Mono, Ontario—July 18
If you want to know how a cross-country day’s gone for the team, take a look at U.S. Chef d’Equipe David O’Connor.
“He’s looking a little happier than the last time I was on a team,” said Boyd Martin. “In Normandy [where the U.S. team was eliminated on cross-country], he looked ready to neck himself. We still have a big day tomorrow, so we don’t want to start punching the air yet, but all the guys were cool under pressure and rode beautifully.”
O’Connor has plenty reason to be happy today; all four of his riders (Lauren Kieffer on Meadowbrook’s Scarlett, Marilyn Little and RF Scandalous, Boyd Martin on Pancho Villa and Phillip Dutton on Fernhill Fugitive) delivered double-clear trips for the team. That means the squad has a lead on 133.0 penalties over Brazil (136.7 penalties) and Canada (159.0).
Little is the highest-placed individual rider after this phase for the U.S., in second, while Martin sits fourth.
“It was so much fun out there. It was a great course to ride around,” said Little. “She came out of the start box on fire, almost too on fire. I tried to reassure her that she’d get everything she was looking for, and that I was expecting to see the same level of enthusiasm after eight minutes. She was a little overly bold at some of the galloping fences early on, but she got better and better. I think she really loves the crowd. She pricks her ears coming out of the combinations and really digs in.”
The individual lead is still held by Brazil’s Ruy Fonseca on Tom Bombadill Too. All four riders from Brazil put in double-clear trips.
“I thought it was good,” said Fonseca, who’s based in Great Britain and has done a four-star with his mount. “You always need to respect the course when you have an experienced horse. Those horses start to run a little bit in the beginning, so I took care until fence 6. I was even behind the time then, but I knew I could recover. He just had a fantastic round and felt really good.”
Brazil brought a strong team to these games as part of their build-up to the Rio Olympics, but Fonseca wasn’t wanting to jinx anyone for tomorrow. He’s had show jumping issues with his horse in the past—including falling off in that phase at the Rolex Kentucky CCI**** in 2014.
“Yesterday was a good day. Today was a good day,” he said. “Hopefully we can have sound horses tomorrow, and the other nations as well, and that we all finish on good spirits. The results, those are just a matter of details.”
Dutton was first out on course for the U.S., and he took back to his team information about getting inside the time.
“It was good to get it over with,” he said. “Being first out, you’re not sure how fast you’ll have to ride, so I was pushing him along. He’s no race horse, but he kept a good, even speed all the way.”
Next out was Lauren Kieffer, who cruised easily around with Meadowbrook’s Scarlett, and then Little added her own double-clear after that.
“I didn’t let myself think about any of it until I was finished,” said Kieffer. “She’s super. She’s only 8, and she’s never been in crowds like this. What a class mare. She was all business the whole way around.”
Martin was the U.S. anchor, and he was held briefly before fence 17 after the rider before him fell.
“I hate to say this, but it worked in my favor,” he said. “The horse freshened up, and I got to take a few deep breaths, and he jumped the 17th fence like it was the first. My fella is pretty seasoned now, and he’s got plenty of Thoroughbred in him, so I knew he’d make the trip. I was little nervous at some of the turning questions, as he’s not the best turner, but he was great all the way.”
During his hold, Martin noticed Pancho Villa had lost a shoe, but he said the horse pulled up sound.
Jessica Phoenix was the anchor rider for Canada, and the massive cheers from the crowd followed her around the course. Spectators chanted her name while she untacked. Her double-clear round put her in third individually after this phase.
“It was so exciting! Coming to the last fence and having everyone on the lines, and then having them erupting in cheers after I finished—it was just amazing,” said Phoenix, who won individual Pan Ams gold in 2011 in Mexico. “It’s just overwhelming. I’m so happy I could be here on this team in Toronto. I think ‘Rotti’ felt the support. He was so amazing. He just got his neck out and got into a good gallop.
“Our main focus is still on our team medal,” she continued. “That’s really important to us. After that, we want to have good clean show jump rounds tomorrow.”
Kathryn Robinson, who was second after dressage on Let It Bee, fell at fence 2, leaving Canada with no drop score heading into tomorrow’s show jumping.
The day was mostly drama-free, and the forecasted temperatures of nearly 90 degrees never quite reached that high. Second-to-last to go, Argentina’s Marcela Javier Rawson fell from Larthago at the ditch-and-brush, and the horse was vanned off the course as a precaution. Officials said he suffered lacerations and was treated on site but is recovering well. No other horses or riders were reported as injured.
There were 18 pairs out of the 42 starters making it inside the 8 minute, 39 second optimum time set for Wayne Copping’s two-star track, and an additional five riders earned only time penalties.
See full results online, or check out our play-by-play of the cross-country action. You can also find all of the Chronicle’s coverage of these Pan American Games at our hub page. Want more photos of the action? Click here.