TRYON, N.C.--The U.S. Driving Team of James “Jimmy” Fairclough, Misdee Wrigley Miller and Chester Weber steered their talented teams of four-in-hand horses through Richard Nicolls’s obstacles on the marathon course at the World Equestrian Games on Saturday to holding the lead position they also held after dressage.
After confirming marathon penalties, team results were finalized and Belgium currently holds the silver-medal position on a score of 353.80, with the Netherlands in bronze on a score of 357.67.
Immediatley after the Marathon, the results posted had Netherlands first and the U.S. second.
As the trailblazer for the U.S. Driving Team, Fairclough of Newton, N.J., was the first on course and through the obstacles.
With Bento V, his 2006 Dutch Warmblood gelding; Citens, his 2007 KWPN gelding; Dapper, his 2008 Dutch Warmblood gelding; and Zenden, his 2004 Dutch Warmblood gelding, Fairclough weathered the course well, but made some rein adjustments for the leaders after obstacle four.
HE FINISHED on a score of 189.52 for 12th place individually headed into the third and final phase, cones, on Sunday.
“We had a little problem in number seven, a little back-up and correction, but otherwise it went well,” said Fairclough. “I had a lot of horse at the top. They gave us a big window to do the marathon in, and with that kind of window, we were able to walk and give the horses a break. I gave them a break before and after the obstacle, so that helped them recover. The leaders were really good when they came in, but the wheelers always do much more of the work and they were a little hot, and their temps were up a little bit. But they normally come down quickly.”
Weber of Ocala, Fla., and Wrigley Miller of Lakewood Ranch, Fla., were the second and third drivers on course for the U.S., with back-to-back runs.
Weber expertly guided his team of Asjemenou, his 2005 Dutch Warmblood gelding; First Edition, his 2009 KWPN gelding; Reno, his 2009 Hungarian gelding; and Boris W, his 2006 KWPN gelding through the obstacles.
He made quick work of the course, but with his horses’ best interest in mind, finished with a score of 160.61 and sitting second individually behind Boyd Excell.
“It was a hot, challenging course,” said Weber. “I think the key was to keep as much horse in the bag as you could for the end of the track. It would have been easy to light them up and have a blistering fast time through the first track. But, we went at it today, as a plan, a little bit like a turtle race, to make sure that you had enough gas at the end. At the end of the day, the horses had to do everything and I was just like the conductor of the orchestra playing the music. The horses were brilliant, really nice to drive. I couldn’t be more humbled to sit behind them and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.”
Though she claims not to be an expert on marathon, Wrigley Miller with Beau, her 2006 KWPN gelding; Bravour 54, her 2006 KWPN gelding; Bolino D, her 2006 KWPN gelding[ and Calipso 86, her 2007 Dutch Warmblood gelding, looked experienced and poised as they finished a clean course, with just a small mishap at obstacle six.
An improperly buried timing cord became tangled in her carriage as she rolled over it, but the team persevered and cleared the obstacle safely.
Wrigley Miller finished on a score of 197.94 for 15th individually.
“It went really well for me,” said Wrigley Miller. “My job today for the team was not to make any mistakes, not to get eliminated, but just to get a clear round. I wasn’t pushing them, I was definitely not pushing to win the marathon, I just wanted to give my horses a good ride and make them happy and keep my dressage score in place. So, I did my job and it was a real confidence builder as well.”
The U.S. Driving Team will contest the third and final phase of the combined driving world championship, the cones phase, for team and individual medals on Sunday, Sept. 23, beginning at 2:30 p.m. ET.
The cones phase will be streamed live on FEITV and broadcast on NBC Sports.