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Burton leads Australian eventing hopes

9 August 2016

EQUESTRIAN:  Australia is on the verge of gold medal glory in eventing with Chris Burton leading the way in the individual competition and the Aussies also occupying first position in the team’s event. 

Strong cross country performances have given Australia the advantage leading into Tuesday’s crucial show jumping rounds in which the team and individual medals will be decided. 

Burton’s individual result combined with the performances of his team members have Australia sitting on 150.30 penalties. They have one show jumping rail in hand as second-placed New Zealand is on 154.80 penalties. France is third with 161 penalties and Germany fourth with 172.80 penalties.

The leader board is closer in the individual race with Burton sitting on 37.60, less than four penalties (one show jumping rail) in front of Michael Jung of Germany who has 40.90 penalties.  France’s Astier Nicolas is third with 42 penalties.

Burton was in second position after the dressage phase but a dominant cross country round moved him into the gold medal position. Early leader William Fox-Pitt of Great Britain was relegated down the leader-board after his horse had a refusal.

Despite taking longer routes on course, Burton’s horse Santano II had a fast and consistent pace which ensured he returned home within the allocated time. The Rio Olympics is the first occasion that Santano II has competed at a four-star event.

“He’s a very green, inexperienced horse so I took full long routes,” Burton said.

“For a horse with very little blood in his breeding, he is a rocket. So I’m delighted at this stage.

“The guys were having fun with me, they said ‘well he started out like the three (star) novice horse that he is but he finished a four-star horse, so we’re over the moon’.”

Fellow Australian Sam Griffiths also completed a clear run, but picked up 6.8 time penalties. Individually Griffiths sits in ninth position with a score of 53.10.

Griffiths also took a longer route at a difficult fence.

“I did take a long way so that probably cost me my time fault. I can see people probably getting a better time if they go all the straight ways,” Griffiths said.

He said the technical course was causing problems for some riders but his horse, Paulank Brockagh, was a star on cross-country who always tried her heart out.

“It was tough. I’m lucky I’m on such an experienced horse. She was a star. She hardly put a foot wrong, so I’m just over the moon.

“To go all the straight ways you need to be a gold medal rider."

Stuart Tinney was the third Australian up, adding only 2.8 time penalties to his dressage score.

The Sydney Olympic gold medallist said the course suited his horse Pluto Mio.

“It was a nice track for him, I could get going a bit, get galloping a bit,” said Tinney.

He said the team was cautious ahead of the jumping competition tomorrow.

“Let’s see what happens tomorrow, we need to leave the fences up.”

There was disappointment for final combination Shane Rose and CP Qualified who were eliminated from the competition.

Rose was just two fences from home when his horse refused a fence.

A devastated Rose said his horse had been going strong.

"He was going great, it felt really good up until then. I was on my time and just in the water he got a little clagged and wasn’t responding," Rose said.

"It was disappointing, I was supposed to go out there and do a good job and couldn’t quite get there."

In order for the team to remain in the competition three out of four riders must complete the competition.

Team and individual eventing medallists will be determined during Tuesday’s show jumping rounds. Competition begins at 10am Rio time (11pm AEST).

Michelle Cook

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