Rio Day 1 eventing dressage, where’s the USA?

rolex ky sj no. 1731 william fox-pitt 2012 headshot 300dpi
William Fox-Pitt took the lead in Rio for the first day of eventing dressage. (Photo by Nancy Jaffer)

Good on William Fox-Pitt of Great Britain for coming back from a devastating head injury that kept him off a horse for months last year. He had a lovely dressage test in Rio today with Chilli Morning to take the lead in the eventing with a score of 37 penalties.

“All along Rio has been my target, totally. It was unrealistic, but it was mine,” William said.

“I was in a coma for a couple of weeks and my sight was quite dodgy, I went from blind to seeing double, so when I started jumping, there were two jumps. It’s been a journey, but I’ve had so much support! Mentally I was very tired, I probably still am. I feel like I’m waking up, but slowly.”

With much respect, admiration and congratulations to William, I have to say that personally, I preferred the test of Australia’s Chris Burton, which earned a 37 on Santano II. I like the more flowing way that horse moves.

Everyone anticipated that defending Olympic champion Michael Jung of Germany would top William and Chris, but his score got a debit when Sam FBW anticipated a lead change and switched from the counter-canter in the serpentine, which earned him a lowly mark of 4 for that movement. He wound up with 40.9 penalties, good enough for third individually.

With half the riders on 12 teams gone (the rest ride Sunday), Germany as expected leads the way on 82.5 penalties. Australia is second (83.9), Britain third (84.2) and France fourth (85.4). The U.S. is seventh on 94.3. Boyd Martin earned 47.7 (17th place) with a competent ride on the thoroughbred Blackfoot Mystery, for whom dressage isn’t a strong point. The big anticipation was for today’s other U.S. rider, Clark Montgomery on Loughan Glen, touted by many (including me) as an individual medal possibility.

But Glen kept anticipating, breaking into the canter from the trot on the rail and in the half-pass, as well as switching off from the counter-canter to be marked at 46.6, good enough for 10th at this point.

Any hope of a comeback to medal territory for the U.S. will hinge on how tough the cross-country is and whether it can scramble the scores for those able to handle it. You probably can bet Michael Jung will finish on his dressage score, but what about the others?

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