At the end of a busy day wrapping up the dressage phase of The Dutta Corp. Fair Hill International Three-Day (FHI), two new riders took over the top of the leaderboards. Mara DePuy and Congo Brazzaville Z moved into first in The Dutta Corp./USEF CCI4*-L Eventing National Championship with their 28.6, while Alexa Gartenberg and Louis M claimed the pinnacle position in The Dutta Corp./USEF CCI3*-L Eventing National Championship on a 25.9.
"We both know each other pretty well," said DePuy of the 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Tangelo Van De Zuuthoeve x Mexico M). The pair have picked up several top-10 placings this year, and though DePuy is well-known for her flatwork skills, she's been working closely with renowned dressage trainer James Burtwell. "We're just starting to get better, but it takes a while."
DePuy represented the U.S. team at the 1996 Olympic Games and the 2007 Pan American Games, and sees true potential with Congo, whom she's partnered with since he was a 6-year-old. "He's a horse that's brought me back to the top-level again. I thought I was ready to give up at the top level and Congo is a pretty special horse and fun to ride, so we're going to keep going."
Phillip Dutton, another U.S. team member, and four-time past Fair Hill champion, slid into second place with Z, his 2018 World Equestrian Games partner. "I was really pleased with how he went. He kept the lid on things," said Dutton after his test on the 11-year-old Hanoverian-cross gelding (Asca x Bellabouche), owned by the Z Partnership.
After picking up back-to-back wins this fall at Plantation Field CCI4*-S and Morven Park CCI4*-S, Colleen Rutledge and her own Covert Rights once again found themselves back in the limelight, as they sit in third place on a 30.7 heading into Saturday's cross-country phase. The 13-year-old Thoroughbred-cross (BFF Incognito x Let's Get It Right) has had success at the CCI5* level, and Rutledge was glad to have her long-time partner coming back to the top of his game after overcoming frustrating injuries over the past few years. "Horses are horses," said Rutledge. "There are always ups and downs. I'm just so pleased he's come back as well as he has. I have fun on him every day."
In the CCI3*-L, sophomore college student Gartenberg took over the lead with Louis M, a 14-year-old Rheinlander gelding (Lissabon 29 x Angelique M) she bought last year to gain miles at the top levels. "This year has been about getting me more experience at the three-star short level. This is my first three-star long, so I'm really happy to have him show me the ropes. He was perfect today. He comes out every day in a suit and tie ready to work so he's really taught the proper way of riding dressage."
Twenty-three-year-old rising star Woods Baughman holds onto the runner-up position aboard C'est La Vie 135, his own 11-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Contendro I x Annette) after finishing their day with a 27.6. "He's just so much fun," said Baughman, who works as five-star eventer Sharon White's assistant trainer. "You can just sit there and ask and he gives you what he's got. Just enjoy it."
Rounding out the top three in the CCI3*-L is Canadian Olympian Colleen Loach and Vermont, a 7-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Van Helsing x Hauptstutbuch Hollywood) owned by Peter Barry. "He can be very emotional, so I was happy with the way he held himself together. He kept his composure and allowed me to ride him. So, I was pretty happy with the results considering the weather," said Loach, who earned a 28.6 during the blustery conditions on Friday afternoon. "Our partnership has steadily grown. He trusts me now and I think that's a big deal for him. He's a bit insecure at times and when he trusts his rider, he's impressive."
The first CCI3*-L horse will leave the start box on Derek di Grazia's cross-country course at 9:00 a.m. with the CCI4*-L getting underway at 12:45 p.m.
And they're off! Eventing kicks off today in Tokyo (Thursday, July 29 – 7:30 p.m. ET), with the first of three Olympic dressage sessions. Competitors from 29 nations will go head to head, vying for a spot on the coveted Olympic podium.
There were a few last-minute dramas at the first horse inspection for the Tokyo Olympics which took place in the main equestrian park at Baji Koen Equestrian Centre at 9:30 a.m. JST today.
It’s the most hotly anticipated few hours of the eventing year - the cross-country from Tokyo 2020. What will Derek di Grazia’s track have in store for the Olympic riders?
We’re nearly there! Olympic mania has taken over the world, and we’re in the final countdown to the Olympic eventing competition in Tokyo, which starts with the first horse inspection on Thursday. Our USA riders are raring to go, but let’s remind ourselves of the history that precedes them. Just how well has the US team done in past Olympics?