Briton Oliver Townend got the British team off to an excellent start, taking the individual lead as the Dressage phase kicked off equestrian Eventing at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Baji Koen on Friday.
Going second in the first of the day’s two sessions, with a further 20 horse-and-rider combinations to go early Saturday, the 38-year-old European team gold medallist, produced what he described as “a very safe test” for a score of 23.6 with the Irish-bred grey, Ballaghmor Class.
“It wouldn’t be my chosen job in life to be pathfinder but at the same time the first bit is out of the way and he’s (Ballaghmor Class) done a very commendable job. So fingers crossed we keep the work up over the next three or four days and see where we end up,” Townend said.
He also mentioned the Sea Forest track designed by America’s Derek di Grazia where the cross-country phase will take place early Sunday.
“It’s very intense. You’re always on the climb or camber or in the water, or in a combination. The questions are extremely fair, it’s very horse friendly, and if you took each fence individually there wouldn’t be too many problems.
“but at the same time when you add the heat, the terrain, the Olympic pressure and then speed on top of that, it’s going to be causing a lot of trouble and it’s going to be very difficult to get the time.
“Derek is a horseman to start with, and I think he’s a special, talented man at the job. He wants the horses to see where they are going, there’s no tricks out there. Derek doesn’t try to catch horses out, he builds very see-able questions and lets the terrain and the speed do the job for him,” Townend said.
China’s Alex Hua Tian with Don Geniro came closest to Townend’s leading score, putting 23.90 on the board for individual second place while Germany’s Julia Krajewski and Amande de B’Neville lie third on 25.20.
Britain’s Laura Collet, riding London 52, finished with a score of 25.8 that placed her in fourth position, but she was not completely happy with her performance.
London 52 “has been very close to Ballaghmor Class, but unfortunately it didn’t come off today,” Collet said.
The Dressage test specially created for these Olympic Games takes just 3.5 minutes to complete. A total of seven combinations scored below 30 during this morning’s first session.
Three more joined that group as the day progressed, including India’s Fouad Mirza riding the experienced 15-year-old gelding Seigneur that has competed with Germany’s Bettina Hoy.
“I’m so lucky to ride such a great horse, he’s a gentleman in every sense, kind and honest,” said Mirza, who is only the third rider from his country to compete in Olympic Eventing.
Still to compete is Germany’s Michael Jung, current Olympic champion, who will ride on Saturday.
Overnight there were some changes to the teams, with both Australia’s Stuart Tinney (Leporis) and Ireland’s Cathal Daniels (Rioghan Rua) withdrawing. Tinney has been replaced by Kevin McNab (Don Quidam) and Daniels by Austin O’Connor (Colorado Blue). EFE