Records are there to be broken and that is what happened on a thrilling second day of dressage at the 15th FEI Eventing World Championship, at Pratoni del Vivaro, Italy, today.
Michael Jung, the German team anchorman, has smashed his own record with a stunning 18.8 dressage mark on FischerChipmunk FRH, which is now the second-best score in world championship history behind Bettina Hoy in 2002. It puts his team into a close second place behind Great Britain, which starts tomorrow's cross-country day with the lowest ever team score after dressage, 69.2 penalties.
The British score was already a record before world number one Oliver Townend and the hugely experienced grey Ballaghmor Class recorded 23.4 for individual sixth place to add to first-day leader Laura Collett's 19.3 and Tom McEwen and Toledo de Kerser's 25.6. Defending champion Ros Canter's good score of 26.2 as pathfinder on Lordships Gruffalo is now, remarkably, the discount score.
Jung, 40, the world champion in 2010 on the wonderful horse La Biosthetique Sam, said of his new championship ride, a 14-year-old by Contendro: 'It is wonderful to be competing at this level with another superstar. FischerChipmunk was so relaxed yet still powerful and concentrating. I am really proud of him.'
Equiratings, the statistics analysts, rate Pratoni as the most competitive FEI Eventing World Championships in history, and certainly spectators were treated to a star-studded day of dressage with some beautiful tests.
Alex Hua-Tian, riding for China as an individual on the veteran Don Geniro, was originally going to the Asian Games but re-routed to Pratoni. He is now in fourth place in the individual rankings behind the British pair Laura Collett and Yasmin Ingham, having performed an elegant test.
Tamra Smith (USA), who was a reserve for the Tokyo Olympics and is making her World Championship debut, is fifth on the highly-rated Mai Baum with a score of 24.0. 'I'll take that!' she said. 'I think the cross-country will suit him perfectly. Horses need to be fast, but also rideable and he is both those things, plus he's smart and brave. Being on my first USA team feels awesome: it's been a lifetime goal and to be on this horse makes it special because he is the best in the world.'
The USA is in third place and New Zealand, the victors at Pratoni back in 1998, are fourth, followed by Australia, France, Japan and Belgium. The cost of one cross-country mistake (20 penalties) covers the top eight teams.
Riders are rating Giuseppe Della Chiesa's course as a 'proper championship track' and 'far from a dressage competition' on which it is anticipated that the 9 mins 50 sec optimum time will be hard to achieve with the hills and twisting nature.
The 10 most consistent cross-country horses, according to Equiratings, are, in order: Vermiculus, ridden by Lauren Nicholson (USA), Colorado Blue (Austin O'Connor, IRL), Ballaghmor Class (Oliver Townend, GBR), Tsetserleg TSF (Boyd Martin, USA), Toledo de Kerser (Tom McEwen, GBR), Lordships Gruffalo (Ros Canter, GBR), London 52 (Laura Collett, GBR), Fletcha Van t' Verahof (Karin Donckers, BEL), Off the Record (Will Coleman, USA), Fallulah (Padraig McCarthy, IRL).
First out on course tomorrow at 10.30am will be Germany's pathfinder, Christoph Wahler on Carjatan S.
Photos © Massimo Argenziano