Greenwich, UK - Rich Fellers (Sherwood, OR) and Flexible continued adding to their clear round tally today at the Olympic Games by securing the U.S. team's position in the second round of the Nations Cup with an immaculate effort. Team USA's score of eight faults means that they are tied with Brazil for equal seventh place. The top eight teams from today's jumping go forward to tomorrow, led by the team from Saudi Arabia who are carrying one time fault forward to tomorrow.
Fellers and Harry and Mollie Chapman's 16-year-old Irish Sport Horse stallion entered the ring in the anchor position for team USA and were the only American combination to jump a clear round. Flexible was extraordinary, and Fellers rode him with so much confidence that that the veteran World Cup Champion thrived in Greenwich's main arena.
"As a team I wish we were in little better position but we are all fighters we can come from behind," said Fellers.
There were 15 clear rounds in the first round of the Nations Cup leaving 12 horses on a score of zero individually. The competition began with yesterday's First Individual Qualifier. "I always ride for clear rounds," said Fellers. "He was typical Flexible, just a little more on his game and a little more dialed in he gets better as the week goes on."
Fellers felt that Bob Ellis' course suited Flexible and the problems were spread around the track. Fellers looks forward to tomorrow and recognizes that at this point, none of the teams remaining in the competition are without a shot. "I thought it was a super course, it had all the variety. (Tomorrow) is going to be a different course and a different day and its sport - anything can happen," said Fellers. "We are not so far out of it."
Chef d'Equipe George Morris shuffled the original order of his riders today installing Fellers in the anchor position after Beezie Madden (Cazenovia, NY) and Coral Reef Ranch's Via Volo were eliminated in the First Individual Qualifier the previous day.
"I just go for clear rounds," said Fellers about the pressure of going last. "I don't care where I go in the order."
But Madden and the 14-year-old Belgian mare returned to the ring with a vengeance and the two-time Olympic Gold medalist rode a calculated round, faulting once, at the first part of the double combination. She rode very strongly into the similar question to where she ran into trouble the previous day, the mare rolled the front rail.
"We jumped her over a combination after we came out of the ring (yesterday) and this morning we did some rails on the ground and jumped a very small jump to get the rideablity better," said Madden after yesterday's debacle. "I think she's more relaxed in general. Hopefully tomorrow I can ride her and trust her a little bit more and she'll be back to normal."
McLain Ward (Brewster, NY) led off the American effort for the second day in a row and jumped another great round on Grant Road Partners' Antares F. A foot in the water cost them a clear round, and Ward took ownership of that mistake.
"It was maybe a little rougher today than I would have liked," said the two-time Gold medalist. "We had the problem with Beezie yesterday and you have in the back of your mind that you want to log a score so maybe I was overriding a little bit. I got to the water a bit early, rider error, but he jumped well. It's a long week."
Ward was pleased with the 12-year-old Baden-Wurttemberg gelding but was realistic about what is going to be needed to win Team Gold. "You don't win Nations Cups with four faults," said Ward.
Eighteen-year-old Reed Kessler (Lexington, KY) picked up one time fault in the First Individual Qualifier and caught herself out trying to ensure that didn't happen again with Cylana. She jumped a confident round but had two rails downs, and the ferocious competitor is determined to make sure it doesn't happen again. "I am mad at myself because I can do so much better," said Kessler "My mare jumped beautifully."
The Nations Cup resumes August 6th at 2 PM in reverse order of standing. The U.S. Team will jump second.
Photos: Rich Fellers and Flexible (Shannon Brinkman); Beezie Madden and Via Volo (Shannon Brinkman)