With Rolex behind us and less than 80 days till the start of the Games, EN’s Visionaire takes a look at the results with Olympic team selection in mind.
Leading up to Rolex, I wrote a long post containing many hours of research examining every US entry in the field that had declared themselves for Olympic contention. Let’s revisit that subject and see how those riders fared at Rolex. We’ll mostly focus on riders who had a positive weekend.
Improved Their London Chances
Most of the horses and riders in the “Needs A Good Outing” category did just that, with the exception of Clark Montgomery and Loughan Glen.
Karen O’Connor and Mr. Medicott— This pair did better than my expected Top-15 finish, instead placing 4th. They were 4th after dressage, had a great cross-country round (a few time penalties, but nothing to be too concerned), and put the “show” in show-jumping with a beautiful clear round under immense pressure on Sunday. This pair has indeed formed a partnership and with Karen’s experience, they are solidly on the London short list thus far.
Boyd Martin and Otis Barbotiere/Remington XXV— Otis stepped up to the world stage at Rolex and dominated. Any questions about his inexperience were answered by finishing third on his dressage score. You can’t ask for more than that at a horse’s first four-star! He’s a horse full of flash and expression, and won’t be in Neville’s shadow too much longer. Remington was Remington– a solid, workmanlike performance from a veteran campaigner. He led the dressage after Thursday, went clean on cross-country with his standard time penalties (he tried to go fast, he really did, but that gear just isn’t there). One rail down in show jumping left him to finish in 8th; not a bad horse to have for team consideration, if only he weren’t stablemates with Neville and Otis!
Allison Springer and Arthur — Well, they didn’t quite win; but finishing second to William Fox-Pitt on his Burghley winner Parklane Hawk by less than two points is a pretty darn good showing. I said she’d have to finish in the top five; some commenters said she’d have to win to overcome her rocky history. Well, she came pretty close and I think the pair impressed a lot of people Rolex weekend. They may have been off the team radar going in to the week, but Arthur was asked to stick around Monday for the team vet inspection. I’m sure there are still doubts about Allison and Arthur heading overseas…but they did what they needed to do at Rolex and that’s all you can hope for.
Phillip Dutton and Mighty Nice/Fernhill Eagle— As expected, Phillip was his usual stellar self and his wonderful horses had a workmanlike weekend to finish tenth and twelfth, respectively. Mighty Nice had a good outing for his first four star, going double clear on cross-country. He may still be just a bit green for London, but a top-10 placing is solid. Fernhill Eagle just missed the xc time, but was close enough with just 0.8 penalties. Both horses scored just below 60 in dressage– I expect Phillip to improve that a bit– and each had two rails in show jumping. Neither had a medal-winning performance, but they didn’t have to; they remain solid team candidates behind Mystery Whisper and would be useful in London (if needed) with Phillip in the saddle.
Will Coleman and Twizzel — Everything came together for this pair at Rolex. They finished 5th on their dressage score (a respectable 51.3) with two super jumping rounds. At 15, Twizzel is a bit older than some other US candidates, and will have to keep an eye on his soundness, but he looked great at Rolex. They improved their chances of making the team, and should be in the mix as the season goes on.
Marilyn Little Meredith and RF Demeter/Rovano Rex — Demeter looked the better of the two in dressage, scoring well to earn a 49.0, while Rex was a bit lower in the 50s. Marilyn stormed home on cross-country with both horses, posting two clear rounds over a difficult course that caused quite a bit of trouble. She earned her spurs on xc day. Rovano Rex was not presented to the jog on Sunday, so that may be a bit of a question mark against him. Despite Marilyn’s considerable show jumping experience, her round on Demeter dropped a disappointing 3 rails, leaving them to finish 9th. Marilyn went a long way towards earning her team spot, and she’s in the discussion, but I still think there are other combinations that remain above her after this weekend.
Becky Holder and Can’t Fire Me— Can’t Fire Me had a good trip around most of the cross-country, before an unfortunate cut on his knee caused him to be pulled up just a few fences from home. The injury was just superficial and the horse is fine, but I understand the judgment call made in the heat of the moment by the vets to stop him. The selectors must have liked what they saw, as Can’t Fire Me was also invited to stay for the Monday Team jog. It’s hard to evaluate his full performance, as he didn’t show jump, but dressage was fairly good (51.2) and he clearly executed the toughest parts of xc well. This pair didn’t get to rise as much as they could have, but still definitely worthy of team consideration.
London Chances Trending Down
Clark Montgomery and Loughan Glen — After a stellar dressage test (43.2, 3rd place), Loughan Glen was just a bit too inexperienced on cross-country. He looked visibly tired near the end, and despite Clark’s attempts to nurse him along, the horse was eliminated late on the course, I believe at the double ditches and brush at fence 27. This is a sole bleak spot on Glen’s record, and I still think this horse has a very bright future despite slipping off the London list.
Will Faudree and Andromaque — After a decent dressage (54.7), Andromaque was sadly caught out on cross-country by The Problem Fence, #9. She did seem to get better the rest of the way around, but that 20 penalties put them down the list of finishers. They added just a rail in show jumping to end up 16th. I wouldn’t count this pair out for team events in the future, but they didn’t do well enough for the Olympics this year.
Karen O’Connor and Veronica — It’s not really Veronica’s fault, but I think she’s dropped off the short list. She put in a lovely sub-50 dressage test, and was really rocking to start the cross-country…jumping big into the pond with her ears pricked as poor Karen splashed to the side. Meanwhile, her stablemate Mr. Medicott stepped in and filled the role as Karen’s Olympic horse. Veronica will be a fine prospect for the future, but don’t expect to see her in red, white, and blue this summer.
Buck Davidson and Absolute Liberty/Titanium — Buck isn’t “trending down” in his Olympic chances with these horses, but rather he’s sort of stuck in a holding pattern. The team doctor advised him not to run cross-country (probably a good thing, given how tough it turned out to be) and so both horses were withdrawn after dressage. Absolute Liberty had an okay, but not great, first four-star test, scoring 57.5. Titanium was predictably in the low 60s, with a good test for him, but not quite good enough for Team merit. Considering some top pairs made big gains Rolex weekend, Buck’s a little left behind with these two; not out of it, but he has some catching up to do.
I won’t take time to discuss the rest of the horses previously listed; many of them can be summed up with “Had trouble at 9C, but otherwise made it around.” No one else in the “Needs To Win” category came close enough to debate a London possibility, though some definitely gained good four-star experience which will help them in the future.
With Jersey Fresh CCI*** this weekend, I am looking forward to seeing Mystery Whisper at a real three-day, and other US hopefuls that may show up to prove themselves. It’s still a long process to choose the team for London, but I think some horses are starting to separate from the rest. One thing’s for sure– after finishing 4 US riders in the top 5 at Rolex, my London expectations are a whole lot brighter!