The US has retained its lead after the cross-country phase of the eventing competition for the Pan American Games in Ontario, Canada.
The US stayed on its dressage score of 133.0, and Brazil added only a few time faults to move up to second spot with 136.7, whilke Canada dropped to third with 159.00 after losing the score of Kathryn Robinson, who was second following dressage. The combination was eliminated on the course.
Ecuador is now fourth with 170.10 and Chile lies fifth with 228.50. A total of 11 nations entered the team competition over the course designed by Wayne Copping of Australia, held at the Pan Am Cross-Country Center at Will O’Wind Farm in Mono, Ontario.
The cross-country competition was a sell-out event, with 5,000 tickets sold and many more accredited personnel on the grounds.
Individually, Canada’s Jessica Phoenix is poised to defend her gold medal from the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara. Sitting third with a score of 42.10, Phoenix and her mount Pavarotti are separated by one show jumping rail from the leaders, Ruy Fonseca of Brazil riding Tom Bombadill Too on 38.90 and Marilyn Little of the United States in second with 40.30 riding RF Scandalous.
First to tackle the course for the US was Philip Dutton on Fernhill Fugitive, and the Olympic veteran had a beautiful trip, finishing with no jumping penalties and within the time allowed. “I was pleased with my horse. I did not have any trouble with the jumping, but I had to work the whole time to keep my minute markers. He kept a good even speed the whole way around.”
Lauren Kieffer and Meadowbrook’s Scarlett were next up for the US. Kieffer was appreciative of the course evaluation offered by her experienced teammate who had gone first. “Obviously, he brought back some great feedback. He said to ride like we planned. We were spot on.” Kieffer also praised her horse: “She is only eight and she has never been in crowds like this. She was all business the whole way around.”
Dutton and team-mate Lauren Kieffer are tied for seventh individually, on 48.40.
Marilyn Little left the start box on RF Scandalous in third place after Friday’s dressage. The mare excelled on the cross-country course and added nothing to their dressage score. “It was so much fun and a great course to ride. She came out of the start box on fire and gave me a great ride.” Little is now second individually on 40.30, following Robinson’s elimination.
Last to contest the cross-country phase for the US was Olympic veteran Boyd Martin aboard Pancho Villa. Martin had an excellent ride and finished on his dressage score. Because of a fall on course, Martin was held between fences 16 and 17 for several minutes. Martin noted of the hold, “my horse freshened up and I got to take a couple of deep breaths. Then, he jumped fence 17 like it was fence 1.” Martin was pleased with his horse’s performance on the challenging course. “I was a little bit nervous with some of the turning questions. He is not the best turner, but was real honest. I was really happy with him.” Martin goes into Sunday’s show jumping phase in fourth place individually, with 44.30.
Team medal most important to Canada
As the last rider to compete cross-country for Canada, Phoenix had a sea of fans cheering her around the course. Many rushed to the final fence to help bring her home; a loud cheer went up as she crossed the finish line with no penalties riding Pavarotti, a 13-year-old bay Westphalian gelding (Pavarotti van de Helle x Foxiland) owned by Don J. Good.
“Canadians are the most amazing fans in the world!” said Phoenix, 31. “To have the Pan Am Games in our own backyard is incredible, and to have everyone here supporting us has just been overwhelming.”
Phoenix and Pavarotti won the individual title and led Canada to team silver at the last Pan Am Games, and are back to defend their title, much to the delight of their legions of fans.
“Our main focus is on our team medal,” Phoenix said. “That’s really important to us. After that, we want to produce good clean show jumping rounds. Individual medals come at the end of it, but your first priority is always your team.”
Waylon Roberts, 26, was the pathfinder for Canada, jumping clear and inside the time with Bill Owen, an 11-year-old bay Canadian Sport Horse gelding sired by Money Talks and owned in partnership with his mother, 1984 Canadian Olympian Kelly Plitz. Having provided the drop score in the opening phase of dressage, Roberts’ cross-country performance ended up being of the utmost importance. His dressage score of 65.10, with nothing added on cross-country, needed to be counted when Robinson was eliminated.
“This was challenging; it was a good championship test for all the horses and riders,” said Roberts, who is now in 17th position individually, having made a bold move up the leaderboard from 34th. “My horse is a little less experienced than some of the others on the team, and he answered me really well. I couldn’t have asked any more from him. I think we put in a really good double-clear round today.”
Colleen Loach was next on course for Canada, and delivered another clear round riding Qorry Blue d’Argouges, an 11-year-old grey selle francais gelding sired by Mr. Blue and owned by Peter Barry. In her major games debut, Loach remains on her dressage score of 51.80 and is in ninth position individually.
“My horse was awesome; I couldn’t have asked for better,” said Loach, 32. “It rode pretty much like it walked. There were no surprises out there.”
Of the huge crowd that turned out to support the Canadian Team, Loach said, “It was amazing! They were yelling at every corner, every time you went by. I think my horse enjoyed it too, it gave him more energy. It is amazing to see all the support of the local people, and to have that behind you.”
Robinson, 29, who was also making her major games debut, was eliminated when both she and Let It Bee, her 14-year-old dark bay German-bred gelding, fell at the second jump on course, the Hayracks fence.
“She got a little close to fence two and, maybe because of the atmosphere and everything that is around, the horse maybe lost a little bit of concentration and he just caught a leg and put her into a bit of a spin,” explained Canadian Eventing Team Chef d’équipe and Technical Advisor Clayton Fredericks, who confirmed that both horse and rider were fine. “She rolled and got back up and he got back up and they dusted themselves off and walked back to the barn.
“It is never nice to go through that – I’ve experienced it plenty of times myself – but it’s a real mental game being able to control your mind and get up and go again,” continued Fredericks, a two-time Olympian for his native Australia. “Most likely, Kathryn will have an exceptionally good next event.”
Fredericks, who has an Olympic team silver medal to his credit as well as individual silver and team bronze medals from the 2006 World Equestrian Games, said of the Canadian Team’s performance: “I am very pleased with what we’ve done. Obviously Kathryn was in a strong position being in second after the dressage. It didn’t work out for her today, but we had three other clears inside the time. You can’t take that away from anyone, and we’re still sitting in a good position.”