Dressage leaders Michael Jung and La Biosthetique Sam from Germany maintained their lead in the eventing following a superb cross-country round today. © FEI/Dirk Caremans
Michael Jung interview
It was another record-breaking attendance day at the Games with 50,818 spectators turning out to watch the cross-country action.
Before the start of the day, the riders had all said that Mike Etherington-Smith's cross-country course was large with plenty of questions and a true Championship track. It proved to be just so with a number of nations and riders encountering problems around the track.
Of the 79 horses that started today's course, 60 finished (75.9%). Some 13 riders, including Jung and Fox-Pitt, finished faster than the ideal time of 11:14 and added nothing to their dressage penalties.
"The atmosphere all around the park with such huge crowds was very special for me" a jubilant Michael Jung said. "I had a lot of fun today, and so did my horse. I'd put the saddle on him and ride it all over again right now if I could!" said the excited leader.
As the final jumping phase gets under way on Sunday morning (US time) Jung has a nine point advantage over William Fox-Pitt who rocketed up the leaderboard from 12th to second place when one of 12 to come home clear and inside the time today. And Becky Holder, in third, separated from silver medal position by only 0.5 penalties after a thrilling cross-country run with the aptly-named Courageous Comet. But she cannot rest easy, because Germany's Ingrid Klimke and FRH Butts Abraxxas are just 0.4 further in arrears while New Zealand veteran, Andrew Nicholson, is less than one point further adrift in fifth place with Nereo.
The British moved up from overnight second to head the leaderboard after the Germans lost their grip and dropped to fifth. And the extraordinary Canadians produced three stunning performances to improve from ninth to third ahead of New Zealand in fourth.
Holder is riding as an individual, not as a member of the U. team. She's rooting hard for the team, though. "I think all of us are kind of glad that the British team is feeling our breath down their necks a little bit," she said with a smile. "We've been working really hard on our show jumping with Katie Prudent, and we're hoping to put a good show on tomorrow."
The German dressage advantage began to unravel when pathfinder Dirk Schrade's Gadget de la Cere fell at the penultimate Kentucky Covered Bridge, leaving only three team-members in the frame. And despite great rounds from Jung and Klimke, the two refusals from Andreas Dibowski's Euroridings Butts Leon at the ditch at fence 7, the Walnut Hall Corner combination which created problems for seven horse-and-rider combinations throughout the day, sent them plummeting to fifth.
Things also got off to a bad start for third-placed Sweden when Linda Algotsson's 20-year-old gelding Stand by Me told his rider he didn't want to go any further once he got to the first water complex at fence five. And team chances were dashed when, last to go, Katrin Norling and Pandora Emm, jumped too far right at the corner at the Welcoming Waters Wishing Well having already put in a stop at the previous obstacle.
Australia's Sam Griffiths and Happy Times were also eliminated here, and this put paid to Aussie chances as team-mate Paul Tapner and Inonothing had earlier retired at the Fort Boonesboro Brush Coop at 13. X-rays revealed a fracture of the horse's left hind patella and, with a favourable prognosis, Inonothing is resting in his own stall tonight.
Italy also lost two riders, Marco Biasia (Gandalf the Grey) who made it all the way to the Horse Park Shelters at 23 before calling it a day, and the anchor partnership of Juan Carlos Garcia (Iman de Golfe).
Garcia was enjoying a great tour of the track until taking a fall at the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace corner. His 14-year-old gelding suffered a deep laceration over the left elbow but received immediate attention from on-site veterinary officials before being taken to the nearby Rood & Riddle Veterinary Hospital for further assessment and treatment. X-rays showed no major fracture, although there is a small bone chip near the elbow. Veterinarians are optimistic that the horse will make a full recovery.
Meanwhile the US, Canada and New Zealand all got four riders home, and the host nation soared into contention for the team title. Buck Davidson collected penalties for a stop going into the Red River Gorge with Ballynoe Castle, but when his US team-mates Philip Dutton (Woodburn) and Boyd Martin (Neville Bardos) added nothing to their dressage score and Karen O'Connor (Mandiba) collected just 0.80 time faults they were right back in the game. Even more impressively, Canada's Stephanie Rhodes-Bosch (Port Authority), Selena O'Hanlon (Colombo) and Hawley Bennett-Awad (Gin & Juice) produced flawless rounds which promoted them to third behind their near neighbours. Andrew Nicholson's anchor ride with Nereo was a classy exhibition and helped haul New Zealand into contention, but it was the British who were holding court at the head of affairs.
The sensational pathfinding ride from Nicola Wilson, whose hard-pulling 13-year-old gelding Opposition Buzz flew around the track with the greatest of ease, steadied everyone's nerve at the beginning of the day and was followed by another classic from Rolex Kentucky 2010 winners William Fox-Pitt and Cool Mountain. And although Tina Cook picked up 20 penalties with Miners Frolic who jumped so strongly into the water at fence five that she had to alter her route, the ever-reliable Mary King sealed supremacy with a fabulous tour of the track with Imperial Cavalier. But there is no room for complacency when tomorrow's final jumping test begins.
Cook and Miners Frolic looked to have had a near perfect round when it was announced they had crossed their tracks when having to take evasive action at the water. "I'm very disappointed if they have given me a run-out, we'll need to review the video. Up until I heard the news, I was thrilled with my round. I had to put my foot down and I'm not renowned for my speed. It's a cleverly designed course with lots of questions, but safe questions. He was fabulous," Cook said.
William Fox-Pitt said the main team instruction from Chef d'Equipe Yogi Breisner was that time faults were unforgivable, "so I didn't let him down."
"When we saw the course this week we knew it was a decent Championship track but no-one could have guessed the amount of trouble it would cause," Fox-Pitt said.
And Becky Holder said: "when I was walking the track I was aware of the cumulative effect of little mistakes, you could see they would catch up with riders further on the course."
Jung is delighted to find himself out in front, and in such distinguished company. "It is my first championship at 4-Star level. The course is a difficult one but a beautiful one for horses. Every jump asks for a big effort from you and your horse, from the beginning to the end," he said.
Asked if he thought he could win tomorrow he said "for me already it is a dream to participate in a World Championship and now I have more than I ever dreamed. My dressage was good, cross-country was good except for the first water and my horse is always a good jumper," he said.
"He finished fresh today, but there is a big atmosphere in the stadium and he will have to concentrate on me when he goes in there and I hope he can do that," he said.
"I've had Sam since he was a five-year-old and I have ridden him all his life. He has a lot of confidence in me and he has grown into this level of the sport. He's not a horse with huge scope, but he's a horse with a big heart," Jung said.
Meanwhile, Fox-Pitt said the outcome today has put huge pressure on the British contingent - "there's so little space between the two top teams that it's going to be terrifying tomorrow," he said. "We will be hoping our horses will be as careful as they can be."
79 horses started the cross-country with a 76% completion rate
There were 39 clears, 12 of which were inside the time
There were 10 falls on course, four of which were horse falls, and six of which were rider falls
Team: 1, Great Britain 139.40; 2, USA 143.30; 3, Canada 147.50; 4, New Zealand 150.80; 5, Germany 192.70; 6, Ireland 198.50; 7, Belgium 220.10; 8, France 227.70; 9, Japan 304.10; 10, Australia 1104.00; 11, Sweden 1112.50; 12, Italy 1145.50; 13, Brazil 1230.70; 14, Republic of South Africa 1312.80.
Individual: 1, La Biosthetique Sam (Michael Jung) Ger 33.0; 2, Cool Mountain (William Fox-Pitt) GBR 42.00; 3, Courageous Comet (Rebecca Holder) USA 42.50; 4, FRH Butts Abraxxas (Ingrid Klimke) GER 42.90; 5, Nereo (Andrew Nicholson) NZL 43.50; 6, Port Authority (Stephanie Rhodes Bosch) CAN 44.20; 7, Gazelle de la Brasserie (Karin Donckers) BEL 44.40; 8, Redesigned (Pippa Funnell) GBR 45.50; 9, Mandiba (Karen O'Connor) USA 45.60; 10, Imperial Cavalier (Mary King) GBR 46.20.