Boyd Martin started this beautiful south Florida day in third place aboard a horse with a less-than-perfect show jumping record, but he showed once again that he can rise to the occasion when the pressure is on, especially at the Wellington Eventing Showcase.
He piloted the Blackfoot Mystery Syndicate’s Blackfoot Mystery to their first clear show jumping round together as a combination this morning, and then stormed around Capt. Mark Phillips’ cross country course clear and inside the time this afternoon to take the win for a second year in a row.
“This year was a much more competitive field. It was a higher standard; the course was a little tougher. It was harder to win this year than last year, but by saying that I knew this horse, Blackfoot Mystery, had a good chance. We just purchased him thanks to a group of supporters, and this is the first time a few of the supporters have come to see him,” Boyd said.
“There aren’t many better ways to impress owners than to bring them to Wellington in this beautiful marquee and have the horse win. I was very pleased on all levels. When these people buy the horses, they have to believe what you tell them, and at the moment it looks very promising, and I think this horse has a great future.”
With scores so tightly bunched and Richard Jeffery’s show jumping course bound to be highly influential, it’s all the more impressive that the first- and second-place finishers have both recently found their sea legs in that phase. Colleen Rutledge and Covert Rights achieved a huge milestone when they show jumped clear at Burghley last fall, and they proved it wasn’t a fluke today when they left all the poles in the cups.
That clear show jumping effort boosted Colleen and “CR,” her 10-year-old Thoroughbred/Clydesdale homebred, to second place going into cross country, and the gelding gave her a foot-perfect ride across Capt. Mark Phillips’ course this afternoon to clinch second place and a $16,500 check.
“The cross country course was fabulous today. I’m so thrilled with how CR went out and ran. The amount that he has grown up since Rolex last year is just leaps and bounds. He’s a completely different horse,” Colleen said. “For me this was my horse’s first run of the year, so this was a fantastic start. I was completely thrilled with everything; I had a great time and a great run.”
Dan Jocelyn came over to compete from England thanks to Joe and Ruthie Meyer encouraging him to make the trip, and Jessica Bortner-Harris and Sable Giesler both stepped up to offer their horses as catch rides at the event. His double clear show jumping round aboard Devil Munchkin this morning moved Dan from 13th to third place on the leaderboard, and he added nothing to that score on the cross country to finish in third place.
“I was very happy to ride the horses. (Sable and Jessica) have done a good job in the groundwork because the horses felt fantastic out there,” Dan said. “It’s just a fantastic facility here. I’ve enjoyed the three days I’ve been here and seeing my buddies and going down the road to watch Sharn (Wordley) jump in the Grand Prix. It’s just an unbelievable experience and something I’ll certainly be taking home and telling everybody about.”
We had to get well into the order of go before any horses and riders managed to crack the time on this quickie cross country course, but 11 combinations in all ultimately managed to make the optimum time of 3 minutes, 57 seconds.
Phillip Dutton was the only rider to finish both of his horses in the top 10, with Tom Tierney and Annie Jones’ Fernhill Fugitive and Fernhill Cubalawn, owned by Tom Tierney, Simon Roosevelt and Caroline Moran, both jumping clear and inside the time on cross country to place fourth and eighth, respectively.
Crowd favorites Buck Davidson and Ballynoe Castle RM drew huge cheers from the spectators as they galloped around double clear to round out the top five on a score of 34.1. Jennie Brannigan was absolutely over the moon to finish in sixth place on 34.3 with her new ride Catalina, owned by Candace Kircher and Tim and Nina Gardner.
Looking to the rest of top 10, Marilyn Little and Team Demeter’s RF Demeter had a cracking round, also going clear and inside the time on cross country to finish seventh on 34.9. Allison Springer and the Arthur Syndicate’s Arthur, who led after dressage, jumped clear with 3.2 time penalties to finish ninth on 36.6.
EN’s Ride of the Day goes to Tim Price, who piloted Angela Gryzwinski’s Novelle to a beautiful double clear to finish in 10th place on their dressage score of 38.2, moving up from 28th place after the first phase. Tim commented after cross country that this scrappy Thoroughbred mare reminds him of Michael Jung’s superstar partner fischerRocana FST — “Not that I’ve ever ridden her!”
Joe Meyer shook off a drive by with South Paw at fence 20, a skinny arrowhead brush coming off a mound, to bring home a super round aboard Clip Clop, adding no cross country penalties to finish in 14th on 41.5. Jennie Brannigan joins Big Phil as the only rider to go clear and inside the time on cross country aboard both mounts; she also finished 15th on Cory Walkey’s Aspire R.
The arrowhead at fence 20 also caught out Colleen Rutledge and Escot 6, and Tim Price and Classico Z were the only pair to be eliminated after the horse picked up refusals at the big ditch wall at fence 12. Hannah Sue Burnett was having a lovely trip with Cooley Dream until he slammed on the brakes at fence 15, sending her out the side door. Thankfully she was up right away, and both horse and rider are OK.
As always, it’s been an unbelievable weekend here in Wellington for what has become one of the most highly anticipated competitions of the U.S. eventing season. All of the event’s sponsors deserve a huge shout: Asheville Regional Airport, Wellington Equestrian Realty, Rolex, Land Rover, Ariat, Adequan and Equestrian Sport Productions.
Mark Bellissimo confirmed in this afternoon’s press conference that the prize money for this event will go up to $100,000 next year, which is indicative of the fact that this event is only going to keep getting better and better.
It’s also wonderful that the event is paying tribute to the grooms who play such a critical role in making it possible for these horses and riders to compete. Caroline Moran sponsored a $10,000 prize for the grooms of the three top horses, and Sergio Reyes, Alex Ambelang and Sable Giesler all got to join in the fun at the prize giving this afternoon.
Another wonderful part of this event is the $10,000 that is donated to the charity of the winning owner’s choice. I think I can speak for all of us when I say it has been nothing short of inspirational to see Boyd Martin’s longtime owner and supporter Anne Laver here in Wellington this weekend. She has battled Guillain-Barre Syndrome for the past year, and it was a unanimous decision from the syndicate owners to donate the funds to aid the ongoing search for a cure.
We still have much more to bring you from the Wellington #EventingShowcase, but for now we have to get Chinch over to tonight’s highly anticipated Great Charity Challenge! Thank you so much to all of you for following along with our coverage this weekend. Go Eventing.