The opening rounds of the Olympic eventing cross-country at the Tokyo Games asked plenty of questions as riders tried to follow in Oliver Townends’s footsteps – as Alex Hua Tian drops out of the top three.
Following Oliver and Ballaghmor Class’ faultless round across Derek de Grazia’s challenging course, the next clear came from fifth to go Shane Rose and Virgil for Australia who finished on their dressage score of 31.70.
The United States’ Doug Payne and Vandiver jumped clear but picked up 6.8 time-penalties to finish on 39.8 and said he “couldn’t have been prouder”.
“He probably has the biggest heart of any horse I’ve had the opportunity to work with and, although a bit unconventional at times he tries his heart out.”
Swiss rider Felix Vlogg and Colero picked up 11 penalties after triggering the frangible pin at part B of fence 18, Bumps and Stumps. The pair also picked up 0.8 time penalties.
Japan’s Kazuma Tomoto and Vinci De La Vigne moved up the leaderboard from their overnight seventh place to fourth after finishing on a jumping clear on the Olympic eventing cross-country but added 1.6 time-penalties to finish on 27.50.
Overnight third-placed Alex Hua Tian picked up a disappointing 12 penalties dropping out of the top three but he was delighted with his ride Don Geniro, having taken the direct routes on all approaches.
“I’m really proud of him” said Alex. “He was great for the first six minutes and I was down a bit at the beginning, I was there or thereabouts at six minutes, maybe five seconds down and I thought if I can just keep travelling, keep going then we might just sneak in. He started flagging as I thought he would do in the heat, and I had to help them a bit at the last couple of combinations, and we just lost time.”
Alex added his advice to his teammates was to “go for it”.
“Look after your horses. Come home safe,” he said. “It’s only going to get hotter. The other two horses are much more blood than Don is. I think they will have a good time. We have a safe strategy for the team so the aim is to finish with three riders today.”
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