Allison Springer and Arthur made a triumphant return to competition this morning at the $75,000 Asheville Regional Airport Wellington Eventing Showcase presented by Wellington Equestrian Realty, scoring 29.1 — the only test that cracked the 20s all day — to lead after dressage here at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center.
This is Arthur’s first competition since Carolina International last year, but the 17-year-old Irish Sport Horse cross gelding owned by the Arthur Syndicate looks like he hasn’t missed a beat, tamping down his urge to throw in one of his customary spooks to deliver an all-business performance worthy of the top of the leaderboard.
Allison confirmed in this afternoon’s press conference that she is aiming for an incredible seventh trip to the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day event with her longtime upper-level partner. If all goes well for show jumping and cross country tomorrow, Allison said Arthur will likely run once more this spring at The Fork before returning to the Bluegrass State.
“He feels great. He’s so happy to be out and doing stuff again this year. He got hurt before Kentucky (last year) and he’s really strong and well,” Allison said. “This as the perfect thing to get him in the atmosphere and have the noise. I’m just really grateful that Jim (Wolf) and Mark (Bellissimo) and Michael (Stone) have put this together; we all can’t thank you enough.”
Buck Davidson and Ballynoe Castle RM are holding second place after dressage, just 1 point behind Allison and Arthur on a score of 30.1, and he echoed the same sentiment we’re all feeling during this second annual showcase: “It’s a great experience for all of us to come to a new venue and have some new fans and bring some different kind of excitement here to Wellington.”
“Reggie,” a 16-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding owned by Carl and Cassie Segal, was coughing a bit in warm-up, Buck said, but he went through his test without any problems. “He’s such a professional,” Buck said. “I’m a little disappointed in myself that I missed one change, but he was perfect as usual, and it’s on to the next day.”
Boyd Martin’s partnership with the Blackfoot Mystery Syndicate’s Blackfoot Mystery only continues to improve since he acquired the ride from Kelly Prather last summer. A score of 30.6 puts Boyd and “Big Red,” a 12-year-old off-track Thoroughbred gelding, in third place, a position Boyd said he’s happy to be in considering the quality of the field this year.
“We had a great event here last year, and this year feels much bigger and better. The field is a higher quality field with a lot more of the top horses here,” Boyd said. “Blackfoot Mystery came in and did a good test — a couple little mistakes, but I think he’s all class, and I’m looking forward to building a partnership and aiming for Rolex.”
Scores are very tightly bunched as we look ahead to tomorrow morning’s show jumping, with just one rail separating the top 14 horses and riders. “I was hoping for a much bigger lead in the dressage,” Allison joked in the afternoon press conference, which is likely how a lot of the riders are feeling at the conclusion of the first phase.
Marilyn Little and Team Demeter’s RF Demeter put in a lovely, consistent performance to score 30.9, which puts Marilyn and the 14-year-old Oldenburg mare in fourth place, just .3 penalty points behind Boyd and Blackfoot Mystery.
Then there’s a three-way tie for fifth place, with Colleen Rutledge and Covert Rights, Sinead Halpin and Manoir de Carneville, and Lynn Symansky and Donner all scoring 31.0, all with lovely tests across the board. Manoir de Carneville, who competed at Rocking Horse last weekend for the first time since Carolina last spring, looks to be in particularly good form.
Sinead and Tate’s test likely would have challenged Allison and Arthur for the lead had the 16-year-old Selle Francais gelding owned by the Manoir de Carneville Syndicate not shown his sassy French Princess personality coming down center line, spooking and carrying on a bit and just generally announcing to the spectators, “I’m back!”
In other notable tests, Doug Payne and Debi Crowley’s Vandiver scored 31.1 for eighth place, delivering an accurate performance that had FEI dressage judge and proud mom Marilyn Payne fist pumping on the side lines. Doug is aiming “Quinn,” a 12-year-old Trakehner gelding, for Rolex this year, and these two look to be well on their way to establishing a top-notch partnership.
Phillip Dutton has two horses in the top 15, with Fernhill Cubalawn in ninth and Fernhill Fugitive tied for 15th place. Liz Halliday-Sharp and HHS Cooley round out the top 10 on a score of 31.7. Just 2.6 penalty points separate the entire top 10, and Richard Jeffery’s show jumping is definitely going to shake things up tomorrow.
We also have to give a shout out to our Kiwi guest riders from across the pond, Tim Price and Dan Jocelyn, who are each piloting two catch rides this weekend. Tim had a super test this morning with Edy Rameika’s Classico Z and then gave a lovely, soft ride to Angela Gryzwinski’s Novelle this afternoon, showing the true definition of horsemanship.
Jessica Bortner-Harris’ Win the War tried his heart out for Dan Jocelyn in their test this morning, and Dan had a particularly nice performance this afternoon with Sable Giesler’s Devil Munchkin. It’s wonderful that the eventing community banded together to find catch rides for these top New Zealand riders.
If you haven’t checked out EN’s full preview of Capt. Mark Phillips’ cross country course, click here for photos of each fence. The penultimate fence — a down bank out of the VIP tent, which you can see in the photo above — has all the riders chattering. It’s not every day that you see horses and riders galloping through the tent and right by the spectators!
That course design element is just one more example of how the Wellington Eventing Showcase has pulled out all the stops for this year’s event. Show jumping will stream live tomorrow at this link starting at 10:30 a.m. EST, followed by the live stream of cross country at this link starting at 1:30 p.m. EST. Keep scrolling to see more photos and full results. Go Eventing.