Superb Evans and Cooley's Rorkes Drift lift Irish to fifth
A brilliant test from Jonty Evans and Cooley's Rorkes Drift moved the Irish team up a place to fifth as the dressage phase of eventing drew to a close at Deodoro Olympic Park in Rio de Janeiro (BRA) yesterday.
The 44-year-old rider was fifth to go as the second day of action began, and his mark of 41.20 anchored the Irish dressage scoreline at 135.60 after the first phase of the competition, with the best three scores from each side taken into account.
Evans lies 10th in the individual rankings as tomorrow's crucial cross-country phase gets under way.
A total of 13 nations are battling for the eventing team medals, and the Irish are in the hunt for a podium placing, lying just eight penalty points behind Great Britain in fourth spot.
Germany, the defending champions, who are chasing their third successive team title, maintained their lead thanks to a great ride from anchor Ingrid Klimke with Bob.
On a score of 122.00 however, they are only 0.2 points ahead of the chasing French in second place, while the Australians are just four points further adrift in third spot.
Mark Kyle was last to go for Ireland yesterday, scoring 50.40 with the young mare Jemilla. This was the team drop score, but the British-based Wicklow rider is expected to play a key role when today's cross-country phase gets under way.
There's confidence about Irish chances at these Games. Lying so close to a medal-placing at this stage in the competition is unprecedented, but team manager Nick Turner, is determined to remain calm.
"They just need to keep a lid on it now and keep on doing what they are doing - that's why these four riders were selected," he said yesterday.
Evans' result came as a big surprise to many, especially since this is only his second championship event.
"I'm 44, and I've been riding internationally for Ireland for 24 years now but the only other championship I competed in was Punchestown Europeans as an individual in 2003 when I also scored a 41," he said.
Echoing Burton's comments, he pointed out: "we've been talking amongst ourselves that all we've gotta do is do what we normally do, and doing what we normally do is good enough.
"We said when we came here as a team that personal bests would be great but that we just needed to go and do what we know we can do. And I think that's been really good, expectation is a nightmare, it's a hard thing to deal with, so we haven't had that expectation which I think has helped.
"I thought Clare [Abbott] and Padraig [McCarthy] yesterday were off the scale, Padraig's job going first is not easy, and Clare rode every inch of her horse, and we're totally confident in Kyle going last," he said.