It was a good day for off-track Thoroughbreds at The Fork, with two former racehorses ultimately taking the wins in both Advanced divisions. Boyd Martin and Blackfoot Mystery won the Advanced A division, with Katie Ruppel and Houdini emerging as the winners of the B division after being tied overnight for the lead following show jumping.
Boyd and “Big Red,” an 11-year-old Thoroughbred gelding owned by the Blackfoot Mystery Syndicate, were the first Advanced pair out of the start box this afternoon, turning in a clear round with 6.8 time penalties to win the A division on a final score of 32.4. Blackfoot Mystery is heading for his first CCI4* at Rolex, and Boyd said the horse is feeling more than ready for the challenge.
“He felt fantastic. I feel like I‘ve got all the horses primed up for a great Rolex and Badminton,” Boyd said. “It was a tricky event this weekend because the ground was so disappointing due to a lack of rain. I’ve been pacing the horses all season with the idea of having a good blast this weekend, and I went somewhere in between.”
Boyd and Blackfoot Mystery started the weekend in second place on a dressage score of 25.6 and then jumped a clear round yesterday over Chris Barnard’s course in show jumping, which has historically been a challenging phase for them but is definitely trending in the right direction.
“It’s been getting better and better,” Boyd said. “I think I messed up a bit at Carolina. … This weekend he jumped really well. He can get a bit wild in the ring, especially in the second half of the course, and I lose some of the rideability. We’ve been doing gymnastic work with Richard Picken and getting him to use himself through his body and make him a bit quicker off the ground. It’s coming along just in time.”
Liz Halliday-Sharp and Fernhill By Night, who seemed to have the win in the bag with a healthy lead heading into cross country, were three fences from home when “Blackie” got hung up on the rifle jump at fence 22a. She took a hard spill and was transported to Stanly Regional Medical Center for tests. She has since been released and is just fine aside from being very sore. Blackie received some stitches in his right front leg and is resting comfortably.
Boyd Martin and Master Frisky also took second place in the A division on 33.1 with a clear round and 5.6 time penalties. The 12-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding owned by Steve Blauner will be going to Badminton thanks to a USEF Land Rover Competition Grant. Ryan Wood and Frankie, a 12-year-old Thoroughbred gelding owned by Steve and Karri Guy, finished third on 35.5 with a clear round and 3.6 time penalties.
Allie Sacksen and spunky little Sparrow’s Nio were the only pair in both Advanced divisions to make the optimum time of 6 minutes and 39 seconds. “Neo,” a 13-year-old Connemara/Thoroughbred gelding Allie owns, was loving every second of their trip and eating up the ground the whole way around the course. They win EN’s Ride of the Day!
Looking to the Advanced B division, Katie Ruppel said yesterday that she was going to go as fast as Houdini wanted around Tremaine Cooper’s cross country course today, and they crossed the finish flags with a clear round and 8.4 time penalties to win on 38.1. Affectionately known as “Screwdini” because of his quirks, the 12-year-old Thoroughbred gelding Katie owns didn’t put a foot wrong today.
“I was leaving it up to him because the ground was a little bit hard. We’re so close to Kentucky, but I thought if he was jumping well and felt rideable, it’s good fitness for him to run on the hills,” Katie said. “I thought I would go for it a bit. He was adjustable and looking for the jumps and good in the combinations. He feels better than ever.”
As for her final strategy before Rolex, Katie said she will keep up their work in dressage and show jumping but will also let him school lower-level cross country fences. “We’ll set up some Preliminary combinations and get him feeling confident,” she said. “Sometimes if I jump him too big too often, he’ll start to doubt himself. I’ll let him do some easy cross country and have him feeling like Superman heading out of the start box at Kentucky.”
Caroline Martin and Effervescent jumped the fastest round in the B division in the horse’s Advanced debut, coming home clear with 6 time penalties to move up from seventh place after show jumping to finish in second on 40.3. Buck Davidson and The Apprentice were the final Advanced pair of the day to go, jumping clear with 8 time penalties to finish third on 41.6. Click here for a play-by-play of what went down on Advanced cross country.
Doug Payne and Lysander took the second CIC2* win of the horse’s career, leading wire-to-wire and sealing the deal with a clear cross country round inside the time to finish first on 37.0. The 9-year-old Holsteiner/Thoroughbred gelding Doug owns with Kristin Michaloski is very experienced now, but Doug has been waiting to move “Big Leo” up to Advanced until he’s positive the horse is totally ready.
“He has a great gallop, so I’ve been able to rely on that and take a fair bit of time to set up for combinations. I’ve been trying these last few runs to give him a little bit less time to reset and get back into a well balanced canter. He’s getting better with less and less input. I think long-term down the line it will help tremendously,” Doug said.
“This whole weekend was better. The show jumping was the best he’s been as far as confident and jumping well and comfortable. I want that to be a consistent thing before we move up. I want him to be completely bored with it first. We’re close, but we’re not quite there.”
Prairie Stipemaas, head groom and barn manager for Doug Payne Equestrian, might have been the proudest person at The Fork today, as this was the first big win for Big Leo since she joined their team. We have to send a huge shout out to all the hardworking grooms who make it possible for the riders to compete and the horses to do what they love!
Boyd Martin and the Shamwari 4 Syndicate’s Shamwari 4 finished second in the CIC2* on 48.1 with a double clear round in their final preparation for Rolex. Jennie Brannigan and Nina Gardner’s I Bella finished third on 48.9 with a clear round inside the time. Click here to view the final scores from #TheFork.