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At the end of the second day of dressage at the 2012 Rolex Kentucky CCI4*, Allison Springer and Arthur sit atop the leaderboard in a competitive field of 57 horses. They executed an accurate, elegant test just before the lunch break for a score of 39.8. While several came close, no one could catch up with this experienced pair throughout the afternoon, and they will leave the start box tomorrow to tackle Derek di Grazia's cross-country course in the lead.
Incidentally, the top five horse and rider combinations after dressage rode their tests today. 2011 Burghley winners William Fox-Pitt (GBR) and Catherine Witt's Parklane Hawk performed impressively and lie in second on a 41.3, putting them in a good position to win another leg of the Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing. Clark Montgomery and Rolex first-timer Loughan Glen, owned by Holly and Bill Becker, Kathryn Kraft, and Jessica Montgomery, are third on 43.2. Karen O'Connor on Mr. Medicott and Jonathan Paget (NZL) riding Frances Stead's Clifton Promise round out the top five. Yesterday's leaders, Boyd Martin and Henley House Stables' Remington XXV, dropped to sixth place.
This is not the first time Allison and she and William and Carolyn Springer's Irish Sport Horse have held a top Rolex placing after dressage, but she says in the past she has been too focused on the end result. This year, she has concentrated on the path instead. "I know what my goals are, but the path to get there with this horse is a specific one," Allison said. "I have to focus on how to keep him correct, relaxed, and confident in me. I am focused on producing the best ride every time. That is what is important for that horse."
Allison and Arthur were eighth at the Red Hills CIC3* in March and won an Advanced division at The Fork earlier this month. She feels like Arthur got the best preparation possible and knows what she needs to do to produce the best tomorrow. Last year, Allison and Arthur sat in third place before cross-country and were having "a tremendous round" before hitting the top of a fence just three from home, pitching Allison out of the tack. "Derek designs a beautiful course," she said. "But you do have to hold and know your line."
William Fox-Pitt, who won Rolex in 2010 riding Cool Mountain, said this event was always the plan for Parklane Hawk after Burghley. In the lead up to the London Olympics, "it is another opportunity to form a better partnership." William was pleased with the dressage, praising Parklane Hawk for having great ability and good focus. Although, "It was not perfect," William said. "The blips he made this year he did not make last year. There were a few moments of tension, but after a four-star like Burghley they can come back a little on their toes."
William said he went in the arena feeling very confident but was very relieved to have the dressage over. He admits to having dropped his reins during the canter work, but his obedient mount never faultered.
Having walked the course several times already, William said the cross-country was big, bold, and beautifully presented: "A superb track. I think we have got our work cut out. It has the tendency to look inviting and straightforward, but I am not sure it is. We have to really stay on our feet and think about what we are doing."
"By the time you get to the third to last, you will certainly know you have jumped around a four-star," William stated.
Clark Montgomery's 9-year-old mount, Loughan Glen, has had an extremely successful and consistent rise through the levels, winning three Advanced divisions and the Bromont CCI3* last year, plus two Advanced wins already in 2012. "He is a sweetheart and a pleaser. He always really tries for me," Clark said. "He felt green and young in this test, but he is talented enough that he still puts in a good test. I could not be more proud of him."
The cross-country course tomorrow will be as big as Loughan Glen has seen so far. Clark has always been very patient with Loughan Glen, letting the horse decide when it is time to move up. Clark intends to give the horse a confident run tomorrow. "If at any point he feels I need to slow down or take an option, it is more important for him to gain confidence," Clark said. "The course is not so much technical, but big. I hope he will not get too tired. If he does I will just take care of him and try to get him home clean."
Fifty-seven horses will take to Derek's beautifully designed and decorated cross-country course starting at 10:04 a.m Saturday. The crowd of spectators will be as big as the jumping efforts, and the 11:14 optimum time will add to the pressure to go bold, quick, and clean. As team selectors keep a close eye, riders will be focused on the path to the finish.
Full results are available on the Rolex Kentucky website.
View the slideshow of day two dressage photos below or click here.
Leslie Threlkeld/USEA Photos