Australia Remains on Top
Photo: Anthony Trollope/StockImageServices.com
The U.S. continued to well orchestrated plans, and their two most experienced riders put in very solid performances to leave the U.S. in third on a score of 115.60. Germany snuck ahead of the U.S. after Ingrid Klimke (aboard Abraxxas) and Andreas Dibowski both went into the 30s. Klimke jumped into third place on 33.50 with a very impressive performance. The Germans are five points clear of the U.S. going into the cross-country with 110.50.
Just over 11 points separate second through fourth places, so it doesn't seem that this Olympic Games will be decided on dressage marks alone.
Nine-year-old Irish Sport Horse Mandiba grew up considerably in his time in the dressage arena at his first Olympic Games. His test began a little wobbly, but he took a giant breath in the extended walk, regrouped, scored eights for his canter depart and never looked back.
"I'm delighted," said his rider, four-time Olympian Karen O'Connor, when she finished. "He is very inexperienced in a place like this. He was almost a little too quiet in the beginning."
Despite being the most inexperienced horse O'Connor has ridden at an Olympic Games, Mandiba (who is owned by Joan Goswell) was not outclassed by his more seasoned competitors. They finished on a score of 41.90, good enough for 16th place. The world hasn't heard the last from Mandiba.
"He's going to grow up a lot over the week," said O'Connor, 50, from The Plains, VA. "Looking toward Lexington (home of the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games) in 2010, I'm really excited. He's such a lovely horse."
Veteran rider Phillip Dutton rode Bruce Duchosssios' Connaught in the final rotation. The 15-year-old Irish Thoroughbred gelding lost his concentration a few times throughout the test and historically struggles with the flying change from right to left.
"I'm a little disappointed," said Dutton who lives in West Grove, PA. "I know he could have been five points better."
Dutton's final score of 40.60 puts him in 14th going into the cross-country. The two-time Gold medalist for Australia is riding for the U.S. for the first time at the Olympic Games.
"I think everyone here has been performing above the level that they have in recent week…we are very proud of them, and they are on a roll," said Captain Mark Phillips, the Chef d'Equipe.
Yesterday's individual leader, Aussie Lucinda Fredericks, remains in the lead on a score of 30.40 with Headley Britannia. The last rider from the evening session on Saturday remains in second. Belgium's sole representative in eventing, Karin Donckers, wowed the judges and was rewarded with 33.50 with Gazelle de la Brasserie.
Cross-country gets underway at Beas River tomorrow morning at 8 a.m.
Amy Tryon and Poggio lead it off for the US, followed by Gina Miles and McKinlaigh. Becky Holder and Courageous Comet will be third and O'Connor and Dutton will round it out for the US.
The horses will leave the Sha Tin venue early this afternoon with their grooms and equipment and settle in for the evening. They will return from Sha Tin tomorrow afternoon upon the completion of the competition.
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