Sarah Carless reports…
Great Britain’s William Fox-Pitt remained in the lead of the Eventing competition at the Olympic Games following the conclusion of the dressage in Rio.
There was no change in the top two riders, but France’s Mathieu Lemoine and Bart L produced a solid test to put them into third place on a score of 39.2 – a score which helped push the French team up the leader board.
Germany’s Ingrid Klimke also produced a strong performance with Hale Bob OLD to score 39.5 to consolidate her team’s lead. It wasn’t all plain sailing however. “Bob was quite excited outside in the warm-up and he was bucking, but when he came into the arena he just went “OK, here I am, I’m ready – if you want let’s go for it!” she said afterwards.
Day two of the eventing competition also saw the second half of the British team, Pippa Funnell and Kitty King head into the arena. With the British team sitting in third place, Pippa was looking to produce a solid test with her 11-year-old British bred Billy The Biz, owned by the late Carol Toliver, and they did just that. With some lovely movements throughout the test and expressive trot work the combination were awarded 43.9 leaving them in 16th place.
Commenting after her test Pippa said; “I was really, really pleased with his performance, I was thrilled with him. There were a few little bits here and there, but if I’m honest I think I’m being greedy, if I think of where he came from three years ago I’m thrilled. I’m delighted for Carol, I know she’ll be looking down and will be thrilled with her little grey pony.”
The afternoon session saw the final Team GB eventing athlete, Kitty King, head into the stadium. With Ceylor L A N, owned by Diana Bown, Jacqueline Owen and Samantha Wilson, the pair made a stunning entrance, with the judges awarding eights across the board for the pair’s first halt. With highlights coming throughout the test, a couple of uncharacteristic errors were unlucky for the duo who completed in 46.8 (26th position).
Kitty said afterwards; “It was slightly disappointing because he’s capable of a lot better; he did some good work but he just made a couple of uncharacteristic mistakes. One of his highlights is usually his medium trot, but it’s a massive atmosphere for the horse and he’s only nine. Today wasn’t quite what we’d hoped for but hopefully we’ll pull some back tomorrow.”
Germany retained its lead in the team competition. But with a total score of 122.0 it is the narrowest of margins going into the cross country with France on a score of 122.2. Australia slipped back to third (126.4) with Great Britain in fourth on 127.7. Ireland moved up to fifth position (137.5) thanks to a great performance from Jonty Evans and Cooley’s Rorkes Drift who scored a personal best, followed by New Zealand and the USA tying for sixth (137.5).
With less than five points separating the top 10 riders however, and few, if any, expected to avoid time penalties while negotiating the tough track set by French course designer, Pierre Michelet, the stage is set for a tremendous day of cross-country action. Every one of the riders agree that dressage will not be the all-influencing factor. Michelet has thought long and hard about how to challenge the most experienced riders in the sport along with those who have relatively less mileage on the clock.
He said: “I want the best to win without asking too big questions of the less experienced riders. The reputation of the sport is important. I want to challenge the riders and I ask them to find clever solutions for the many options on offer. To get on the podium they will need to be brave, accurate and bold” he said. There has indeed been a lot of course-walking going on over the last few days as riders make their plans and then alter them and settle on new ones that will get them home on the quickest and safest route. This course is not about one signature fence; it’s about clearing all of them! I ask the difficult questions from the start, that is my signature. The first water will be fence number four already. The riders need to be ready from step one.”
The first rider will head out on cross country at 2pm (BST) with the action live via the BBC. The times for TB GB athletes are; 14.23 BST Gemma Tattersall and Quicklook V; 15.39 William Fox-Pitt and Chilli Morning; 17.05, Pippa Funnell and Billy The Biz; 18.21, Kitty King and Ceylor L A N.