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But the 51-year-old double-Olympian had her work cut out as she went head-to-head with Dutch teenager Sanne Thijssen in a third-round jump-off.
The testing track produced plenty of surprises including an unexpected early exit for experienced sides from Great Britain, Ireland, Norway and Russia along with the Polish hosts at the end of the first round.
The Americans were well out in front with just a single time fault at the halfway stage, but the Dutch fought back from fifth place to chase them right down to the wire.
He did an unbelievable job. It was big enough and technical enough but you couldn’t ask for a better competition.
Laura Kraut - Team USA. Talking about Olaf Petersen Jr's course.
"Sanne is a great rider, always very fast. Robert Ridland (USA Chef d’Equipe) told me you’ve got a fence to work with, so just try to out-race her so that you will beat her even if you have a fence down!"
The addition of just two more to their 11-fault total would leave the Dutch level with the Americans in the closing stages when Aniek Poels and Doron Kuipers collected single time faults and Thijssen’s spring-heeled stallion jumped spectacularly clear.
Lauren Hough (40) and Waterford fell victim to the penultimate triple combination, but 20-year-old Chloe Reid’s rounds with her sensational 10-year-old stallion Codarco were another highlight of a day when young riders simply sparkled, and when this pair followed their first-round clear with just a single mistake then Kraut’s second clear confirmed a showdown with the Dutch.
Thijssen’s little wonder-horse posted the jump-off target at four faults in 38.03 seconds - “he’s special, there are not many horses like him, he’s so careful he wants to jump the course himself and forgets that I’m sitting on him!”, she said. But Kraut cranked up the speed after hitting the second fence to post the winning time of 36.29.
Belgium continues to head the Europe Division 2 leaderboard but today's third-place finish saw Portugal improve from eighth to fifth place behind last week's winners from Denmark in fourth, Norway in third and Great Britain in second position.
The next leg of the Europe Division 2 series will take place in Roeser, Luxembourg on Friday 30 June.
The next leg of Europe Division 1 will take place in Rotterdam on Friday 23 June.
Text by Louise Parkes
Images by monika@equinesport/FEI