Carolina International hits the five year mark in 2018, having cemented itself as one of the can’t-miss spring preparation events. Like Red Hills, Carolina offers the option to choose between entering the CIC3* to run show jumping first, or to practice jumping a less-than-fresh horse by entering the Advanced division.
Ian Stark is now in his third year of designing the cross country, and he’s certainly left a mark. Since he took over, only 2.56% of cross country starters have made the time over the 3* and Advanced courses.
Marc Donovan has been the show jumping course designer here at the Carolina Horse Park since it ran as Southern Pines II, and his course over grass for the 3* is one that can catch out even some of the best jumpers.
Finally, remember that the FEI dressage scoring has dropped the 1.5 coefficient and is now equivalent to dressage scores at USEF horse trials.
- In the four runnings of the CIC3*, the winner has always come from inside the top 10 after dressage: first twice and eighth twice.
- Of the four pairs to win the CIC3*, three have finished on their dressage score. Only one pair, Allison Springer and Arthur, have added any penalties to their dressage score while still winning. They added 3.2 cross country time penalties in 2016.
- Only one combination, Doesn’t Play Fair with Maya Black riding, has ever had a show jumping rail and still finished inside the top four at this venue.
- A whopping 10 horses have dressage averages in the 20s at this level, making it likely that scores will be tightly packed after phase one. That’s more than 16% of the field.
- To no one’s surprise, Liz Halliday-Sharp and Fernhill By Night lead the pack, clocking in at a superb 26.5 average over the last 12 months. The last time they scored under 70% on a 3*/A test was back in May 2015. Lix is no slouch with her other 3* mount either. In four starts, Deniro Z has never scored above the 20s.
- Cooley Cross Border and Kim Severson will be putting in a strong challenge as well. In the last 12 months, this pair has scored very consistently between 70 and 74%, saving their best two performances for their CCIs at Tattersalls and Blenheim, where they came close to cracking 75%.
- After taking a few months off, Covert Rights turned heads when he and Colleen Rutledge laid down a superb 33.3 (under former FEI scoring) in the horse’s return to competition at the Richland Park CIC3*. That’s a 22.2 under the new scoring, easily good enough to rival Michael Jung. Although they haven’t quite returned to that dominating level, they have maintained an average in the 70-73% range.
- Buck Davidson has a strong pair in this division as well, with stablemates Copper Beach and Carlevo sitting neck and neck. Carlevo has become one of Buck’s most consistent rides and while he can sometimes score in the low 30s, he has never scored above a 33.0 at this level. While a touch less consistent, Copper Beach can also be more brilliant, with scores in the last 12 months getting close to 75%.
- In another field, Lauren Kieffer and Veronica would be a clear contender for the lead, but in a field this strong they’ll have to lay down close to their best over the last 12 months to take the lead. They scored as high as 34.1 at Chattahoochee Hills last April but has also flirted with sub-25 (USEF) scores at events like the Aachen CICO3* and even Badminton.
- Keep an eye out for a few other pairs who could be wild cards. Getaway, ridden by Doug Payne, laid down a 28.0 in his first Advanced at Pine Top a month ago, while Cornelia Dorr and Sir Patico MH scored a 29.4 in the horse’s first Advanced at Rocking Horse. RF Eloquence and Ellie MacPhail-O’Neal can lay down a stellar test, and Cornelia’s other ride Louis M is famed for his record-breaking 3* scores with previous rider Pia Münker.
Show Jumping Powerhouses
- Despite having just broken a streak of consecutive clears, DeLux Z and Kurt Martin are one of the strongest jumpers in the field. Up until an unlucky rail at Pine Top, they owned the longest active clear streak of any North American pair, jumping 11 consecutive clears starting in 2016 including two CCI4* and two CCI3*.
- Mara DePuy and Congo Brazzaville C are now a perfect 9 for 9 at the Advanced and 3* levels; although they’ve had the occasional time penalty, this pair has yet to have a rail. A 100% clear rate is tough to maintain … Can this pair keep the streak alive and surpass Kurt and DeLux Z’s streak?
- Sara Kozumplik-Murphy and Rubens D’Ysieux have jumped five rounds together at the Advanced and 3* levels together, and they’ve clocked in clear in four of them. These two have never had a rail at this level when show jumping comes prior to cross country, and they have emphasized their jumping prowess by winning the Eventing Prix Invitational last year in March, as well as the Devon Eventing Showcase last May.
- Vandiver has really hit his stride in the show jumping since being paired up with Doug Payne, and they’ve been particularly strong when show jumping is held prior to cross country. When show jumping is first, they are 10 for 12 with clear rounds, having one rail on only two occasions.
- Erin Sylvester and Paddy the Caddy have been very quietly building a solid, prolific record since 2016, with the result that they are now sitting on one of the strongest show jumping records in the country. In 15 career Advanced/3* rounds, this pair has been clear in 13 of them, with only a single rail on two occasions … both at the Horse Park of New Jersey Advanced. Maybe skip that one this year, Erin?
- Caroline Martin has assembled quite a resume, and The Apprentice is also extremely experienced, but together they have only four 3* runs under their belt. Despite that, they’ve gone together like peanut butter and jelly, most notably winning their first go at the 3* level last year at this very event. In three CIC3* runs, they’ve finished -1, +0, and +4 against optimum time.
- Vandiver and Doug Payne are no slouches across the country, proof that careful horses aren’t always slow horses. They’ve made the optimum time in 50% of their A/CIC3* runs over the last calendar year, and within 12 seconds of optimum at 83% of them.
- Luckaun Quality and Tim Bourke are another strong 4* pair with a reputation for beating the clock. Although they’ve taken their time at the Advanced/CIC3* level more recently, their “canter” around a 3* course still creates an average of only 4.2 seconds over optimum over their last five runs.
- Copper Beach has been busy through 2017, with seven Advanced/CIC3* runs and two CCI4* completions. Buck Davidson has carefully chosen whether or not to push him for time, but when he wants to make it, he makes it. This pair has won four of their seven Advanced/CIC3* completions in 2017/2018, with all but one of those wins being helped along with a cross country round inside the time.
- One to keep an eye on is Katherine Coleman and Horseware Lukeswell, who made the time last March in their only start together at Barroca d’Alva CIC3*. Despite the hiatus, Katherine is one of the fastest riders with her mount Longwood, and could sneak in a quick round under the radar.
Jack of All Trades
- With such a strong and deep field, it’s perhaps not surprising that one of our strongest U.S. pairs right now isn’t at the top of the field in any one phase. Lynn Symansky and Donner aren’t exactly going to be flying under the radar, but they’ll be stalking the leaders after day 1 with a 12-month 3*/Advanced dressage average just barely missing the 70% mark. A little more likely to have a rail than not, they nevertheless haven’t had more than one rail at a 3* since way back in 2013. And although these cross-country machines can get close to the time, they will certainly have their eyes on bigger things later in the year and may choose to shelve speed in favor of another day. Even if they choose to take their time, a top 10 finish should be easy for this pair.
- For that matter, keep your eye on Lynn’s new pairing with four-star mare Under Suspection, who finished top five at Kentucky in her first four-star last spring under Hannah Sue Burnett. Lynn catch-rode Under Suspection for the dressage phase at Great Meadow CICO3* last summer with mixed results, but her recent Intermediate results prove that they’ve formed more of a partnership already.
- For Cooley On Show and Sharon White, 2017 was a year in which they stood at the edge of big things. They dropped their dressage average a full two points, maintaining it consistently and flirting with 70% towards the end of the year. They proved they could get close to optimum at a four-star at Luhmühlen and then kept it close at a notoriously tight track at the American Eventing Championships at Tryon, the 2018 WEG venue. They also went from leaning towards one down in show jumping to jumping 100% clear in their Advanced/CIC3* starts.
PREDICTED WINNER: Kim Severson and Cooley Cross Border
Keep Your Eye On …
- Caroline Martin and The Apprentice
- Doug Payne and Vandiver
- Liz Halliday-Sharp and Deniro Z
- Buck Davidson and Copper Beach
- Lynn Symansky and Donner
- Sara Kozumplik-Murphy and Rubens D’Ysieux
- Colleen Rutledge and Covert Rights