U.S. Eventers in Second after Dressage

U.S. riders hit some bumps in the road, but spirits are still high: In eventing, the U.S. is in second place on the eve of cross-country at the World Equestrian Games.
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U.S. riders hit some bumps in the road, but spirits are still high: In eventing, the U.S. is in second place on the eve of cross-country at the World Equestrian Games.

The American team dropped from first to second in the World Equestrian Games Three Day Event standings after favored Britain took over the lead following the completion of the dressage phase. The margin is only 1.2 penalties, however.

There were great expectations for the USA's Kim Vinoski with Winsome Adante, last to go in the competition. But the Rolex-Kentucky winning gelding became a bit of a firecracker in the ring, a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Horse who was transformed by the atmosphere after working well in his warm-up away from the crowd.

"Tomorrow is a whole new deal," Coach Mark Phillips said comfortingly as he greeted the disappointed Kim. David O'Connor added helpfully, "It could have been a lot worse than that." And it was for defending World Champion Blyth Tait of New Zealand. His Ready Teddy, on whom he won the individual Olympic gold in the 1996 Olympics, was doing his own thing while Blyth tried to interest him in the test. Blyth wound up with a 50-penalty score and New Zealand stands eighth, 37 points off the leader.

Kim's horse was not as bad as Blyth's, but he broke several times and she said, "I tried to keep my leg off and not press him. He was just really tense."

She tied on 43.4 penalties with teammate Amy Tryon, who went earlier in the day aboard Poggio II. The big news of the day in eventing dressage, however, was the amazing performance of Germany's Bettina Hoy (yes, she's married to Australian eventing star Andrew Hoy) as she scored an unbelievable 20.8 penalties on Woodsides Ashby to lead the rider rankings. Bettina got 10s for her position, and someone next to me remarked "she belongs in the other ring," referring to the Grand Prix dressage in the main stadium.

Her score put Germany in a threatening position in third place, 0.60 back of the U.S., while Australia is just 0.4 penalties behind Germany. So it's looking like a close race, but anything can happen, since rain is predicted for cross-country day. A downpour could make water-starved ground slippery along a course that already has the riders worried.

We're up early tomorrow and off to Garrapilos, the site of cross-country, endurance and the driving marathon, about a half-hour from the main stadium.

I'm writing this on the bus to the press hotel, an hour from Jerez in Chiclana. Adding an extra two hours for back-and-forth to an already endless day-night cycle of work hasn't pleased the media, but folks generally have stopped whining about it. The Brits on the bus, showing the same pluck that helped them win a war or two, just broke into a chorus of "It's a Long Way to Chiclana," (to the tune of "It's a Long Way to Tipperary).