Rolex Recap: Cross-country

John has the full report on today’s exciting cross-country proceedings, which turned the scoreboard on its head and pushed William Fox-Pitt into the lead by a small margin.

Top Photo: Allison Springer and Arthur jumped well today, but they picked up 3.2 time faults to drop to 2nd.

From EN:

Allison Springer and Arthur stepped up to the pressure by delivering a clear round today but a costly long route at the last combination on course gave them 3.2 time penalties.  Allison took the long route at #27AB, the slanted brush verticals that caused her to fall at Rolex last year.  Allison and Arthur  dropped one spot in the placings, just 1.7 points behind William Fox-Pitt and Parklane Hawk “Parker”, who jumped double-clear Saturday morning.  William Fox-Pitt will look to take the second leg of the Rolex Grand Slam with a win at Rolex on Sunday and in some sense it’s hard to imagine any alternative result tomorrow.

The cross-country video replay is already available on the USEF Network [Click here]

With just 7 double clears, the Rolex leader board was completely shaken up today (Parklane Hawk, Otis, Clifton Promise, Twizzel, Qwanza, Mighty Nice, No Boundaries).  New Zealand moved into 3rd with a terrific double-clear attacking ride from Jock Paget and Clifton Promise.  Boyd Martin and Otis Barbotiere moved up from 16th to 4th, confirming that Boyd has yet another top international horse in his arsenal.  Karen and Mr. Medicott put on a great show for the US selectors–they moved from 4th to 5th with 6.8 time penalties.  Will Coleman moved up from 19th to 6th with his double-clear this morning aboard Twizzel.  Marilyn Little-Meredith followed up a good morning ride with a better afternoon ride, adding just 2.8 time penalties with Demeter and going into 7th.  Boyd and Marilyn both have two horses in the top 10 going into the show jumping (Remington 8th, RF Rovano Rex 10th).  Rolex veteran Phillip Dutton is in 11th and 12th with Mighty Nice and Fernhill Eagle respectively.

Rolex Saturday Results:
1. William Fox-Pitt and Parklane Hawk (GBR) +0 41.3
2. Allison Springer and Arthur +3.2 43.0
3. Jonathan Paget and Clifton Promise (NZL) +0 44.8
4. Boyd Martin and Otis Barbotiere +0 51.0
5. Karen O’Connor and Mr. Medicott +6.8 51.0
6. Will Coleman and Twizzel +0 51.3
7. Marilyn Little-Meredith and RF Demeter +2.8 51.8
8. Boyd Martin and Remington +7.6 52.9
9. Andrew Nicholson and Qwanza (NZL) +0 55.8
10. Marilyn Little-Meredith +4.4 58.1

[Rolex XC ScoresFaults by Fence]

In eventing, an easy day doesn’t mean good day and a hard day doesn’t mean a bad day.  A lot of riders are going to walk away from this Rolex cross-country course kicking themselves for mistakes.  Certainly this course rode like a true four-star and the riders who were able to keep their rides going finished with horses who were much better for the experience.

Of the 54 cross-country starters today, 18 finished with clear rounds, 13 pairs finished with at least a stop, 15 pairs were eliminated, and 7 retired.  18 out of 54 clear rounds and 31 out of 55 completions means today was a very hard day at Rolex.  Anyone to complete Rolex 2012 will have felt like they beat one of the toughest courses in the world

The coffin at #9ABC was the real bogey fence today and caused problems for 20 pairs. Although riders tried multiple strategies throughout the day the coffin continued to cause problems. Other mistakes were distributed pretty evenly across the course with big elements in the combinations requiring aggressive and accurate rides.

In the post-XC press conference, William, Allison, and Jock all seemed surprised that the course rode as tough as it did.  William explained that turning questions in the water are deceptively challenging for riders in terms of directing the horse’s attention.  He noted that the first two major combinations on this course were turning questions in the water and that these were followed by the coffin which required very straight riding.  He suggested that the coffin caused so many issues because horses jumped into it looking for another turning question.  Allison called the course very fair and said that it was a track that required decisive riding throughout.

Course designer Derek Di Grazia addressed the media at the end of the day and said that having issues in those first few rides was certainly unsettling for him as a course designer.  He said that there were a lot of great rides today as well.  When asked why fence 9 caused so many issues he said “It was truly a coffin, you had to jump the jump in and the jump out…it was definitely a rider fence where the rider had to get it done.

The lone really scary incident of the day occurred when James Alliston and Parker took a tumble at the second fence, the Rock Walls.  James stood up quickly but Parker spent some time on the ground before standing up.  We were told Paker walked onto the trailer by himself (which is great news) and was taken back to the barns.  We will update you as we hear more.

Update: We have been told that the vets say Parker is back in the barns and resting comfortably.  That’s great news to cap off what has turned out to be a really safe day of eventing at Rolex.


William made the course look like a walk in the park, photo by Samantha


Here’s how the afternoon rides played out…

Amy Ruth Borun and Santa’s Playboy started the afternoon off with a runout at the menacing chevron out of the coffin at 9C.  They picked up another at the second of the double corners and another at the holloe to end their day.

Lucy Jackson and Kilcotrim Ambassador of New Zealand had a runout at 9C as well.  Lucy had a big fall over the brush fence out of the Head of the Lake when Kilcotrim Ambassador tripped up the bank.  Lucy was up quickly and fine, as was Kilcotrim Ambassador, but with her fall the first two afternoon riders had not completed the course.

Lucy Wiegersma and Granntevka Prince made it three for three non-completions to start off the afternoon when they got a little tight to the corner at out of the Normandy Bank.  Grantevka Prince stayed upright but Lucy came off of the left side.  They were looking great up until that point.

Emily Beshear and Here’s To You came to our rescue, getting to the finish line in style.  They did pick up 20 faults at the coffin, which at this point seemed like par for the course.  They got back on track quickly and jumped huge around the rest of the course.  Emily and “Quincy” should be happy the great experience they gained today in their first Rolex.

Debbie Rosen and The Alchemyst had a runout at 9C.  They started to look better around the middle of the course, but a second and third stop at the Head of the Lake meant elimination.  For those of you keeping track at home, 4 our of 5 pairs to start the afternoon didn’t make it to the finish line.

Kate Brown and Mojito “Mango” had a great ride through the coffin which was important to just prove that it could be done.  They gained momentum throughout the course and finished clear with 19.6 time penalties.

Sally Cousins and Tsunami gave us two clear rides in a row.  Sally rode like the veteran that she is and navigated the mare around Rolex with just 8.4 time penalties.

Oliver Townend and the lovely Pepper Anne of Great Britain were really impressive early in the course and I fell slightly in love with this horse today.  Pepper Anne jumped with athleticism and smoothness–it was a beautiful combination.  They stormed around the course until the last combination where Pepper Anne had two refusals at the angled brushes and Oli retired.

All the pressure in the world was on Allison Springer and Arthur as they started out.  Two fences that had caused them problems in the past–the coffin and the angled brush combination at the end of the course–were causing major problems today.  They worked their way through the course with determination.  It wasn’t always perfect but it was effective and they expertly navigated everything Derek Di Grazia could throw at them.  Allison saved as much time as she could early on the course to take the long way at the angled brushes that gave her a fall last year but in the end that long route cost them 3.2 time penalties and they surrendered the lead to William and Parker.

Beth Perkins and Sal Dali might not have had a good day yesterday, but they had a great one today, finishing clear and moving up 33 places from 57th to 24th.


Another Kiwi with great XC stickability, photo by Samantha 

Jonathan Paget and Clifton Promise of New Zealand knew what they had to do and they did it, attacking this tough course with a real sense of purpose.  They had a few tense moments but fought through those together and finished as the 4th double-clear at that point.

Sara Kozumplik and Manolo Blahnik received a runout at the second element of the Land Rover Holloe.  They finished looking strong with 20 jumping and 21.6 time.

Will Coleman after his ride this morning, courtesy of Josh Walker, Frankie Thieriot, and Rolex:

[More Interviews]

Clark Montgomery and Loughan Glen had one of the more eventful rides of the day and sadly it ended in disappointment.  Clark and Glen jumped through the coffin successfully but knocked down the rail into the coffin at #9A when Glen touched the rail and broke the frangible pins.  I know this is incredibly subjective, but it looked to like Loughan Glen barely touched the rail and he certainly didn’t hang a knee or start to rotate in any way.  They received 21 penalties for breaking the frangible device (by FEI rule) even though they jumped through the combination clear.  They continued around the course looking really good and it looked like it was shaping up to be a frangible penalty controversy, but in the end it didn’t matter as Clark fell at the angled brushes at #27AB.  Loughan Glen was caught up on the fence briefly but announcer Nigel Casserly reported both horse and rider were fine.

Barbara Crabo and Eveready had a glance off of that chevron in the coffin–which by now you surely know is #9C.  They picked up another stop at the Normandy Bank.  Barb pulled things together and they finished with two stops–good for them for hanging tough and gutting it out, a completion on this course is a huge achievement.

Brittany Lunney and Cool Dancer just never got in a rhythm.  Brittany had a runout at 5D at the first water and then a fall at the coffin.  Both horse and rider were quickly up and walking.

Andrew Hoy and Rutherglen were impressive early on, but they picked up 21 penalties for a broken frangible pin.  Their day got even more exciting when Rutherglen jumped into the ditch rather than over the jump at the angled brush fence at 27A.  Rutherglen smacked his head on the jump but they jumped better the second time, Andrew took the long route in the combination and they finished the course.

Andrew Nicholson wasn’t going to let the coffin catch him a second time and he rode with strength and authority this afternoon aboard Qwanza.  They kept that tone throughout the round and Andrew’s second ride looked like everything we could expect from an Andrew Nicholson round.  As announcer Nigel Casserly said, “When Nicholson says go, horses usually listen.”  They finished with a double-clear.


Karen and Mr. Medicott, photo with kind courtesy of Lesley Ward

Karen O’Connor and Mr. Medicott lost time in front of their fences as Karen worked to half-halt the enthusiastic Mr. Medicott but they made some of that up with Mr. Medicott’s huge gallop.  I felt like if their life had depended on making the time they would have done so, but the key today was to get a good ride to further their partnership, and they did just that.  They finished with 6.8 time faults but Karen has to be delighted and it looks like Karen has a super horse for the Olympics at this point.  Karen cut her lip when Mr. Medicott slipped between combinations in the HOTL.

Becky and Can’t Fire Me

Becky Holder and Can’t Fire Me had the best ride through the coffin of the day in my opinion.  They were looking great all around the course but two fences from home the vets saw blood on Can’t Fire Me’s knee and the officials pulled them up for evaluation.  After some debate the vets determined that Can’t Fire Me had a cut should and not continue so they retired.  That’s heartbreaking for Becky to be so close to home after such a good ride but the wellness of the horse always comes first of course and I have to think that the selectors should look at this round as a clear trip around Rolex.

Marilyn Little-Meredith had two great cross-country rides today in her first four star as she navigated the course expertly aboard Demeter this afternoon.  Demeter looked tired at the end and they finished with a few time faults but Marilyn has to be incredibly proud to have two of the best rides today at Rolex just two years after starting eventing.  After watching Marilyn ride this weekend I don’t really see any reason other than she hasn’t had a ton of 4* rides that should prevent her from being heavily considered for the Olympics.  We should expect two good rides from her tomorrow of course.

James Alliston and Parker were eliminated after falling at fence two.  As I mentioned earlier in this post, Nigel announced that James was up quickly and that Parker was being loaded onto the trailer for transport to the stables.  Visionaire said that Parker was up and walked onto the trailer himself which is great news and the vets have since updated us that Parker is resting comfortably in the stables.

Phillip Dutton and Mighty Nice continued to impress me and I was left with the notion that Mightly Nice is going to be an incredible international horse in the very near future.  They finished looking great and full of run with the 6th double clear of the day.  Phillip has to be so proud of his two young horses today.  I will confess that when Phillip started loading up with this most recent string of top horses two years ago, I felt like he was maybe focusing too much on getting good horses on the flat.  He showed today that these horses can jump like champions.

Michael Pollard and Icarus looked brilliant around the early part of the course but once again they found issues with a chevron at Rolex, this time at the  #9C coffin chevron.  Michael has been working really hard to get this horse fit for Rolex and they looked good through the rest of the course. The rest of Michael’s round was some of the best riding I saw all day.  As good news for Michael, his 20 penalties for circling with Wonderful Will before #27 were reversed.


Boyd Martin and Otis, photo courtesy of Lesley Ward

Boyd and Otis displayed some big time scope today and made these Rolex jumps look small.  The key thing that Otis showed me today was speed–when Boyd first bought this horse I wondered if he would be speedy enough to be a top top international horse for Boyd (the jump and flatwork was never in question).  Otis delivered the seventh double-clear of the day to finish a strenuous Rolex Saturday with a moment of perfection.

Notes from the press conference:

William: William mentioned that he started to second guess his plan after the first few riders had so many problems today.  But, he said, the great thing about this course is that it just required you to get the job done at every combination.  With a twinkle in his eye, he called #9C “that horrible skinny brush thing.”  William noted that there are some similarities between Greenwich Park and Rolex it terms of the hills and the turns, but he said Greenwich will be “unlike anything we have seen before.”

Allison: Allison said that the normally spooky Arthur is finally learning to appreciate the large Rolex crowds as being on his side.  She said that she was proud of her horse and that Arthur looked good in his first jog back at the barns.  She said it was always her plan to go the long route at the final combination because it gave her problems last year.

Jock: Jonathan Paget said that the course at London will be very different from the course here today.  Jock said the course required the horses to trust the riders.  He said “You know you’re in for a bad day when Andrew walks home.

Parting Thoughts:

This course will go down in history as one of the toughest and safest courses ever at Rolex and I regard that as a really successful day of eventing.  The selectors for the USA, Canada, New Zealand, Great Britain, and Australia have gotten a really good look at what horses were ready for a 4* today and which ones weren’t.  Allison headlines the success for the US today, but Boyd and Marilyn have two horses in the top 10, Will Coleman is clicking on all cylinders with Twizzel, and Karen has found her Olympic horse.  Canada has found two Olympic hopefuls in Kilrodan Abbott and High Society.  Less experienced US riders such as Heather Morris, Erin Sylvester, and Kate Hicks can hang their hats on a fabulous day.

It’s impossible not to pick William to close the deal tomorrow with only two horses within a rail of him and Parklane Hawk.  Thank you to all of the volunteers, organizers, riders, horses, and fans for making today a wonderful day of eventing.

Now I’m done.  Go eventing.


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