LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Kim Severson turned in the best score of the day Friday to top the standings in her division after the dressage at the Rolex Three-Day Event.
Severson, of Keene, Va., had just 37 penalties on Winsome Adante, the best score of her career with the bay gelding. She topped the standings in the four-star CCI (concours complet international) in her quest to qualify her mount for the Olympics.
Severson was sidelined for much of last year with a broken leg, and her horse had colic problems. The duo, part of the gold medal team at the World Equestrian Games in Spain two years ago, must complete Rolex - the key U.S. Olympic selection trial - to be considered for the U.S. squad that goes to Athens this summer.
Although Severson has two other horses qualified for the games and eligible for consideration, she wants Winsome Adante to make it.
"I know him the best and have had the longest partnership with him."
Severson has a six-penalty lead over Phillip Dutton of Australia, a two-time Olympic team gold medalist who was riding Nova Top. William Fox-Pitt of Great Britain, the leader after Thursday's first leg of the dressage, is third with Coastal Ties with 43.4 penalties.
The CCI includes the traditional steeplechase and is open to foreign riders and others seeking to fulfill their Olympic qualifications.
Natalie Bouckaert of Chatsworth, Ga., had 37.4 penalties to top the modified four-star division on West Farthing. Amy Tryon dropped from first to fourth with her 42-penalty score on My Beau. Pan American Championships individual gold medalist Darren Chiacchia of Ocala, Fla., on Windfall II was second (40) and Heidi White of Chadds Ford, Pa., with Northern Spy (41.2) was third.
The modified is one of two competitions at Rolex this year and is modeled after the new eventing format that will be used at the Athens Olympics. It does not include the usual high-speed steeplechase phase.
The modified is open only to North American riders or foreigners based in North America who already have completed qualifications making them eligible for the Olympics.
Saturday's cross-country test, over 32 challenging obstacles, probably will shake up the standings.
The route is designed by Michael Etherington-Smith, who is the technical delegate for eventing in Athens. His layout could be complicated by soggy conditions after several days of rain.