Two USA Pairs Move Up in World Rankings Ahead of Pan American Games Starting This Week

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The Caledon equestrian venue for the Pan American Games,
The Caledon equestrian venue for the Pan American Games,

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

With Pan American Games dressage to start by week’s end, the United States’ top Big Tour combinations of Steffen Peters on Legolas and Laura Graves on Verdades moved up to the seventh and eighth spots in the latest world rankings.

The move up by the two combinations in the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) rankings as of the end of June was from the ninth and 10th places a month earlier when it may have been the first time two American pairs have ranked within the world’s top 10. U.S. combinations including Steffen Peters and Lisa Wilcox have placed within the top three at different times in the past 15 years.

The two Big Tour duos are with the Small Tour combinations of Kimberly Herslow of Stockton, New Jersey and Rosmarin and Sabine Schut-Kery of Thousand Oaks, California and Sanceo in a final tuneup at Gladstone, New Jersey before heading to Toronto Tuesday.

At stake through the Pan Ams for the four nations with Big Tour horses–Argentina, Canada, Mexico and the United States–is the single team berth at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 as well as places on the medals podium open to all.

Dressage has adopted for the first time a unique format of mixed Grand Prix and Prix St. Georges level combinations. The Big Tour pairs will each be awarded a “bonus” of 1.5 per cent for both of the two phases in the Nations Cup–Grand Prix and Special. Smal Tour will be Prix St. Georges and Intermediate 1. Teams that do not win the Rio start can seek to qualify individuals, and three from the same nation can  form a “composite” team.

Individual medals will be decided by the Freestyle and no bonus points will be awarded.

The format of Pan Am dressage was created after the previous all Small Tour Games in 2011 when the bronze medal team from Colombia failed to earn the minimum qualifying scores for London in 2012. Two Olympic starting places were reserved for those continental championships. The U.S. took gold but had already qualified and Canada won silver.

The FEI cut the number of teams that could earn an Olympic start through the Pn Ams to one, initially arguing that Brazil that is automatically awarded a place as the host nation is in the Pan Am geographic area, then later emphasizing the need for more “flags.” At the same time, the number of Olympic dressage combinations was raised to 60 in Rio from 50 in London.

A total of 10 teams are scheduled to start at the Caledon Pan Am Park about 40 miles (63km) north of Toronto–the four with Big Tour combinations plus Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rico, Guatemala and Venezuela and individuals from Bermuda, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Hondura, Puerto Rico and Uruguay.

This is two fewer than the 12 teams that competed at the previous Pan Ams in Guadalajara, Mexico in 2011 where the U.S. became the first nation to win all three individual dressage medals as well as team gold.

Canadian organizers of the Pan Ams estimate about 6,000 athletes from 41 countries will compete in 36 sports, making it possibly the largest multi-discipline sports event except for the Olympics. At least 19 sports are using the Pan Ams as a qualifier for the Olympics next year.

Tickets are sold out for the 4,000-seat Caledon venue for all but the first day of four days of dressage and there are no tickets left for eventing and jumping competitions in the same venue as well as cross country at a separate location.

The dressage schedule:

–Thursday, July 9–Veterinary check

–Saturday, July 11–Phase 1 team competition–Prix St. Georges and Grand Prix

–Sunday, July 12–Phase 2 team competition–Intermediate 1 and Grand Prix Special

–Tuesday, July 14–Individual competition of Intermediate and Grand Prix Freestyles