Pratoni del Vivaro, Italy – The Land Rover U.S. Eventing Team had a fantastic day on cross-country in the hills of Pratoni, finishing all four team combinations and individual combination around the course designed by Giuseppe Della Chiesa (ITA). The team currently sits in second behind Germany on a team score of 77.4, while Tamie Smith and Mai Baum hold third place individually overnight on their score of 24.0.
“Today absolutely met my expectations and I think everyone leading up to this day has just had a really good feeling about where we were heading,” said Chef d‘Equipe Bobby Costello. “The feeling in training camp and everyone’s attitude here has been exactly what we have wanted, but we haven’t had a day like this in a really long time for the U.S. It’s really gratifying and I’m happy for everyone here – the riders, the grooms, the owners, the staff, and everyone at home, but having said that – we’ve already stopped celebrating. We’re one hundred percent focused on the job tomorrow and aren’t thinking about anything other than finishing this competition and doing what we came here to do.”
Will Coleman and Off The Record were the trailblazers for the team, bringing back valuable information to the remaining riders after their trip around the course. With several key areas on the track, the experience was vital for the team’s planning for the rest of the day. In his first championship appearance with Off The Record, a 2009 Irish Sport Horse gelding owned by the Off The Record Syndicate, Coleman (Gordonsville, Va.) talked about his ride and the effort “Timmy” gave him throughout the undulating track, where the pair finished just two seconds over the time for a score of 27.2 and hold 11th individually.
“He was really good out there. He answered all of the questions very confidently. He’s kind of a bulldog and he takes the bit and wants to go, but I was really pleased with almost how arrogant he was out there, strong and focused, and almost saying, “Let me at it, Dad,’ and it was a really cool feeling,” said Coleman. “He’s a very efficient horse and he’s very quick. He was really fit and I’m just so happy with how he ran.”
Piloting one of the most experienced horses in the field, Lauren Nicholson and Vermiculus left the start box as the second combination for the team. With an eye on the time and needing to produce a strong team score, Nicholson (The Plains, Va.) and “Bug” were tidy and efficient around the track. Vermiculus, a 2007 Anglo-Arabian gelding owned by Ms. Jacqueline Mars, was rideable and with Nicholson the entire way around the track. The pair concluded the day inside of the top 20 and currently sit in 18th place.
“He’s just super. This is our ninth CCI5* together and we just know each other so well at this point. He knows how to get himself out of tough situations and I knew all of the questions were there for him and it was on me to chase the time since he doesn’t have the biggest gallop,” explained Nicholson. “You always have a lot of pressure when you’re riding for the team because you have to toe the line of being gutsy and taking risks, but not doing anything stupid that’s going to affect the team.”
As the leading U.S. combination after dressage, Tamie Smith (Murrieta, Calif.) and Mai Baum, a 2006 German Sport Horse gelding owned by Alex Ahearn, Ellen Ahearn, and Eric Markell, felt the pressure of delivering a clear for the team to keep them in the hunt, while also staying competitive on the leaderboard in individual competition. The pair delivered, riding a foot perfect round, adding nothing to their dressage score of 24.0 and move into the final day of competition in third place overall.
“He and I have such a great partnership now. He felt strong heading towards the end. This is a hard course, especially for our horses, because the jumps aren’t that big, but the course was super technical and twisty, but he’s such a good jumper and he was right there and just on it,” said Smith. “I have an unbelievable, magical unicorn and he’s the horse of a lifetime. He’s made a lot of dreams come true. We’ll take care of him tonight and he felt great at the end. I know his heart is as big as mine, so we’ll give everything we have until the end.”
Tackling the course after two lengthy holds, the anchor combination of Boyd Martin (Cochranville, Pa.) and Tsetserleg TSF, a 2007 Trakehener gelding owned by Chris Turner, Tommie Turner, and Thomas Turner, were the final combination of the contingent to cross through the timers, stopping the clock on the optimum time of 9:50 to secure the team’s position and continue forward to the final phase on their dressage score of 26.2, for sixth place looking ahead to tomorrow’s competition.
“I’d like to say I timed by round perfectly, but I really was just riding as fast as I could to get home,” said Martin. “I have to give this horse so much credit. He just tries and tries and tries. It’s his best attribute. To do as much as he’s done and continue to give everything – he’s just a legend.”
As the individual combination representing the United States at the world championships, Ariel Grald (Southern Pines, N.C.) and Leamore Master Plan executed a masterful show around the track, finishing nearly eight seconds under the optimum time. Grald explained that she used the massive stride of the 2009 Irish Sport Horse gelding owned by Annie Eldridge, to maneuver through the course with her eyes firmly set on staying on their dressage score of 32.5 in hopes of climbing the leaderboard. The pair sit in 17th overnight with one of their strongest phases remaining tomorrow.
“This is my horse’s best phase and I wanted to play it a bit safe, because he has a huge stride and can get strong, we had some mistakes early in his career where I let his stride get away from me, but he was really good. From the slide down he was just great,” said Grald. “I had to trust him and his carefulness and after the slide I knew we were going to be good and just let him rock on. He’s really talented in the jumping, so I’m already looking forward to tomorrow.”
The Second Horse Inspection will begin at 9:00 a.m. GMT+2/3:00 a.m. ET tomorrow morning before the final phase of competition begins at 11:30 a.m. GMT+2/5:30 a.m. ET, which will determine both team and individual world champions.
Learn more about the 2022 FEI Eventing World Championships at pratoni2022.it/en/.
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