Equestrian: Elliott opts for experience in dressage showdown as Irish target Olympic qualification
All five horses on the Irish eventing squad passed the first veterinary examination with flying colours at The Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky, early yesterday morning.
And Chef d'Equipe Ginny Elliott named the team that will fight for an Olympic qualifying spot when the dressage phase of the Eventing Championship at the World Equestrian Games kicks off today.
First into the ring will be British-based Wicklow man Mark Kyle with Step in Time, and he will be followed by Bandon's Patricia Ryan with Fernhill Clover Mist, Carlow's Sam Watson with Horseware Bushman and army rider Capt Geoff Curran with The Jump Jet. Camilla Speirs from Kildare will compete individually with the diminutive Portersize Just a Jiff.
"These are four solid combinations, all with form at four-star level. Camilla Speirs is a real talent and Portersize Just a Jiff is a super little horse. Camilla is making her senior championship debut at 21 and, while I would have no hesitation in using the combination in the team, I have gone for experience on this occasion," Elliott said.
A total of 14 teams, and riders from 23 nations, will be battling for the eventing medals and the Irish, who have been drawn 13th to go, were in bullish mood yesterday.
Watson said he's aiming for a top-10 finish and the 24-year-old is clearly confident about his chances.
"I was aiming for a top-10 spot in Badminton -- I was eighth after cross-country but I had two show jumping fences down. If I'd only had one down I would have finished in 10th place," he pointed out, adding "my horse couldn't be in better shape right now."
Meanwhile, the mesmerising stallion Moorlands Totilas, ridden by Edward Gal, wowed the crowds with one of his trademark tests to help the Dutch clinch dressage team gold on Tuesday despite the elimination of Adelinde Cornelissen, whose horse, Parzival, bit his tongue during his test.
The British clinched silver thanks to four great performances, including a spectacular ride from Laura Bechtolsheimer and Mistral Hojris, who slotted into second individually behind Gal. Team bronze went to Germany.