Lexington, KY - The final World Championship event in the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games began today as part one of the Combined Driving Dressage took place. Thirteen drivers performed their tests today, 11 competing as part of the team competition and the United States' Casey Zubek and Bill Long competing as individuals. At the top of the leader board there is a tie for first place between Ijsbrand Chardon of The Netherlands and the United States' own Chester Weber, both with a score of just 35.97.
The morning session saw six drivers, including U.S. Team Driver Jimmy Fairclough who finished in sixth place on a 51.97. After a little trouble with one of his leaders at the beginning of the 20 movement test, Fairclough's team settled in and executed near perfect halts and precise transitions.
"It wasn't the test I've been getting from these horses this year. I was hoping for something better than what we got, but that's why there's another couple days and I'll just have to go faster in the marathon," said Fairclough.
Casey Zubek was first to go for the U.S. in the afternoon session, driving his young team of KWPN geldings. Zubek has only been competing at the advanced level for two years and is quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with. He is currently ranked eighth on a 60.29.
"The marathon is our strongest phase, but I also like dressage and we are getting better and better each time," said Zubek.
Next in the ring for the U.S. was Bill Long, driving Jack Wetzel's flashy team. After a strong test Long is currently in tenth with a score of 64.90.
Chester Weber and his veteran team wrapped up the day for the U.S. Driving Team on a high note. Executing beautiful extensions, accurate figures and seamless transitions, the team jumped to the top of the leader board to join Chardon on a 35.97.
"The extended trot from this team is clearly where it's at, the horses seem to be fit and in top form, I'm pleased with them," said Weber. "This is an experienced team, they set a record in Riesenbeck two years ago and we got close to it again here."
Tomorrow will see the final twelve drivers in part two of the dressage phase. Individual U.S. drivers Mike McLennan and Josh Rector will go during the morning session. In the afternoon Tucker Johnson will be the anchor for the U.S. Team while Cindy O'Reilly and Gary Stover will drive as individuals.
In the team standings, the U.S. trails the Netherlands after two drivers have gone. The Netherlands is on 76.16 and the United States sits on 87.94 well clear of the third place finishers, the Germans on 103.04.
Photo: Chester Weber and his Four-in-Hand Team. Photo by Shannon Brinkman for USEF.