Today’s cross-country course was not for the faint of heart. The 33 effort, 3.6 mile track was so difficult even Boyd Martin said he’d “never ridden a tougher course”- which is certainly saying something! And for those watching, there were plenty of heart-in-throat moments. Just 3 riders – Michael Jung, Christopher Burton, and Astier Nicolas – jumped clear and within the time of 10:15.

Team Australia has leapt into the lead with Chris Burton and Santano II jumping clean and without time faults. Stuart Tinney and Pluto Mio crossed the finish with 2.8 time penalties while Sam Griffiths and Paulank Brockagh finished with 6.8 time penalties. In a shocking twist, Shane Rose and CP Qualified were eliminated at a narrow frog fence in the final water complex.

New Zealand is sitting in silver position thanks to solid cross-country performances by Mark Todd, who finished with 2 time penalties aboard Leonidas II, and Clarke Johnston who completed the course with 4.8 penalties with Balmoral Sensation. Tim Price had a heartbreaking fall while navigating a turn on the galloping lane and was unfortunately eliminated. Tim’s wife, Jonelle and Faerie Dianimo managed to put in a brilliant ride from the anchor position, finishing on just 8 time penalties, pushing the team from 6th to 2nd place.

The Rio surprise just may turn out to be the Team France – each member is a first time Olympian and they are certainly giving the veterans a run for their money. Astier Nicolas and Piaf de B’Neville were one of three pairs faultless today, carrying their score of 42 into the third and final day. Thibaut Valette and Qing du Briot and Mathieu Lemoine with Bart L jumped around clear but time penalties have dropped the team from silver to bronze position going into the final day.

Germany had a surprising day, with Julia Krajewski and Samourai Du Thot eliminated after three refusals and Ingrid Klimke having a stop in the final water element and racking up 26 cross country penalties. Samantha Auffarth suffered a run-out to finish on 40 jumping penalties. Michael Jung’s faultless day helped the team stay in stay in the top 4 but it’ll be a tough hill to climb to land on the podium.

It was a tough day for Team USA, now eliminated from the medal hunt (though Dutton and Martin still have a shot individually). Lauren Kieffer and Veronica suffered a fall toward the course’s end, though both appear to be okay. Clark Montgomery and Loughlan Glen were eliminated after three stops – it certainly wasn’t their day. Boyd Martin and Blackfoot Mystery had a beautiful trip, jumping clear with just 3.20 time penalties. Phillip Dutton and Mighty Nice gave the crowd a scare when they barely cleared the first corner at fence 6, Dutton barely staying in the saddle. The horse’s right hind was outside the red flag but the pair incurred no penalties for the acrobatic effort – finishing on just 3.20 time penalties.

Be sure to tune in for the final day of Eventing tomorrow. Competition will be aired live from 9:00-11:30 am for team stadium jumping and 1:00-1:55pm est. for individual stadium jumping on the USA network.

Team standings after cross-country
New Zealand

Individual standings after cross-country
Chris Burton – Santano II – 37.60
Michael Jung – Sam FBW – 40.90
Astier Nicolas – Piaf de B’Neville – 42.0
Mark Todd – Leonidas II – 46.00
Phillip Dutton – Mighty Nice – 46.80
Boyd Martin – Blackfoot Mystery – 50.90