Great Britain Leads; U.S. In Third At Eventing World Championship

Sep 15, 2022 - 3:25 PM

Pratoni del Vivaro, Italy—Sept. 15

As the reigning world champions, Olympic champions and European champions, the British squad came into the FEI Eventing World Championship as the hot favorites.  After Thursday’s first day of dressage, they’ve put themselves in contention for the team and individual gold medals with three Brits in the top 4.

Laura Collett and London 52 set the arena on fire today with their test, scoring a 19.3 to take the lead over compatriot Yasmin Ingham and Banzai Du Loir.

“Oh my God, what a horse,” Collett said. “He definitely loves a crowd; he went into that arena, and he was just like, ‘Yeah everyone’s here to see me.’ He’s just a pleasure to ride when he’s like that.”

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Laura Collett and London 52. Kimberly Loushin Photos

The pair is on a hot streak, having won team gold at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics and Badminton (England) this spring.

“He was pretty good at Badminton [in dressage], but there were bits that weren’t quite good enough, and we’ve just been really working on those, and I think once I’d got the first centerline out the way I thought, ‘Well Carl [Hester, who works with her on the flat] will be happy now,’ and from then on it just felt like he just got better and better, and I could just have a lovely time, basically.”

Watch their test, courtesy of FEI:

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Laura Collett (second left) and her team gave London 52 plenty of praise following his test.

Team Great Britain elected to send Ingham, their individual rider, into the ring on Day 1. The 25-year-old put herself in a strong position by scoring a 22.0 to lead at the lunch break.

“It’s the first time he’s gone in the boards at an event, and he’s felt reasonably listening and with me even though the crowds and obviously the cameras and everything atmosphere-wise, and he didn’t really flinch or bother,” she said. “I’m just so proud of him; he’s a really special horse. I still think there’s plenty more in there, which is even more exciting. It just maybe felt slightly a little bit tired; he probably could have been a little more spritely, but I’d rather him do a test like that than have little breaks or something like that. I just really couldn’t fault him in there today at all.”

This is Ingham’s first senior championship, but she’s made headlines by winning the 2021 Blenheim CCI4*-L (England) and finishing second at Land Rover Kentucky CCI5*-L this spring with Banzai Du Loir.

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Yasmin Ingham and Banzai Du Loir.

“He actually came here really settled,” she said. “I think he’s getting more used to traveling and coming to the bigger events now. It’s becoming more normal for him.”

Ingham, who works with Chris Bartle, has been playing with her warm-up, and she was pleased with how it played out today.

“We did half an hour at 8 a.m., just sort of long and low, lots of simple changes, easy things not to stress him out and keep him quite confident,” she said. “We worked him for a half hour at a quarter to 10 [a.m.] again, and we started just to do a couple of changes and half-passes and things just to make it a bit more difficult just to get him ready for this afternoon. The work-in was only 20 minutes before we came to the test. He’s quite a fit and sharp character usually, so we do have to make sure we give him enough working in that he doesn’t go in there and ‘Aaaah!’ ”

Great Britain’s first rider of the day, Ros Canter, sits in fourth place with Lordships Graffalo on a score of 26.2.

“I’m absolutely delighted with ‘Walter,’ ” she said. “He’s only a 10-year-old, so coming here is a big occasion for him. We were lucky enough to practice our test at Burghley [England], and I was saying how every day is still a school day for him. We’re only just scratching the surface at this level, and I truly believe that in the next few years you’re going to see more, bigger and better Walter. I was just delighted that he went in there, and he was a complete professional. I don’t think he acted his age.”

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Ros Canter and Lordships Graffalo.

Canter described Walter as a self-confident horse who enjoys a crowd, and she had a good feeling about their test from the start.

“As soon as I went in there, I knew he was with me,” she said. “We got the preparation right today, I think. When he’s like that, yes, he’s very easy. He’s has beautiful balance, so I can sit up, and he comes back to me, which is what makes him a lovely cross-country horse as well.”

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Ros Canter gives Lordships Graffalo a pat.

With two massive hills in the first half of the cross-country course and several tough combinations in the latter half, riders will have a big task to complete on Saturday.

“It’s a proper championship track,” said Collett. “I came here in 2005 for the [FEI Pony European Championship], so I kind of knew roughly what to expect, and, yeah, sadly it’s not a dressage competition. From start to finish it’s full-on, and there’s a lot of head-scratching about you know—when we first walked it—what the direct route was. There’s so many options, so that takes a lot of thought to figure it out. I just walked it yesterday, and I wanted to focus on dressage today, and I’m going to walk it again this afternoon. And then tomorrow is cross-country prep day.”

In her first competition in the Northern Hemisphere, New Zealand’s Monica Spencer made a statement on her race-bred Thoroughbred Artist, scoring a 25.6 to sit in third individually. Thanks to another top score by teammate Clarke Johnstone and Menlo Park (27.4), the Kiwis currently are second in the team competition.

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Monica Spencer and Artist.

“We can do it at home, but then you come to big a stage like this, and you always think things could fall apart and hope they won’t, but he was a true professional out there, very proud, consistent with that,” Spencer said. “He was relaxed, and he did what he was asked.”

Spencer has had the Thoroughbred gelding since he was 4. He was bred to be a race horse, and Spencer said his owners had high hopes for him, but he proved too slow.

“I saw him at his first show from the other side of the warm-up, and I promptly trotted over to Polly [McDonald] and asked if she would sell him. And I’ve had him ever since,” she said.

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Clarke Johnstone and Menlo Park are in eighth for New Zealand.

U.S. In Bronze Medal Position

Will Coleman got things off to a good start for the United States, which sits in third place overnight, when he scored a 26.4 with Off The Record. It was their best score yet in a five-star test and put them in a tie for fifth with France’s Thomas Carlile and Darmagnac De Beliard.

“I thought we just squeezed every point out of [the test] that we could,” Coleman said. “When he came out this morning, that was sort of my mentality, ‘OK may not be our best stuff, but let’s just see if we can ride as clean a test as we can and leave as few penalties on the table as we can,’ and I think we did that. And so in that respect, I’m happy. I don’t know if there are any highlights in that, but it was clean and relatively mistake-free.”

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Will Coleman and Off The Record.

This is Off The Record’s first championship, but Coleman rode at the 2012 London Olympics and the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games (North Carolina). Last year, the pair won the Aachen CCIO4*-S (Germany)—the first American pair in history to do so.

“We’ve had a lot of traveling like a lot of horses to get here, and I think that’s never easy on horses,” he said. “Given everything, I thought my horse tried very hard today, and I’m very happy with him.”

Coleman will be the pathfinder on Saturday’s cross-country course, a position he takes seriously.

“You know it’s a tough job,” he said. “I’ve been first before; I’ve been last before in some instances. I think we all have the same approach of we want to go out and execute and just give our horses the best chance of coming home clear and with as few time penalties as possible. It’s a really intense track, so my job is to go out there and bring back some good feedback for the other guys, and that’s what we’re going to try to do.”

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Lauren Nicholson and Vermiculus.

The second U.S. rider Thursday, Lauren Nicholson sits just behind Coleman in seventh after scoring a 27.1 with Vermiculus. While the Anglo-Arab gelding can occasionally get opinionated, he put in a strong performance today.

“I’m thrilled with him,” she said. “I think everyone kind of knows the Arab can throw in some moments, but I did not aggravate the Arab, and he did quite well in front of the crowd. He does love a big moment you know; he’s always best at his bigger competitions. [The goal was to] put down a good score for the team—that was our job—not to go in there and do anything amazing and just try not to mess it up.”

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Groom Sally Robertson takes a quiet moment with Vermiculus.

Nicholson attended the test event in Pratoni this spring without a horse to watch and learn.

“It just helped me to glean some information and be able to share it in a way that would help whoever did end up going. But I’m really glad I did. It was super useful,” she said. “In the States we don’t often get to go places we haven’t been before a dozen times. And I think that’s something you have to practice, is being able to compete somewhere without visualizing it in your head.

“You know, we can all visualize what Kentucky is or Badminton or Burghley, but when we haven’t been somewhere it’s always a new experience to not be able to visualize what the course is. So I was very glad to have that under my belt.”

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U.S. chef d’equipe Bobby Costello.

Brazil’s Guy Fonseca, who was held with Ballypatrick SRS Wednesday, elected to withdraw Thursday.

The U.S. has three more riders to compete tomorrow. Ariel Grald, who is riding as an individual, will be the second rider in the ring at 9:38 a.m. local time (3:38 a.m. Eastern time), followed by Tamie Smith and Mai Baum at noon (6 a.m. ET). Boyd Martin and Tsetserleg TSF will be the last of the U.S. contingent to ride at 4:38 p.m. (10:30 a.m. ET).

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Will Coleman cracks a smile before heading up to the ring.
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Thomas Carlile and Darmagnac De Beliard are in a tie for fifth for France.
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Lauren Nicholson laughs at a joke announcer John Kyle made about Vermiculus’ name.
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Lots of love for London 52 after his test.

The Chronicle is on site to bring you interviews, photos and stories daily, so follow along at coth.com. We’ll have full analysis from the competition in the Oct. 10 issue of The Chronicle of the Horse magazine.

Results and order of go can be found here.

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