The U.S. finished the dressage phase outside the medal positions today in Greenwich Park despite two solid rides by Phillip Dutton and Will Coleman to put the team in seventh place on a score of 138.80 going into the cross country phase. Will Coleman produced a credible performance in his Olympic debut to finish on 46.3 but was clearly somewhat disappointed with Twizzel. “I wish I could have it back and do it again but at this point we’ll focus on tomorrow”, he commented. “He was almost too quiet really perhaps I had ten minutes too much in the warm up but that’s such a fine line and you’re not really sure how they’re going to react down there but he was good. I think I left a few marks on the table. Usually his trot work is a lot more competitive but I knew I was a mark down than I’d hoped - he was just a bit flat. Normally his trot work is his highest mark but I think he probably made up quite a few marks in the canter so I flipped it a little bit. I wish I could have got both, maybe next time.”
The U.S. team effort was down to Phillip Dutton and Mystery Whisper who went after lunch dodging the thunderstorms that delayed the proceedings in the previous session. His score of 44.1 was the highest for the American squad but not enough to get into the top ten individual placings. “He didn’t make any mistakes so overall I was pretty pleased,” commented Phillip. “You’re always hoping for more but I’m pleased without being ecstatic. He gave me a little bit of spook around the arena which worried me a little bit but then he did settle and I got the trot going although I probably didn’t have quite as good as trot as I did outside just because of the atmosphere and the tightness. I wasn’t quite going to push for any more but I thought he executed the movements well. My aim was to present him as soft as he can look - I think the judges wanted a really soft picture so I was trying to get the movement without him getting tight in his neck. His dressage has always been there, I’m trying to learn what he knows. He was with Heath Ryan who is a brilliant dressage rider and so I can’t take any credit for the way he goes. He’s been educated brilliantly so it’s more a case of getting to know him. When you buy a horse that is someone else’s ride you have to figure out the way he goes and what makes him tick. I’ve worked a bit on his fitness being a Warmblood I’ve concentrated a lot on getting him fit and sleek. He’s a great horse. He loves to compete and this is his life; the really enjoys going to the big shows and being the center of attention, he’s a cool horse to have.”
It will take all of Phillip’s experience to dislodge the stronghold that Germany have in gold medal position on 119.10 penalties and his native Australia who held onto their silver medal slot with 122.10. Great Britain have moved into bronze medal position today thanks to solid performances by Kristina Cook and William Fox-Pitt to put them less than five penalties adrift on 127.00. Some would say there are no surprises in the team medal standings at this stage but the same could not be said for the individual placings which were truly shaken up as the afternoon sessions unfolded. Who would have thought that it would be a Japanese rider that topped the rankings but deservedly so with a fluid and beautifully ridden test which prompted us to learn his name very quickly. Yoshiaka Oiwa and Noonday de Conde surprised everyone with a performance worthy of 38.1 followed by a late surge from the Italian camp when Stefano Brecciaroli and Apollo WD Wendi Kurt Hoev produced one of the most extravagant tests of this event which earned a score of 38.5. And to the delight of the crowd New Zealander Mark Todd punctuated the day’s competition with a masterful ride on Campino which produced a score of 39.1 to put the double Olympic champion in bronze medal position.
Phillip Dutton emphasized that he is ready to get on with the job tomorrow knowing his role as the team anchor noting, “although he’s not a Thoroughbred he’s a pretty nippy little guy, he turns and accelerates well which obviously will be important tomorrow. So far we’ve had a good record on the cross country so hopefully that stays. I don’t go till later on in the day so I’ll get a good feeling of what you have to do to make the time which I assume is going to be pretty quick. There’s no question they’re going to get pretty tired to go at that speed and with the hills so I think it’s a case of going as fast as you can so you’ve still got some horse left at the end.”
Will Coleman whose family have crossed the pond to support him noted that, “the time is going to be pretty hard to make; that seems to be the talk, but I’ll walk it again and see if we can shave it anywhere. He [Twizzel] is pretty experienced and he made the time in Kentucky pretty easily but it was a much different kind of course so we’ll have to call on him pretty hard from the beginning but he’s a real trier so as long as I give him a little help here and there he’ll do it for me.”