What surprised me today

  • Yoshiaki Oiwa. I’m happy to admit I did not see this one coming. While the Japanese rider is based in Europe and has plenty of experience – he’s ridden at the 2008 Olympics and two World Equestrian Games (WEG) since being 11th at Badminton 2005 – nothing in his form on Noonday De Conde suggested he would be the dressage leader here. Good for him and good luck to him – the sport needs shocks and new stars to keep it alive. (Right: Japanese supporters in the stands).
  • Michael Jung being a discard score for Germany. We knew that being off the pace in the dressage might be Michael’s major concern in his bid to add the Olympic title to his world and European ones – I said as much in our preview in 19 July issue of H&H – but I certainly never expected him to be fourth out of five Germans in the first phase. But when Michael and Sam made two mistakes in their test and Dirk Schrade excelled himself, that’s what happened. Can he win it from here? Eleventh sounds quite a long way back, but he’s only 2.5pen off the leader and with a tight cross-country time expected and two rounds of showjumping, don’t rule him out.
  • Australia being second. Ok, this wasn’t a huge surprise today as they were second (if you took top two scores from each team) or first (if you counted three scores, including only teams with three scores at that stage) last night. Australia were among my “seven nations in the hunt” in our preview, but I’m not sure I expected this. But their three counting horses all performed really well – not unexpectedly so, but all of them were certainly on form. Can they stay there? Two of their current counting horses, Rutherglen and Flying Finish, are inexperienced so it’s unpredictable, but their two discard scores aren’t far away…

What didn’t surprise me today

  • The Germans lead the dressage. Must I explain?
  • The British. I’ve been proud to wave my Union flag and flash my patriotic striped nails over these two days. All our combinations performed solidly to the top of their expected form, and we are well in the hunt in third, just 7.9pen behind the leading Germans (that’s less than 20sec of cross-country time-faults or two showjumps down). In 12th and 14th, Mary King and Tina Cook’s individual medal hopes are alive and William Fox-Pitt (equal 17th) and Zara Phillips (equal 24th) also have a chance.
  • Stefano Brecciaroli. Die-hard fans will have expected the Italian to do a good test and he ended the day second – the same position he and Apollo VD Wendi Kurt Hoeve held after dressage at the 2010 WEG. Andrew Nicholson told us then Stefano was no flash in the pan – and I’m pretty confident he wasn’t just bigging him up because he’s godfather to two of Nicholson’s children. Time-faults cross-country are Stefano’s downfall, so he’ll have to put his foot down tomorrow to hold his place.
  • The weather. This week has been glorious, but after this summer, we shouldn’t have been shocked by rain today. Oh, and thunder and lightning. All credit to Tina Cook, who had the absolute worst of it, not to mention the front of the judge’s box waving in the wind during her test. In the stands, the hard core huddled under umbrellas, coats and flags – I saw one girl wearing a Morrison’s carrier bag as a head scarf – while the less devoted filed out in search of shelter.

    Showers aside, the “spectator experience” was great today (and people obviously want to come back, left). As yesterday, I caught a pre-booked river boat from the London Eye to Greenwich and got in without queuing. Today, I was able to buy two bottles of water, again without queuing, on arrival, which I considered £3.20 well spent, as queues for water fountains looked long again. Volunteers were friendly and helpful, the stadium is wonderful, loos under the stand were in good order and only had a short wait.

Bonus ball: spotted in public areas today were short-listed Irish rider Elizabeth Power, Lucinda Fredericks’ parents (right, huddled under an umbrella), Kiwi reserve Lucy Jackson and 2010 world silver medallist Cool Mountain’s owner Teresa Stopford Sackville. Oh and my mum sat next to the wife of the chef de mission for the whole New Zealand Games effort.

Final tip: don’t wear a purple top to any Games event. People will take you for a “Gamesmaker” and ask you questions you don’t know the answers to.

Pippa

Join H&H eventing editor Pippa Roome and H&H website editor Carol Phillips for the latest cross-country news and plenty of interactive fun and entertainment tomorrow via the H&H Live service. Register now for a reminder at www.horseandhound.co.uk/olympicxclive NB: this is an interactive written commentary service, NOT a live video stream

Don’t miss H&H’s full report of the Olympic eventing, in the issue on sale FRIDAY 3 August – 23-page special report, with comments from Ruth Edge, Pippa Funnell and Mark Phillips, pictures of every cross-country fence, stunning photos and full analysis.