A MASTERFUL performance from all three British event riders on cross-country day see Britain hold the gold medal position by an incredible 17.9 penalty points heading into tomorrow’s final show jumping phase at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Derek di Grazia built an interesting course which asked plenty of questions throughout. With an optimum time of seven minutes 45 seconds, just seven riders managed to come home inside the time, including Ireland’s Austin O’Connor with Colorado Blue, who helped move Ireland up to eighth place.
Oliver Townend was second out on the course – and the first to complete after Thailand’s Arinadtha Chavatanont fell at fence five – with Ballaghmor Class (ISH). He gave an exhibition in riding to come home with five seconds to spare and set the British team up perfectly, and he now holds the individual gold medal position.
“We know he is special; anybody who watches eventing knows he is special. He’s quirky, but he’s tough and the bottom line is that he wants to do his job, more than other horses,” Townend commented on the 14-year-old Courage II gelding who was bred by the late Noel Hickey.
There was more good news for Britain when Laura Collett and London 52 added another clear round performance, coming home inside the time, before Tom McEwen and Toledo de Kerser cemented their place when he was also five seconds inside the time. The team added nothing to their combined dressage score of 78.3.
With two clear rounds inside the time from Shane Rose (Virgil) and Andrew Hoy (Vassily De Lassos), Australia have jumped up to second place on a combined score of 96.2, ahead of defending champions France on 97.1.
Germany, who were just two points behind Britain in second after the first phase, caused the biggest shock of the day when slipping down the leaderboard to sixth place. Julia Krajewski got off to a good start with Amande De B'neville, just one second over the time, but it fell apart when former world champion Sandra Auffarth and Viamant Du Matz picked up 20 penalties and 2.40 time penalties.
Two-time Olympic champion Michael Jung broke the frangible pin at fence 14c – which caused problems all day – to pick up 11 penalties, despite being 10 seconds inside the time with Chipmunk FRH. That left Germany on a combined score of 11.2 in sixth and Jung has slipped from first to 10th individually.
Ireland move up
Ireland have moved up from 13th to eighth place after cross-country. The star of the day was Austin O’Connor, who replaced Cathal Daniels (Rioghan Rua) before dressage, with the Salty Syndicate’s Colorado Blue. The combination produced a masterful round to come home clear inside the time and have moved up to 20th place individually on a score of 38.
Speaking after the clear round, Austin said: “I am delighted with my horse’s performance, the horse was great. He seems to have recovered really well.
"He is a class horse. We will all enjoy the next phase now. We will get the horse recovered and myself recovered and hopefully come out and finish on a good note.”
Austin O'Connor and Colorado Blue during the eventing cross country team and individual session at the Sea Forest Island \ Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
There was an unfortunate 11 penalties for Sam Watson and Tullabeg Flamenco (ISH) at 14c when they broke the frangible pin in an otherwise brilliant round which saw them add just two time penalties.
“It’s a really tough one to take because he was brilliant,” stated Watson. “The reason he had the 11 penalties was that I let him fall in on that line a little. He ballooned in over the oxer and he got there a fraction close. I should have made more room for him and kept out. We [the team] stay alive, we’re still in the game but I am frustrated.”
Sarah Ennis and Woodcourt Garrison picked up a costly 20 jumping penalties at the mound, plus 17.6 for time. Ireland have a combined score 161.
Speaking afterwards, Ennis said the 12-year-old gelding was empty towards the end of the course. “I felt as we came to the drop and down to the skinny, where he ran out, he got really hard on my right rein and he ran down that hill. For love nor money I couldn’t turn him. It is really unfortunate," she said.
"I was very lucky to get him home. He felt very empty and heavy. I say he will bounce back, he is a tough one and will come back fighting tomorrow. He is fairly hardy but the humidity got to him today."
Despite a classy round just four seconds over the time from Kazuma Tomoto and Vinci De La Vigne, which puts him in fifth place, there was big disappointment for the home nation after Yoshiaki Oiwa fell from Calle 44 to drop their team down to 12th place.
Oliver Townend has a two point lead at the top of the individual leaderboard, from Germany’s Julia Krajewski (25.60), who has Laura Collett breathing down her neck on 25.80. Tim Price holds fourth place individually with Vitali (26.80), adding just 1.2 time penalties today.
Kazuma Tomoto is fifth for the home nation (27.50), ahead of Britain’s third rider Tom McEwen who moves up six places to sixth (28.90). Eight-time Australian Olympian Andrew Hoy has moved up to seventh (29.60), while Frenchman Christopher Six (31.20), Austrialia’s Shane Rose (31.70) and Michael Jung (32.10) close out the top 10.
Third after dressage, China’s Alex Hua Tian slipped to 18th place with 12 time penalties aboard Don Geniro.
Austin O’Connor is best of the Irish in 20th. Sam Watson is in 31st place, while Sarah Ennis sits in 39th.
Nine horse and rider combinations were eliminated and two retired on course. The final show jumping phase takes place on Monday at 5pm (9am Irish time).
MORE TO FOLLOW