Germany’s cool-headed anchorwoman Sandra Auffarth and her long-time partner Opgun Louvo produced the Dressage test everyone was anticipating to bring the first phase of the Eventing competition at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2014 in Normandy to a magical close.
By the time Auffarth entered the arena the atmosphere was electric. She scored a 10 for her halt from Ground Jury President Gillian Rolton (AUS) and three nines for her riding. She now has a 2.5-penalty advantage over the first-day Dressage leader William Fox-Pitt (GBR) on Chilli Morning.
Auffarth, who already has Olympic and European team gold medals to her name plus individual silver and bronze, has extended her team’s lead over New Zealand and fully justified her status as the rider many people have tipped for the individual title here in Normandy.
“It wasn’t the easiest atmosphere but we managed OK,” said Auffarth. “At the start my horse was a little bit nervous but then he got better and better and really enjoyed it.”
New Zealander Jock Paget had Clifton Promise looking beautifully light and supple and they scored the only other sub-40 mark of the day – 38.0 – to slot into individual third place. In a first for the New Zealand team, all riders have scored under 50, with Andrew Nicholson and Nereo, dual bronze medallists in Kentucky in 2010, 15th on 45.5.
Germany has more than 20 penalties in hand over the third-placed USA team and the fourth-placed French. Defending champions Great Britain are now in fifth place after counting a score of 50.0 from third rider Kristina Cook on her home-bred De Novo News.
The Italian team has suffered huge disappointment with the withdrawal just before their Dressage test of Vittoria Panizzon and Borough Pennyz. The popular grey mare was found to have a slight injury and, to the approval of the crowd, Panizzon said she did not want to risk her horse.
Although the picturesque site of Haras du Pin has enjoyed balmy, sunny drying conditions today, the cross country course is still expected to be influential. In view of the wet weather this week, the Ground Jury has removed fences 20 and 23 which removes a galloping loop of the track and reduces the optimum time by one minute.
It is the first time Auffarth has gone last for the German team and she admitted her relief at the arrival of sunshine. “The course is difficult enough but really well built and horse friendly. I’m looking forward to it.”
“It’s a big track but if you ride it the way [Course Designer] Pierre Michelet asks you to, that will help you because it’s forward and attacking,” added Paget.
The Cross Country phase has been brought forward by 30 minutes to 10.00 CEST.