Selena O’Hanlon has been chasing a dressage score in the 30s all season with John and Judy Rumble’s Foxwood High, progressively lowering her marks at three-star level in their three FEI appearances leading up to the Dutta Corp Fair Hill International. Today she nailed it, scoring 39.4 to deliver a career personal best with “Woody” and lead the CCI3* at the conclusion of dressage.
“Foxwood High felt a little bit fitter in the ring today, which is great because he put it to good use. Being that much older he’s started to become more rideable in the ring,” Selena said. “The horse has been leading up to this, and I’m super excited to break into the 30s.”
Selena has been training diligently at home with Canadian dressage Olympian Christilot Boylen. David O’Connor, who has been teaching a series of clinics for the Canadian eventing team, warmed her up today for her test.
“At this stage there are no good ideas before you go into the ring, but sometimes it is good to have someone on the ground to say the elevation is enough and the suspension is enough, because I think that separates the top five from the top 10, which is what I’ve been trying to go for. It’s been trying to sustain the elevation and the suspension throughout the lateral work.”
Looking ahead to tomorrow’s cross country, speed always matters at Fair Hill, and Selena and “Woody,” a 14-year-old Canadian Sport Horse (Rio Bronco W X Evita II), have made the optimum time in their last two international runs at Plantation Field CIC3* and Great Meadow CICO3*.
Colleen Rutledge and Covert Rights will be breathing down their necks, sitting in second place after dressage on 39.8. “CR,” her Maryland homebred 11-year-old Clydesdale/Thoroughbred (BFF Incognito X Let’s Get It Right, by Covert Operation), have now scored in the 30s in three of their last four tests at three-star level.
“He’s my homebred and I love him to pieces, and he can go out there and perform,” Colleen said. “It’s polishing the little details. It’s getting his walk to be slightly more relaxed. He tries so incredibly hard; he almost tries too incredibly hard to do what I want. That’s what makes him so amazing.”
Colleen and CR have won two CIC3* events in as many months, finishing first at Richland Park and Morven Park, but Fair Hill is a different beast. “It is never a dressage show. It’s a true Derek (di Grazia) course. He uses the terrain in every fence. It’s an open, bold course. I’m looking forward to it.”
We saw two tests in the 30s in the CCI3*, which gives us five total tests in the CCI3* over the last decade at Fair Hill, according to EquiRatings. In a major nod to girl power, those tests in the 30s have all been delivered by women: Tamie Smith (38.5 in 2014), Jessica Phoenix (39.2 in 2014), Selena O’Hanlon (39.4 in 2017), Karen O’Connor (39.6 in 2009) and Colleen Rutledge (39.8 in 2017).
The men couldn’t quite catch the women today, with Ryan Wood and Buck Davidson settling for equal third place on 40.3. That means we have North American-bred horses in the top three spots on the leaderboard, as Ryan’s mount Powell, an 11-year-old Oldenburg (Pablito X Dinara, by Donnerwerth), was bred in New Jersey by Ilona English of Summit Sporthorses.
Powell’s score of 40.3 is a career personal best for this pair. “He’s really rideable in the ring, and he’s flashy,” Ryan said. “We were able to go through mistake-free. It’s exciting to be riding an American-bred horse and to have him at this level.”
Ryan described Derek’s course as “relentless,” adding that he “has questions going all the way to the end. You need a fit horse and to stay sharp.” Click here for a fence-by-fence preview and drone flyover video of the CCI3* course.
Buck Davidson and Carlevo have completed CCI3* events at Tattersalls in Ireland and Boekelo in the Netherlands, but they’ve never completed one on U.S. soil. Sitting tied for third place on 40.3, Buck is looking to check the Fair Hill box this weekend with the 10-year-old Holsteiner (Caresino X Ramatuelle, by Levernois) owned by Carlevo LLC.
“He’s sort of always hovering right around 40 (in his dressage scores). He’s very consistent and a beautiful mover. He’s getting stronger and more mature as we go. I was very proud of him,” Buck said. “In the first halt, I probably stood there too long and he took a step back. That was my fault. If that’s the worst thing that happens all weekend, I’m happy.”
Buck thinks the optimum time of 10 minutes on the CCI3* course will be tough to catch. “I think the time is going to be much more difficult than it was last year. That first water is always more difficult than it looks,” he said. “That last water is always a heartbreaker; so many people’s dreams are dashed there. You don’t have a lot of horse at that point.”
Looking to the rest of the CCI3* leaderboard, Heather Morris and Charlie Tango round out the top five on 41.9. Clayton Fredericks and FE Ophelia sit sixth on 42.0, followed by Jessica Phoenix and Pavarotti in seventh on 42.6, Tamie Smith and Wembley in eighth on 44.2, Mara DePuy and Congo Brazzaville C in ninth on 44.4, and Kurt Martin and DeLux Z in 10th on 44.7.
The CCI3* winner at Fair Hill has come from inside the top five after dressage in nine of the last 10 runnings of the event, according to EquiRatings. The dressage leader has gone on to win in both 2015 and 2016. Will the trend hold true for a third consecutive year in 2017?
Click here to view full scores in the CCI3* after dressage. CCI2* cross country runs first starting at 9:30 a.m. EST, followed by CCI3* cross country at 1:15 p.m. EST. Click here for cross country ride times. There is no live stream for cross country tomorrow, but never fear — EN will be running live updates!
Many thanks to David Frechette, AKA Thehorsepesterer, for filming videos at Fair Hill. Click here to view all of his videos from the event so far. Go Eventing!