The U.S. reining team completed the first day of reining competition at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in first place with a score of 444 points, Austria followed with 432.5 points and Brazil had 425.
"I'm probably not going to sleep tonight," said U.S. team member Tom McCutcheon, who will ride Sunday. But "we are in a good spot right now."
Teammate Craig Schmersal said in a media conference after the competition, "We've got the strongest part of the team going tomorrow, so I expect our scores to go up."
Italy's Stefano Massignan finished with the top individual score of 224 points, followed by Schmersal, riding Mister Montana Nic, with 223.5 points.
U.S. team member Tim McQuay on Hollywoodstinseltown and Grischa Ludwig of Germany on Hot Smoking Chex each scored 220.50 points, and Austria's Martin Muhlstatter and Belgium's Ann Poels rounded out the top six scorers with 219.5 points each.
Saturday saw the first two of four sessions in the team competition as riders competed for their countries. The country whose team members have the highest total score will take home the gold medal.
McQuay, the top reining money winner for 11 years with $2.5 million in earnings, was a favorite with the American-dominated crowd in the Alltech Arena at the Kentucky Horse Park. He had a clean ride. McQuay said stronger riders were still to come, "But I feel very good about my horse. I feel we had a real strong ride."
Dressage superstar Anky van Grunsven, who rode for the Netherlands and switched from dressage to reining just a year or so ago, had the 14th-highest score for the day among the 24 riders who recorded scores. In a charming display of self-deprecation, the 13-time Dutch dressage champion said she had scored her personal best in reining with the morning ride.
"I feel I'm not ready for this," she said referring to the world-class competitors she rode against. "I know I'm not the best here. But it's exciting. ... I love it."