Guadalajara, Mexico - The US show jumping team got off to the start they were looking for at the 2011 Pan American Games - leading after the first leg on a converted score of 2.90 penalities. Mexico sits second on a score of 3.26 and Brazil is third on a score of 7.61.
Beezie Madden (Cazenovia, NY) led the effort - flying to the lead on Coral Reef Via Volo - in a lightning fast time of 77.53 seconds. Riding fourth for the team, the two-time Olympic Gold medalist lived up to her reputation as one of the fastest riders in the world, she was nearly two seconds faster than teammate Christine McCrea on Romantovich Take One.
"Obviously I thought my day was very good," said Madden. "The course, I thought, was excellent. It was a fair first course. There were tricky parts, and although it was a speed , I didn't think that even though I won I took a lot out of my horse to go that fast. There weren't any real runs on the course. It was a lot to do with your line and your accuracy, I thought that was great. I was lucky enough to go fourth on my team and my other three teammates had good scores so I didn't have to hold back and I could go for it and try to have a better score than Chris - which wasn't easy."
Coral Reef Ranch's 13-year-old Belgian mare jumped fantastically around Javier Fernández's beautiful course in the main arena at the Guadalajara Country Club - rocketing her way through some very efficient turns. This pair begins the Nations Cup tomorrow on a score of zero.
Christine McCrea (Windsor, CT) had to manage Romantovich Take One's enthusiasm for his job, and she executed a beautiful clear out of the 11-year-old KWPN gelding who is owned by Windsor Show Stables. The course had three double combinations, and several choices of lines - but Romantovich Take Two made light work of it and established himself with a great start to the competition with a time of 79.29.
"He felt fantastic," said McCrea. "He was right in every corner, he wasn't spooking and he was really just paying attention to the jumps. He's a naturally fast horse so I had to just contain him."
Double Olympic Gold medalist McLain Ward (Brewster, NY) led off the effort for the team - flying around the course to finish seventh after having two rails on Antares F. Grant Road Partners, LLC 's 11-year-old Wurtemberger gelding made a mistake at the first part of two of the double combinations, 10A and 13A, but his time was fast enough that he finished on a score of 81.57.
"It wasn't exactly the round I'd like to have but at least I was fast," said Ward after his round. "Hopefully the rest of the team will go well and we'll be in a good position."
Kent Farrington (Chicago, IL), who like McCrea is riding at his first championship, finished 15th (with a time of 85.33) out of 54 starters on RCG Farm's Uceko after making one mistake on the course. The diminutive 10-year-old Dutch gelding jumped impeccably aside from an error at the triple bar, which was the first part of the second double combination.
"I thought my horse was trying hard, he jumped well," said Farrington. "I got a little deep to the triple bar and he over jumped A and just got far away from B and had it down. I just went kind of for a nice round after that. I thought he was good, and the U.S. team is doing well and that's what we're here for."
The Nations Cup gets underway at 10 AM tomorrow morning, the U.S. has drawn 12th of 12 teams jumping tomorrow.
Follow the U.S. Team at the Pan American Games (photos, blogs and more): http://www.usefnetwork.com/featured/2011PanAmGames/
Photos: Beezie Madden Thanks Coral Reef Via Volo (Photo: Shannon Brinkman); Christine McCrea and Romantovich Take One (Photo: Shannon Brinkman).