By now, most equestrian fans are familiar with the name Phillip Dutton. The U.S. eventing team is chock-full of experienced talent at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, but Dutton’s name in particular stands out as one of the most enduring and consistent superstars in eventing for more than a decade. Regardless of which horse he’s riding, you can be assured of a stellar dressage test, bold cross-country ride and precise stadium jumping round.
Dutton was perhaps America’s No. 1 lock for a spot on the WEG team, with four top-level event horses up and running during the 2010 competition year: Woodburn, Connaught, TruLuck and The Foreman. In the end, the selectors chose Dutton’s 2010 Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event runner-up, Woodburn, to represent the USA.
“You might say that I have been around for a while, so I should be prepared for the process, but nonetheless it is pretty darn stressful,” Dutton commented recently on his blog. Woodburn’s success in April over the same course the WEG will be ridden over (with changes to the track and jumps) no doubt influenced the selection. Dutton will be riding for the team score (Becky Holder and Corageous Comet are the only U.S. pair competing as individuals).
Dutton and Woodburn rode in the team anchor spot and had a very strong start to their WEG dressage test on Friday afternoon, but unfortunately some tension got the better of the horse and he had a few bobbles for a score of 48.20.
“I’m pretty disappointed, actually,” said Dutton after the ride. “He’s a horse who likes to go freely forward, which is great on the cross-country, and he’s one of the best horses I’ve ever ridden on cross-country. But I went in there and really went for it and asked too much. But this isn’t going to be a dressage competition. Hopefully we’ll all jump well tomorrow and we won’t be in [team] sixth anymore. The cross-country is one of the biggest ones I’ve ridden in a long time. You need a real four-star horse to do it. And it’s measured quite tight, so the time will be tough to make.”
Since it is expected that very few riders will be able to avoid time penalties, the fewer the U.S. riders incur, the more they will be able to climb in the team medals race.
Whether it’s Rolex or the Olympics, the Pan American Games or WEG, Phillip Dutton is one to keep an eye on.
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