Lexington, KY - The dressage phase of the 2011 Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials concluded on Friday with incredibly close scores under sunny skies. Only 10 points separate the top 21 places. The riders representing the Land Rover U.S. Eventing Team are very much in the running heading into Saturday's cross country. Eighty of the best eventing horses in the world are vying for top honors at one of the most prestigious CCI4* events in the world, and four of the five American horses are in the top 32.
Germany dominated the HSBC European Eventing Championships last week and it is the nation to beat again as Simone Deitermann and Free Easy NRW leads the way at Burghley with a score of 39.3. Deitermann is 4/10ths of a point clear of Thursday's dressage leader William Fox-Pitt on Parklane Hawk. Fox-Pitt, who has won the event five times for the home team, rode Parklane Hawk to a second- place effort on a score of 39.7 - despite a two-point penalty for an error.
Sinead Halpin (Pottersville, NJ) leads the way for the U.S. with Carraig, LLC'S Manoir de Carneville, an 11-year-old Selle Francais gelding. The pair moved into 12th with an impeccable effort at their second CCI4* with a score of 46.0. Their effort was obedient and expressive, and they coped with the electric occasion of the main arena with class. Halpin's trip to England, which also included the Hartpury CIC3* in August, was made possible by the Jacqueline Mars Training Grant awarded by USET Foundation. Halpin received the grant after placing third at the 2011 Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event presented by Bridgestone, an effort which earned her and Manoir de Carneville the USEF National CCI4* Championship.
The combination has forged a remarkable partnership, and their effort provided a harmonious impression that was rewarded by the judges.
Less than one point behind Halpin is Michael Pollard. Pollard (Dalton, GA), who was named to the Land Rover U.S. Eventing Team on Tuesday with Schoensgreen Hanni, rode Icarus (owned by Nathalie Pollard and Meike Hanssens) in a beautiful effort and to a score of 46.7. The 13-year-old former racehorse was relaxed and focused in the atmosphere, and despite the good result, Pollard is confident there is an even better test for Icarus in the future.
"I am really happy with 'Fly' today," Pollard said. "I need to go for it a bit more next time, but 'Fly' did exactly what I asked of him. Tomorrow is another day, but I think I have the right horse for the job."
Pollard and Icarus received a Land Rover Competition and Training Grant to travel to the U.K. and compete on the world's biggest stage after their consistent performances over the last 12 months. Pollard has been on a roll, winning an Advanced division at Richland Park Horse Trials last weekend, where he was also second in the CIC2* and second in the USEF Mandatory Outing for the 2011 Pan American Games. A former top Young Rider, Pollard has ridden more than 20 horses at the advanced level - many of which he has produced himself.
Yesterday's top-placed American, Boyd Martin (Cochranville, PA), moved into 24th going into the cross country with the Syndicate's Australian Thoroughbred Neville Bardos. Their score of 49.7 leaves them within striking distance as they head into their strongest phase: the cross country. Neville Bardos is a tough little horse who won the USEF National CCI3* Championship in 2009 in horrendous weather conditions, was 10th at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games last fall (the highest placed American effort) and then survived a horrific barn fire at the end of May - which he was lucky to survive. He defied everyone's expectation to live, let alone return to the highest level of the sport three months later. The pair also received a Land Rover Competition and Training Grant.
Less than three points behind Martin is U.K-based American, Jules Stiller. Riding Jules del Vecchio's lovely mare Chapel Amble, their effort bodes well for the future, despite a few mistakes in the ring. Their score of 52 was consistent with their effort at their first CCI4*, which was at Luhmuhlen in June. Stiller has built up a string of horses at the top level at her Headley Stud base in Berkshire.
Rounding out the U.S. contingent is Colleen Rutledge (Frederick, MD) who is contesting her second four-star with Shiraz. The pair was 12th at the Rolex Kentucky CCI4* in April, and scored 63.7 in the dressage on Thursday at Burghley.
Cross Country begins at 11 a.m. local time on Saturday. Boyd Martin will be the first American on course at 12:56 p.m.
Information about Land Rover's partnership with the USEF is available here: http://www.landrover.com/us/en/lr/experience-land-rover/sponsorships-events/equestrian-usef/
Follow all the action at http://www.burghley-horse.co.uk
Video on Demand should eventually be available here: http://www.burghley.tv
Information about the Rolex Grand Slam is available here: http://www.usef.org/images/eblasts/rolex/grandslamhome.html
Follow the U.S. Eventers in Europe throughout this fall on the USEFNetwork.com here: http://usefnetwork.com/featured/EventersinEurope/