The US hold a slender lead after the dressage phase of the eventing competition at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto, Canada.
The US has a score of 133, just ahead of the home side on 133.7. The Mark Todd-coached Brazilian team is in third with 136.70 before the gap opens widely to fourth place, currently occupied by Guatemala with 170.10. Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Uruguay, and Venezuela make up the total of 11 nations contesting the team medals.
Individually, Ruy Fonseca, 42, of Brazil riding Tom Bombadill Too is in the lead with 38.90, one of the only two sub-40 scores. He is followed by British-based Canadian Kathryn Robinson in her major Games debut on Let It Bee, scoring 39.80. In third place is the USA’s Marilyn Little with 40.30 on RF Scandalous.
Next in the individual rankings is Canada’s Jessica Phoenix, the reigning gold medalist, riding Pavarotti. The combination finished on 42.10, ahead of the USA’s Boyd Martin and Pancho Villa (44.30). Rounding out the top six is Chilean rider Carlos Lobos, who put up a score of 45.30 on Ranco.
While one qualifying spot for the 2016 Olympic Games is available through the Games, the Canadian Eventing Team has already qualified for Rio based on its performance at the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France. As the host nation, Brazil is also guaranteed a starting spot.
The second phase of competition, cross-country, begins at 11am on Saturday, July 18, at the nearby Pan Am Cross-Country Center at Will O’Wind Farm in Mono, Ontario. Athletes then return to the OLG Caledon Equestrian Park in Caledon for the third and final phase of competition on Sunday, July 19. Team and individual medal ceremonies will be held at the close of competition.
The USA’s Marilyn Little was pleased with the performance of her mare, RF Scandalous, especially in light of challenging weather conditions and an electric atmosphere in the arena.
“These are not the best conditions for her. She is really sensitive and a very high energy horse … I was thrilled that she was as attentive as she was; she put in a really good effort.”
Commenting on the cross-country phase, Little also emphasized the impressive design of the course which is both beautiful and challenging. “There is plenty to do out there; I do not think this is going to be a dressage competition. The water jumps are beautifully presented, but substantial and there are a lot of ditches. [The course] has my full and undivided attention.”
Boyd Martin was the last to ride for the US team, and aboard Pancho Villa, was able to overcome a formidable environment and receive a score of 44.30. “He is a bit of a spook this horse … There were a lot of horses, umbrellas, and raincoats around the warm-up, which he does not like the look of, but he went in there [the main arena], took a deep breath, and did a pretty good test.”
Concurring with his teammates, Martin is realistic about the challenges of the cross-country course. “It’s a good course. There are a lot of tiny little traps out there that I think you could have a silly mistake on. I think you have to concentrate the whole way around.”
First to trot down the center line for the US was Phillip Dutton and Fernhill Fugitive, who earned a score of 48.40. “I was really pleased with the way the horse went. There is a bit of atmosphere in that arena, but he was obedient and could not have done much better.” Always a top competitor in the cross-country phase, Dutton said: “It looks like a nice course. Considering the amount of ground they have, it is quite a flowing course. There are difficult questions spaced throughout and I think there will be some pressure to make the time and still make sure that you are accurate.”
Lauren Kieffer and Meadowbrook’s Scarlett, a combination making their first appearance in international games competition also scored 48.40. “I was thrilled with her. She is a young horse and really handled the atmosphere well. I was a bit caught off-guard by the swap in the counter canter, but she felt really good in her trot work.” Kieffer is enjoying her debut in Pan American Games competition. “I am loving it; it is an honor … and so nice with Philip and Boyd here who are veterans showing us the ropes.” Kieffer and her eight-year-old mount are strong cross-country contenders. “I am ready to get out there. She is a really good cross-country horse. The course and ground look beautiful; they did an amazing job.”
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