Lexington, KY - After a dressage phase in the Combined Driving Championships that left multiple ties at the top of the leader board, today's marathon course proved to mix things up, as is often the case. The U.S. Driving Team is now sitting in second with a combined score of 300.11, behind The Netherlands on a 273.77. Ijsbrand Chardon (NED) won the marathon phase, charging through the obstacles with speed and precision. He currently sits in second place individually behind Boyd Exell (AUS). Tucker Johnson is now ranked third individually.
Chester Weber was first to go for the U.S. Team and expertly guided his team through the eight obstacles. The team incurred a 10 point penalty in hazard seven when the right wheeler stepped over the leader trace; they also had knockdowns at hazards one and five. Overall the team posted fast times and crossed the finish line looking fresh.
"It was disappointing, the right leader backed off a little and the right wheeler was a little bit aggressive and stepped over the trace," said Weber. "It's an American designed course with a lot of galloping and with the speed sometimes these mistakes can happen in obstacles. Everything else drove to plan."
Next to go for the U.S. was Jimmy Fairclough who finished the day with a score of 169.86. In hazard number three, the Spook Hollow, the team came out at a strong gallop and the soft ground caused the carriage to slide and hit a post, unseating the groom from the back step. The groom was not injured, but the dismount did incur a 10 point penalty.
"I had an extra loop in obstacles four and eight, which probably cost me six points, but we can all have problems and we do the best we can," said Fairclough. "The horses performed wonderfully and the course drove very nice and smooth. I prefer a little more technical course, but for the spectators this was a great course with lots of galloping and powerful movement."
Driving in his last competition, Tucker Johnson drove one of the best marathon courses of his career, posting just 106.87 in penalties. Johnson executed his plan to near perfection, having one of the best drives of the day in hazard number four, Walnut Hill.
"My leaders weren't quite as forward as I had anticipated so I had to make a few adjustments, but my wheelers wanted to go on for sure," said Johnson. "The course had a pretty flowing speed that worked well. I was incredibly pleased with the turn in hazard four, coming down the hill making the D and then the direct route the across the stream. I was just very happy."
Upon completion of the last obstacle, Johnson stood and waved to the crowd. "It was a bittersweet moment, but I wanted to thank the crowd for their many years of support."
Also driving today were the six individuals representing the United States. Josh Rector is the highest ranked U.S. individual in 18th place with a score of 183.91.
The competition concludes tomorrow with the cones phase, beginning at 10:00 a.m.
Photo: USA's Tucker Johnson and his Four-in-Hand team. Photo by Shannon Brinkman for USEF.