Germany’s Sandra Auffarth and her long-time partner Opgun Louvo produced the dressage test everyone was anticipating to bring the first phase of the Eventing competition at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2014 in Normandy to a close.
Auffarth scored a 10 for her halt from Ground Jury President Gillian Rolton (AUS) and three nines for her riding. She now has a 2.5-penalty advantage over the first-day leader William Fox-Pitt (GBR) on Chilli Morning.
The two-day dressage phase saw a record of 91 horses representing 27 nations over two days at the Le Pin National Stud venue in the Ornes region.
Auffarth, who already has Olympic and European team gold medals to her name plus individual silver and bronze, has extended her team’s lead over New Zealand and fully justified her status as the rider many people have tipped for the individual title in Normandy.
The test included many challenging elements, from flying lead changes to a half-pirouette to a serpentine at the canter.
“It wasn’t the easiest atmosphere but we managed OK,” Auffarth said. “At the start my horse was a little bit nervous but then he got better and better and really enjoyed it.”
Opgun Louvo had the locals on his side, and received a standing ovation after the dressage. The Selle Français gelding was bought by a Belgian rider as a three-year-old from breeder Yves Berlioz in town of Molay-Littry, in the Calvados region, only a few miles by Caen. He has been with Auffarth since he was five, and a year later she bought him in partnership with the German Federation.
He is by Shogoun II and from a mare by J’T’adore, who were both ridden by Eric Navet, a former World Champion and ambassador to the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2014 in Normandy. The mare’s side of Opgun Louvo’s family also features many winning racehorses and jumpers.
Opgun Louvo missed much of 2013 through injury, after he pulled a shoe on the cross-country at Aachen and strained a leg.
New Zealander Jock Paget had Clifton Promise looking beautifully light and supple and they scored the only other sub-40 mark of the day – 38.0 – to slot into individual third place. In a first for the New Zealand team, all riders have scored under 50, with three in the top 10 of the 90-strong field: Jock Paget and Clifton Promise in third with 38.0, Tim Price and Wesko are sixth on 42, and Lucy Jackson and Willy Do are equal ninth on 43.8. Andrew Nicholson and Nereo, dual bronze medalists in Kentucky in 2010, are 15th on 45.5, Jonelle Price on Classic Moet is 26th on 48.5 and Mark Todd and Leonidas II are 29th with 49.2.
Germany has more than 20 penalties in hand over the third-placed USA team and the fourth-placed French. Defending champions Great Britain are now in fifth place after counting a score of 50.0 from third rider Kristina Cook on her home-bred De Novo News.
The Italian team has suffered huge disappointment with the withdrawal just before their dressage test of Vittoria Panizzon and Borough Pennyz. The popular grey mare was found to have a slight injury and, to the approval of the crowd, Panizzon said she did not want to risk her horse.
Canada finished in seventh place, with all four team riders achieving personal best dressage scores at FEI 4* level.
Peter Barry and Jessica Phoenix rode on the first day and put the team in eighth, with Hawley Bennett-Awad taking 16th place individually on thoroughbred mare Gin & Juice, and Selena O’Hanlon riding Westphalian gelding Foxwood High to 35th, helping edge Canada up a place.
The Canadian Eventing Team’s Technical Advisor, Clayton Fredericks, is pleased with the team’s performances in dressage. “Dressage can always be better, but I think we’re all very pleased. We’re still a few countries away from what we want to achieve here, so it’s still work, but I’m very happy with what they’ve done so far. The attitude and morale of the team is very high.”
The British team is in fifth place, with the best score of the two days going to William Fox-Pitt and Chilli Morning on the first day. Team member Zara Phillips, riding High Kingdom, finished with 54.5 penalties in 53rd place. “I was really happy with him,” Phillips said. “He did some really good work and everything I asked of him. He broke in the medium trot and my marks didn’t come back up after that. He does nice work but he’s not a flash horse.” Phillips believes that Saturday’s cross-country course will be hugely influential and should suit her gelding.
Ireland faces a challenging cross-country, when they will hope to pull themselves up from overnight 12th place. Facing into the championship cross-country phase, Ireland is now 43.6 penalty points adrift of leaders Germany, but is still ahead of Brazil, Italy, Sweden and Poland in the 16 nation contest.
The best dressage performance amongst the Irish came from Meath-based Sarah Ennis with Horseware Stellor Rebound (ISH) who finished on 48.5 penalties. Mullingar’s Joseph Murphy was next best of the four-strong team, with 52.2 on Electric Cruise.
Although the picturesque site of Haras du Pin has enjoyed balmy, sunny drying conditions, the cross country course is still expected to be influential. In view of the wet weather this week, the Ground Jury has removed fences 20 and 23 which removes a galloping loop of the track and reduces the optimum time by one minute, now 10:30, on the 5982m track.
It is the first time Auffarth has gone last for the German team and she admitted her relief at the arrival of sunshine. “The course is difficult enough but really well built and horse friendly. I’m looking forward to it.”
The cross country phase has been brought forward by 30 minutes to 10.00 CEST.
The morning after cross country, August 31, the eventing horses will go through a horse inspection at the Le Pin National Stud venue. The horses will then be loaded and transported under police escort to the d’Ornano Stadium in Caen, where the final show jumping phase will take place, as well as the Team and Individual medal ceremonies.
Reporting: Kate Green, Julie Cull
Individual Results after Dressage
1. Sandra Auffarth/Opgun Louvo (GER)* 35.0
2. William Fox-Pitt/Chilli Morning (GBR)* 37.5
3. Jock Paget/Clifton Paget (NZL)* 38.0
4. Michael Jung/fischerRocana FST (GER)* 40.7
5. Ingrid Klimke/FRH Escada JS (GER)* 41.2
6. Tim Price/Wesko (NZL)* 42.0
7 = Elaine Pen/Vira (NED) 42.3
7 = Karin Donckers/Fletcha van’t Verahof (BEL)* 42.3
9 = Philip Dutton/Trading Aces (USA)* 43.8
9 = Lucy Jackson/Willy Do (NZL) 43.8
(* denotes team rider)
Team Results after Dressage
1. Germany 116.9
2. New Zealand 125.5
3. USA 138.8
4. France 139.9
5. Great Britain 142.0
6. Netherlands 142.8
7 Canada 147.5
8. Belgium 150.8
9. Australia 153.1
10. Spain 159.8
11. Switzerland 160.0
12. Ireland 160.5
13. Brazil 162.5
14. Italy 172.6
15. Sweden 179.8
16. Poland 199.3