They arrived with six Team and five Individual gold medals already under their belts, and today Team Great Britain showed they are again the ones to beat when filling the top two places on the leaderboard at the end of the first day of Dressage at the FEI Eventing World Championship 2022 in Pratoni del Vivaro (ITA). It’s early days, but the country that claimed Olympic gold in Tokyo 12 months ago and then swept all before them at the FEI European Championships 2021 once more look like a truly formidable force.
Defending double-world-champion and British team member, 33-year-old Ros Canter, posted the first big score today with the relatively inexperienced 10-year-old Lordships Graffalo when putting 26.2 on the board this morning. However fellow-countrywoman, 25-year-old Yasmin Ingham, who is competing as an Individual, impressed Ground Jury members Christina Klinspor (SWE), Peter Gray (CAN) and Christian Steiner (AUT) even more for a mark of 22.0 with her 11-year-old gelding Banzai du Loir to go out in front.
And it took an inspired performance from Canter’s Tokyo 2020 team-mate Laura Collett to push this pair off pole position later in the afternoon when London 52 simply swaggered through a superb test to earn the highest score of the first day, 19.3, to firmly secure the team advantage for her country.
“He definitely loves a crowd! He went in that arena and went, yes! everyone is here to see me! He is just a pleasure to ride when he’s like that!”, Collett said afterwards.
Running team score
On a running team score of 45.5 the British go into tomorrow’s second day of Dressage, when another 43 horse-and-rider partnerships will take their turn before facing into the Cross-country and Jumping tests on Saturday and Sunday, with an eight-point lead over Team New Zealand (53.0) who have only 0.5 of an advantage over Team USA in third place (53.5). Kiwi chances were hugely boosted by a spectacular test from Monica Spencer and her racing-bred 11-year-old gelding Artist who strutted his stuff for a strong score of 25.6 that leaves the 35-year-old rider currently in third place.
This is an incredible result for Spencer who is competing for the very first time on a Senior team and for the very first time in the Northern Hemisphere. She gave birth to her son, Gus, just 10 months ago and has travelled 18,000 kms with her horse to ride alongside Clarke Johnston who scored a handsome 27.4 today to slot into eighth place with Menlo Park and the star Kiwi husband-and-wife partnership of Tim and Jonelle Price who go into the ring tomorrow. This is a team that clearly means business.
Meanwhile Will Coleman (Off the Record) and Lauren Nicholson (Vermiculus), with scores of 26.4 and 27.1 respectively, kept the USA well in contention at this early stage. French rider Thomas Carlile slotted into individual fifth place with a lovely ride on Darmagnac de Bellard that scored 26.4 and he was really pleased with his “very gentle, very honest and shy little horse”. Like all the riders who have competed today he can now turn his attention to Saturday’s cross-country phase which looks set to be quite a thriller.
While others seem to be somewhat in awe of it, he described Guiseppe della Chiesa’s 30-fence track as “lovely”, but that perhaps is because he said he has competed at Pratoni del Vivaro many times, “and I love this place!”
“It seems to me like a balance between a true championship test and a modern look at Eventing with a lot of frangible pins that we all have our ideas about but it’s the way the sport is going and we need to choose and produce our horses in that aspect now. There are plenty of different routes to make sure everyone has the possibility to get around and it will require proper cross-country riding with the terrain….I’m really looking forward to it!”, he said.
A score of 30.7 from team-mate Astier Nicolas and Alertamalib’or leaves France on a running tally of 57.1 while Japan is close behind on 60.2 and Team Australia is in sixth place with 61.8 on the board.
At the end of a difficult day for Team Germany they currently lie seventh, both Christop Wahler’s Carjatan S and Sandra Auffarth’s Viamant du Matz finding the dressage arena spooky and subsequently struggling to give of their best. Auffarth, who won World double-gold in 2014, was devastated initially but her sense of humour returned. “At London 2012 (Olympic Games) the roof of a judge’s hut blew away when I was in the arena and today a letter fell down, so I suppose it was a smaller thing this time!”, she told a German reporter.
But Germany still has two world-class combinations to come in Tokyo 2020 Individual Olympic champions Julia Krajewski and Amande de B’Neville and 2010 world champion Michael Jung with fischerChipmunk FRH. The leaderboards are likely to see many changes over the next 24 hours.
Britain’s Yasmin Ingham talked about her horse, Banzai du Loir who leaves her in individual runner-up spot this evening. “I’m so proud of him, he’s a really special horse and I still think there’s plenty more in there which is very exciting! I couldn’t fault him today at all. We have more experience now in big arenas after doing Blenheim (GBR) last year and Burghley (GBR) just before we came, and it’s great to have Chris Bartle (coach) with us here”, she pointed out. Looking ahead to the cross-country challenge she added “the Slide at 7 comes up pretty quick but it all looks jumpable. There’s plenty to look at and the water complexes are difficult - we will know what it’s all about by Saturday!”
Overnight leader Collett reflected on her test today with London 52. “He was pretty good at Badminton but there were bits that weren’t quite good enough and we’ve just been really working on. Once I got the first centreline out of the way I thought Carl (Hester, Olympic dressage rider and coach) will be happy now! From then on he just felt like he was getting better and better and I could just have a lovely time basically!
Asked if she felt pressure going into the arena she replied, “yes I’m well aware I’m sat on one of the best horses in the world and people expect him to deliver - and luckily he did!”
She said she competed at the FEI Pony European Championships at Pratoni in 2005 so is familiar with the cross-country course. “But sadly it’s not going to be a Dressage competition this weekend! From start to finish the course is full-on and there was a lot head-scratching when we first walked it to decide exactly what the direct route was because there are so many options”, she pointed out.
Tonight the British are sitting pretty, with two more of their Tokyo 2020 winning side yet to go in Tom McEwen (Toledo de Kerser) and Oliver Townend (Ballaghmor Class), but they know the story of the 15th edition of the FEI Eventing World Championship still has a long way to go. The second day of Dressage begins at 09.30 tomorrow when Australia’s Shenae Lowings and Bold Venture step into the ring and the battle for both the Team and Individual medals resumes…..don’t miss a hoofbeat…..