Eventing Team New Zealand sits in fifth spot with riders in seventh and 13thplaces at the end of the first day of dressage at the Olympic Games in Rio.
William Fox-Pitt (GBR) and his stunning stallion Chilli Morning lead the field on 37 penalty points with Chris Burton (AUS) aboard his youngster Santano II right behind him on 37.6 and Michael Jung (GER) and Sam FBW in third on 40.9.
Sir Mark Todd is the best of the Kiwis with his 44 penalty point test aboard Leonidas II. Tim Price and Ringwood Sky Boy sit in 13th equal on 47. Todd said his horse was a little excited coming into the dressage arena after seeing the tractors grooming the surface just before him. “That meant the beginning trot work was a little tense but he gradually relaxed more through the test,” said Todd. “You always want to do better and this is a horse who is capable of doing a 75% test, but under the circumstances it is ok.” He felt the cross country course was probably the hardest he has seen since Los Angeles in 1984 . . . when he won the individual gold medal with Charisma. “That could be a good omen,” he agreed. “Hopefully we will all be clear and inside time . . . that cross country is going to be quite influential.”
While a little disappointed with his score, Tim Price was very pleased with his horse Ringwood Sky Boy. Three mistakes from the trail-blazer for the New Zealand team proved costly. “The halt at the beginning and end and the flying change in the middle were the problems,” he said. “You put those three together and you know you will be sitting where we are despite the rest of the test being a good standard. You have to be perfect at this level. “He can get a bit nervous in the halt, and that is very much a part of the test,” said Price.
“I wanted to be in the thirties but I have learnt to be philosophical. It is a good score to carry forward for the team.” He’s looking forward to the cross country but says it looks tough. “It will be a strong test but I think that bodes well for the Kiwis – it won’t be a dressage competition that’s for sure. Thankfully the Kiwis have brought four 4* horses.” And he’s sure his will be “the worst score in our lot”.
However, he was chuffed to be on the start list. “It’s a big deal to go from sitting on the bench into the running,” he said. “I have a good horse. I believe in him and he will be an asset to the team.”
He was confident too in his wife Jonelle who would be the fourth member of the team to compete. “She tried to tell us she was nervous but we didn’t believe her,” he said. “It is the natural place for a horse like Faerie Dianimo and a jockey like her.” There is much talk about the Pierre Michele designed cross country, which Equestrian Sports New Zealand high performance eventing coach Erik Duvander is describing as the strongest Olympic course he has seen in years. “We are still analysing the course and will look at plans for each combination. Tomorrow we will walk the course all together again. It will be an exciting few days.”
It’s that team ethos that is so key to Eventing Team New Zealand.
The team’s competition is led by the Germans who sit on 82.5 penalty points, with the Australians on 83.9, the British on 84.2 and New Zealand on 91.
Tomorrow the second half of the field will complete their dressage tests, followed by the cross country the following day.
The horse details –
Leonidas II (owned by Diane Brunsden, Peter Cattell and Sir Mark Todd) and Ringwood Sky Boy (owned by Robert Taylor, Varenna Allen, Selwood.com and Tim Price).