Phillip Dutton and Boyd Martin Stand Fifth and Sixth after Cross-Country in Rio
Shannon Brinkman Photo
Cross-country, the heart of eventing competition, proved to be demanding for the 64 athlete-and-horse combinations who contested Pierre Michelet’s technical course at the Olympic Equestrian Center at Deodoro on Monday. Only three entries finished double-clear, and only 26 crossed the finish without jumping penalties. U.S. veterans Phillip Dutton and Boyd Martin rode brilliantly and stand fifth and sixth, respectively, entering Tuesday’s concluding show jumping phase. Dutton and Martin were the only members of the U.S. team to complete the course, dropping the U.S. from contention in the team competition.
Technical and bold, Michelet’s course was packed with angles, skinnies, and corners, and it radically changed the individual and team standings. Australia now leads the team competition with a score of 150.30, followed by New Zealand in second with 154.80, and France in third with 161.
Riding penultimate in the order, Dutton and HND Group’s Mighty Nice set out on course focused on taking the most direct route. They survived a suspenseful bobble at fence 6b, a corner brush, and were able to keep on target and finish with only 3.20 time penalties. Dutton moves forward into the show jumping phase with a score of 46.80. “That (fence 6b) actually surprised me a bit,” said Dutton. “He must not have quite understood it, and then I held him in and just got it done, and then I was just trying to catch up for time. He jumped beautifully after that. He’s not the fastest horse; he’s not a Thoroughbred, but he fought really hard right to the very end and came home nicely.”
Leading the charge as first out for the U.S. on cross-country was Martin on the Blackfoot Mystery Syndicate LLC’s Blackfoot Mystery. Cruising out of the start box, Martin produced a fast, clean round, and even after taking the alternate route at two obstacles, picked up just 3.20 time penalties. Adding to his dressage score of 47.70, he finished the day with a score of 50.90. “This was one of the most physical and demanding courses. It was intense,” Martin said. “He [Blackfoot Mystery] is a racehorse from Kentucky, and he kept fighting the whole way home; he tried his heart out for every jump. He has speed and endurance; I’m so pleased with him.” Regarding tomorrow’s show jumping competition, Martin added, “He’s fit and sound. I think I’ll have plenty of horse.”
Second on course for the U.S was Clark Montgomery piloting Holly and William Becker, Kathryn Kraft, and Jessica Montgomery’s Loughan Glen. Showing signs of a strong ride out of the start box, Montgomery and Loughan Glen experienced a refusal at fence 4, the first water complex, drifting to the left, something which continued to be problematic throughout the course. Montgomery ultimately retired on course at fence 17b, an open corner that caused trouble for many.
First-time Olympian Lauren Kieffer with Team Rebecca LLC’s Veronica set out on course looking fit and keen. Their strong ride came to an abrupt end, however, when a hung leg at fence 24, a gate, produced a fall that eliminated them from competition. “It’s certainly not the outcome I wanted,” said Kieffer. “She (Veronica) was being really good and going the direct route. She hit the gate with her right front, and for a second I thought she would save it. My job first and foremost was to get a clean round, and it’s pretty disappointing that I let the team down. She’s fine; she started jigging on the way to the vet box and acting like her normal self.”
Leading the individual standings after the cross-country phase is Australia’s Christopher Burton riding Santano II on his dressage score of 37.60. In second is Michael Jung of Germany with Sam FBW with 40.9 penalties, and Astier Nicolas riding Piaf De B’Neville, representing France, is third on a score of 42.0.
The eventing competition concludes on Tuesday at the Olympic Equestrian Center at Deodoro with show jumping.