The US Eventing Team made strong work of Derek Di Grazia’s cross-country track at Sea Forest Cross Country Course in the middle of Tokyo Bay, with all three combinations crossing through the finish line with no jumping penalties. Doug Payne and Vandiver led off the team as the third combination to test the course and came home with just 6.8 time faults and move forward to tomorrow on a 39.80. Phillip Dutton and Z dashed through the course and finished with just 4.8 time faults and currently sit in 17th. The anchor combination of Boyd Martin and Tsetserleg took to the track mid-morning and flew around with ease, adding just 3.20 penalties for a two-phase score of 34.30, which sits them just inside the top 15. The team currently sits in fifth place with 109.40 combined penalties heading into the final day of competition.
As the lead-off combination, the pressure was on Payne, of Rougemont, N.C., and Vandiver, a 17-year-old Trakhener gelding (owned by Debi Crowley, Doug Payne and Jessica Payne), to path find for the team and provide feedback on how the combinations rode and where the following two pairs could help shave off time. Vandiver is a seasoned veteran and showed his experience, tackling the course with confidence and securing the team’s first critical completion with just 6.8 time faults added to their score, which put him in 23rd.
““It was incredible. I couldn’t be happier to have Quinn [Vandiver],” said Payne. “He has the biggest heart of any horse I’ve had the opportunity to work with. He can be a bit unconventional at times, but he tries his heart out and that’s all you can ask for around a course like this. The first minute you had to accept that you were going to be down, and the rest was how quick and efficient you could dare to be with how your horse felt. He was excellent though, and I think a clear here was the most important thing with no drop score to fall back on.”
In his seventh Olympic Games, Dutton, of West Grove, Pa., is no stranger to pressure situations and with the changes in format for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, the pressure was hotly on all US team combinations to navigate the cross-country track and bring their horses across the finish line. Dutton and Z, a 13-year-old Zangersheide (owned by Evie Dutton, Ann Jones, Suzanne Lacy, Caroline Moran, Simon Roosevelt, and Thomas Tierney), started their trip around the track off strong before being held by the officials as they tended to another rider after a fall. In a testament to his experience, Dutton was able to refocus and restart Z without issue and earned the team’s second completion of the day.
“It went well. When you’re going that fast, you’ve got to take some chances, and I had a bit of a last life at the last water,” said Dutton. “And I got held on course, which is not ideal when you have to stop and start again, but he’s a great horse with a big heart, and I think that it couldn’t have gone much better. This was a lot of hard work with the turns, accelerating, and slowing down, but we knew that coming in and needed to get the horses fit and prepared for that.”
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Regardless of his starting position, Martin, of Cochranville, Pa., felt the edge of needing to deliver for his team, but particularly as the anchor combination, he and Tsetserleg, a 14-year-old Trakhener gelding (owned by Christine Turner, Tommie Turner, and Thomas Turner), were tasked with not only finishing the track, but getting the team as close to striking distance of the podium as possible. The mighty pair sped around the snake-shaped course, and though Martin admitted the course design with the twists and turns wasn’t a particular strength for Thomas, the gelding gave it his all and brought the pair home with just 3.2 seconds in time faults.
“It’s a big sigh of relief getting around well,” said Martin. “Thomas tried his absolute heart out. It wasn’t a course that suited him that well with the twists and turns, but he dug deep. He finished well and proud to be an American. Three American horses finished well today.”
The chef d’equipe for the US eventing team, Erik Duvander, was pleased with how each combination tackled the cross-country course at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 and ultimately improved their team position heading into the final day of competition, because of their gritty and tactful riding. With the jumping phase ahead, the team will focus on recovering the horses this evening and will set their sights on delivering for the U.S. once again tomorrow.
“We succeeded with improving our position from the dressage with three clear rounds,” said Duvander. “I am very happy with how our riders rode on cross country today. Tactfully, they went as fast as the horses allowed them to go on this type of track and in the hot conditions. All horses finished well and look happy back in the stables at the main venue.”
Eventing competition will conclude tomorrow with team and individual medal honors being awarded. Team competition will take place first, beginning at 5:00 p.m. JST/4:00 a.m. EDT, before the top 25 combinations will return for a second jumping round for individual medals under the lights at Equestrian Park starting at 6:45 p.m. JST/5:45 a.m. EDT.
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