2016 Rio Olympic Power Rankings: Round 1

Welcome to EN’s first round of Olympic Power Rankings! This series will be a bi-weekly ranking of the qualified American pairs for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games running through the spring and concluding when the team is announced on June 20, 2016.

When creating these rankings, we used the following criteria:

  • The horse and rider must have already qualified as a pair at one of the 2015 qualifying events.
  • The average penalty score for each phase is added up to determine each horse’s average completion score.
  • Rankings are calculated using FEI scores in the previous calendar year only, from the three-star and four-star levels.
  • The rankings will be rolling, meaning that scores will be dropped from the averages as they pass the one-year date.
  • Only results as a pair are counted.

Currently 70 U.S. combinations have achieved at least one Olympic qualifier, although five of those pairs are no longer competing together. Pairs not yet qualified will have additional opportunities in 2016 to qualify at Rolex, Badminton, Jersey Fresh, Saumur, Tattersalls, Bromont and Bramham. We’ll list a few pairs at the end of the rankings who have yet to qualify but could certainly be up for consideration if they qualify this spring.

Note: To be considered for an Olympic team, a horse must be submitted as an applicant to the FEI by Feb. 19, 2016. This list does not reflect whether horses have been submitted for Olympic consideration.

Clark Montgomery and Loughan Glen flying round the Blenheim CCI3* track to maintain their XC lead. Photo by Shannon Brinkman

Clark Montgomery and Loughan Glen on their way to the 2015 Blenheim CCI3* win. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

1. Clark Montgomery and Loughan Glen

  • Qualifiers: 2015 Luhmuhlen CCI4*, 2015 Blenheim CCI3*
  • Average completion score: 37.57
  • Number of FEI 3*/4*runs in past calendar year:: 4

This pair was two for two in three-star classes last year, dominating huge fields loaded with talent at Belton and Blenheim. A sixth place finish at a Luhmühlen CCI4* with the lowest dressage average on record  is impressive as well. Loughan Glen will be difficult to ignore if he replicates his 2015 record during his spring campaign.

2. Tamie Smith and Mai Baum

  • Qualifiers: 2015 Fair Hill CCI3*
  • Average completion score: 47.28
  • Number of FEI 3*/4* runs in past calendar year: 5

While Loughan Glen flexed his muscles in Europe, Mai Baum was emerging as a rising star here in the States. Winning four of his five three-star starts and dominating a couple of strong East Coast fields proved he was no lightweight. Despite being untested at the four-star level, a stellar spring season will make this pair strong contenders come June.

3. Lauren Kieffer and Meadowbrook’s Scarlett

  • Qualifiers: 2015 Jersey Fresh CCI3*, 2015 Galway Downs CCI3*
  • Average Completion Score: 50.33
  • Number of FEI 3*/4* Runs in past calendar year: 3

Though she represented the U.S. at the Pan American Games last summer, Meadowbrook’s Scarlett is still only lightly tested at the three-star level, with just three starts last year. But two of those three starts were CCI completions where she placed in the top two. If this precocious mare puts in a strong showing moving forward, her consistency could land her on a second team this summer.

4. Phillip Dutton and Fernhill Cubalawn

  • Qualifiers: 2015 Rolex CCI4*, 2015 Fair Hill CCI3*
  • Average completion score: 51.59
  • Number of FEI 3*/4* runs in past calendar year: 5

Fernhill Cubalawn spent most of 2015 proving his strength across the board, putting in solid phases both here at home at his first four-star and overseas at Aachen. Despite top five finishes at Rolex, Plantation Field and Fair Hill, this horse has yet to have a signature win. Still, being the top ranked ride of team stalwart Phillip Dutton means this horse will get serious consideration if he just maintains his consistency.

Phillip Dutton and Fernhill Fugitive. Photo courtesy of Kasey Mueller.

Phillip Dutton and Fernhill Fugitive at the 2016 Wellington Eventing Showcase. Photo by Kasey Mueller/Rare Air Eventing Photography.

5. Phillip Dutton and Fernhill Fugitive

  • Qualifiers: 2015 Rolex CCI4*, 2015 Galway Downs CCI3*
  • Average completion score: 52.04
  • Number of FEI 3*/4* runs in past calendar year: 5

Though overshadowed by his stablemate in 2015, Fernhill Fugitive has been steadily improving across the board. After representing the U.S. at the Pan American Games in Toronto, Fernhill Fugitive emphasized how strong a contender he could be by winning the Galway Downs CCI3*. This horse may need to step up his game on the flat to sneak a spot from his frontrunner stablemate, but he is breathing right down Fernhill Cubalawn’s neck.

6. Boyd Martin and Master Frisky

  • Qualifiers: 2015 Rolex CCI4*
  • Average completion score: 52.50
  • Number of FEI 3*/4* runs in past calendar year: 3

Master Frisky stepped up in a big way in the fall of 2014 with a second place finish at his first CCI3*, then kept up the momentum through the spring with a top ten finish at his first CCI4*. After taking the fall competition season off, Master Frisky is in danger of being overshadowed by his red stablemate Blackfoot Mystery and will need to put in a strong spring to end up as top choice for a rider with a plethora of options.

7. Phillip Dutton and Mighty Nice

  • Qualifiers: 2015 Fair Hill CCI3*
  • Average completion score: 52.90
  • Number of FEI 3*/4* runs in past calendar year: 4

Mighty Nice is the most experienced of Phillip’s string, but can struggle with consistency in the show jumping phase. After a relatively quiet spring and a withdrawal after cross country at Rolex due to a stifle injury, Mighty Nice stepped up in the fall to become the Reserve National CCI3* Champion at the Dutta Corp Fair Hill CCI3*. This horse will need to maintain a consistent schedule and avoid rails this spring to dethrone his two stablemates for a shot at the team.

Will Coleman and Obos O'Reilly. Photo by Kasey Mueller/Rare Air Photography.

Will Coleman and OBOS O’Reilly at 2015 Richland Park CIC3*. Photo by Kasey Mueller/Rare Air Eventing Photography.

8. Will Coleman and OBOS O’Reilly

  • Qualifiers: 2015 Rolex CCI4*, 2015 Blenheim CCI3*
  • Average completion score: 53.87
  • Number of FEI 3*/4* runs in past calendar year: 3

OBOS O’Reilly had an extremely strong cross country record last year, with no penalties in any of his FEI events, paired with significantly improved dressage scores. His show jumping, with a rail in two of his three rounds in 2015, may currently be the weakest link but his consistency in cross country with a strong performance in the other two phases builds a case for Rio.

9. Buck Davidson and Ballynoe Castle RM

  • Qualifiers: 2015 Jersey Fresh CCI3*
  • Average completion score: 54.29
  • Number of FEI 3*/4* runs in past calendar year: 7

Despite being Buck’s top horse in these rankings, Ballynoe Castle RM’s struggles at the World Equestrian Games and at Rolex last year may make him more of a long shot for the team than the numbers show. After Rolex, “Reggie” bounced back and picked up wins at the Jersey Fresh CCI3* and Richland Park CIC3*, but still struggled to be consistent in cross country. But his experience cannot be discounted, and if he completes a flawless spring with a top CCI performance, it will be difficult to overlook him.

10. Lauren Kieffer and Veronica

  • Qualifiers: 2015 Bramham CCI3*, 2015 Blenheim CCI3*
  • Average completion score: 54.77
  • Number of FEI 3*/4* runs in past calendar year: 4

At the beginning of 2015, no one thought it odd that Lauren might be representing Team USA on a dark bay mare. No one realized that mare might not be Veronica, a mare who had an average of sub-45 on the flat and no rails last year. Veronica is better on the flat and in the show jumping ring than her stablemate, and when paired with more experience, the nod could still go to her as Lauren’s top Olympic prospect. Making the time across the country is the biggest question mark for this horse.

Boyd Martin and Blackfoot Mystery. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Boyd Martin and Blackfoot Mystery at the 2016 Wellington Eventing Showcase. Photo by Jenni Autry.

11. Boyd Martin and Blackfoot Mystery

  • Qualifiers: 2015 Fair Hill CCI3*
  • Average completion score: 55.85
  • Number of FEI 3*/4* runs in past calendar year: 2

Boyd didn’t have long to get to know this horse last fall before getting him qualified for the Olympics at Fair Hill, and the partnership will likely only get better. With two rails in both FEI show jumping rounds from 2015, Boyd will be out to improve this horse’s record in the final phase. A double clear over a tough course in Wellington shows that this process has already begun. A spring with a consistently strong show jumping record will go a long way to convincing the selectors to give this horse the nod.

12. Emily Beshear and Shame on the Moon

  • Qualifiers: 2015 Bromont CCI3*, 2015 Blenheim CCI3*
  • Average completion score: 57.86
  • Number of FEI 3*/4* runs in past calendar year: 5

Emily and Shame on the Moon sat quietly under the radar for most of last year, knocking off several top 10 finishes, including a second place at Bromont CCI3* and a third at Richland Park CIC3*. “Delta” is another whose weakest phase is in the show jumping, but with double clear rounds at her last two events of the year, one of which was Blenheim, she may have turned a corner. Her ability to jump clear rounds and stay close to the time across the country will be important this spring in her quest to make a team.

13. Marilyn Little and RF Demeter

  • Qualifiers: 2015 Bromont CCI3*
  • Average completion score: 58.16
  • Number of FEI 3*/4* runs in past calendar year: 8

RF Demeter is one of the most experienced horses on the scene and up until last year was almost a lock to do well at any given event. Despite still dominating at the CIC3* level as well as picking up a win at the Bromont CCI3*, RF Demeter struggled at key moments during Rolex and Galway Downs. To make the team this summer, RF Demeter will need to prove she is back to her consistent self.

Matt Brown and Supersocks BCF. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Matt Brown and Super Socks BCF at 2015 Boekelo CCIO3*. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

14. Matt Brown and Super Socks BCF

  • Qualifiers: 2015 Bromont CCI3*, 2015 Boekelo CCIO3*
  • Average completion score: 58.65
  • Number of FEI 3*/4* runs in past calendar year: 6

Matt Brown made the decision last summer to move to the East Coast to better pursue his Team USA goals, and after bringing home a top placing at Boekelo with Super Socks BCF, his gamble has a chance to pay off. This horse will need to prove he can consistently deliver clear show jumping rounds this spring to climb the ranks.

15. Boyd Martin and Pancho Villa

  • Qualifiers: 2015 Jersey Fresh CCI3*
  • Average completion score: 59.13
  • Number of FEI 3*/4* runs in past calendar year: 3

Pancho Villa showed he was a real contender by making the Pan American Games team last summer, but his opportunities to make the Olympics team are a bit more slim due to Boyd’s talented string. After sitting out the fall season, Pancho’s name has yet to appear on any entry lists, and he’ll need to get out soon to make a case for himself with so many stablemates gunning for Rio.

16. Jon Holling and Downtown Harrison

  • Qualifiers: 2015 Boekelo CCIO3*
  • Average completion score: 60.15
  • Number of FEI 3*/4* runs in past calendar year: 2

Downtown Harrison has returned to top form at just the right time, and in no time at all reminded us why he was previously selected for a Pan Ams team back in 2011 with Jon Holling. Last fall’s scores seemed as if this horse was just warming up after a long hiatus, and an impressive showing at a CCI this spring could jump this pair up into contention.

Jennie Brannigan and Catalina. Photo by Rare Air Eventing Photography.

Jennie Brannigan and Catalina at the 2016 Wellington Eventing Showcase. Photo by Kasey Mueller/Rare Air Eventing Photography.

17. Jennie Brannigan and Catalina

  • Qualifiers: 2015 Fair Hill CCI3*
  • Average completion score: 60.90
  • Number of FEI 3*/4* runs in past calendar year: 2

Catalina popped onto the scene with a bang last fall, stepping up to the level at Plantation Field CIC3* and making her sophomore debut at Fair Hill CCI3*. She is still fairly green compared to some of her competitors, but good showings throughout the spring and a solid CCI result could rocket her up the ranks.

18. Buck Davidson and Copper Beach

  • Qualifiers: 2015 Tattersalls CCI3*, 2015 Boekelo CCIO3*
  • Average completion score: 62.44
  • Number of FEI 3*/4* runs in past calendar year: 7

Buck has taken his time with this horse, running him in four CCI3* events before thinking about a four-star. Buck’s patience could pay off this spring if they aim for Rolex, as Copper Beach’s experience at the three-star level will make him one of the most prepared horses stepping up to a CCI4* for the first time.

19. Lauren Kieffer and Landmark’s Monte Carlo

  • Qualifiers: 2015 Boekelo CCIO3*
  • Average completion score: 63.73
  • Number of FEI 3*/4* runs in past calendar year: 4

Lauren stepped her string up in 2015 in a big way, and among her rising stars is Landmark’s Monte Carlo, bred by the indomitable Jacqueline Mars. Despite two CCI3* completions, including one at Boekelo, this horse is still developing in all three phases. With two superstar mares ahead of him to be Lauren’s top Rio prospect, Monte Carlo will have to make a big statement this spring to have a shot at the Olympics.

20. Marilyn Little and RF Quarterman

  • Qualifiers: 2015 Bromont CCI3*, 2015 Boekelo CCIO3*
  • Average completion score: 63.82
  • Number of FEI 3*/4* runs in past calendar year: 5

Our final position in the top 20 is also one of the youngest horses qualified for the Olympics. RF Quarterman showed that the cross country is no issue by completing that phase with no jump penalties at all of his events last year. He is still developing in the other two phases though, with flashes of brilliance showing what he might become in a few years. It’s unlikely he will de-rail RF Demeter as top horse in the barn in time for the Olympics.

Colleen Rutledge and Covert Rights. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Colleen Rutledge and Covert Rights at the 2016 Wellington Eventing Showcase. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Rio Watch List
Top combinations currently ranked outside the top 20

  • Liz Halliday-Sharp and HHS Cooley
  • Colleen Rutledge and Covert Rights
  • Kim Severson and Cooley Cross Border
  • Lynn Symansky and Donner
  • Elisa Wallace and Simply Priceless

Top Contenders Not Yet Qualified

  • Hannah Sue Burnett and Harbour Pilot
  • Phillip Dutton and Indian Mill
  • Sinead Halpin and Manoir de Carneville
  • Boyd Martin and Shamwari 4
  • Julie Richards and Sandhills Brillaire
  • Kim Severson and Fernhill Fearless
  • Allison Springer and Arthur

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