billy The Biz also had a refusal and time equalling 40.40 pp. The team slid from 4th after dressage to 8th.
Other notable eliminations on this gruelling track included the USA’s Lauren Kieffer and the lovely little mare Veronica, who had a crashing fall at fence 24; Clark Montgomery, also of the USA, with Loughan Glen, who retired after two refusals; and Karen Donkers (BEL), who parted company with Fletcha Van’T Verahof at fence 12.
It may have been the home team spirit carrying them, but the Brazilians had some great cross-country trips to the roars of throngs of enthusiastic fans. Carlos Parro in particular, who is ranked 236th in the World Eventing rankings, led the team with a clear round and just 4 time penalties to tie for 7th aboard the appropriately-named Summon Up The Blood. This situates them well ahead of eventing powerhouses such as Jonelle Price, Ingrid Klimke, Sandra Auffarth, and William Fox-Pitt. Teammate Marcio Appel’s round on Iberon Jmen racked up 44.40 pp, but the pair did a great job early on when there was much doubt about how to properly ride the course. With the team occupying 6th place, it would appear that the team’s investment in trainer Mark Todd is paying off!