Millbrook will host the only Advanced event in Area I this coming weekend, generally used as the kick-off to the fall season for many on the East Coast. Despite being on the same date as the Olympics this year, an extremely healthy contingent of nearly 50 horses will make the trip up north to compete.
The organizers are going all out in honor of Team USA and will be live streaming all the Olympic action at Millbrook on each day of the competition. They are also inviting everyone to stay over through Monday for a cross country watching party, which makes it the place to be this weekend.
Speed is the name of the game at this event, with the quickest horses usually rising to the top after cross country day. It’s extremely tough to make time at this venue, with no one accomplishing the task in 2014 and only two horses completing the feat last year. Those two horses were Doesn’t Play Fair and Covert Rights, who both went on to prove that they are world class contenders in the past year. Their runs here last year were an early sign that they could both dig deep on tough courses.
The Advanced will be running the 2014 USEF Advanced-B Test, generally considered the easier of the two tests. Tremaine Cooper has designed the cross country courses at Millbrook for many years, and Marc Donovan is returning for the second time to design the show jumping course.
1. Sinead Halpin and Manoir de Carneville: Despite a lengthy career together, Sinead has never competed Manoir de Carneville at Millbrook before, often being being overseas at this time of year prepping for team events. With a grant to the Millstreet CCI3* in Ireland later this month, “Tate” will finally get to see the green hills of Area I as a final prep before boarding a plane.
These two are well known for their skills on the flat and they particularly excel at this test, averaging a 26.9. Although they haven’t run at Millbrook yet, they do average double clear cross country rounds over Tremaine’s courses in the past four years. An average of one rail over Marc Donovan’s courses shouldn’t endanger their lead on Sunday. If these two are on form, they should win comfortably on a score just over 30.
2. Laine Ashker and Anthony Patch: This pair has a strong history of success at this venue, winning the Advanced in back-to-back years in 2013 and 2014 before hitting a rough patch last year. After a successful spring complete with a top 20 finish at Rolex, it’s safe to say that Lainey and “Al” are back to rocking and rolling.
Laine and Anthony Patch average a 30.0 on this test, just a hair better than their overall average. Anthony Patch is a typical speedy Thoroughbred and nips through Tremaine Cooper courses with a 4.4 time penalty average, swifter than his normal pace. Although this horse can be a careful jumper, he does typically average one rail over Marc Donovan’s designs. Even with one rail, he should still finish second on a score in the high 30s.
3. Kurt Martin and DeLux Z: Having obtained a grant to Blenheim this September, Kurt will be looking to give a good tune up to his newly minted four-star horse. DeLux Z has all the pieces and is getting closer and closer to putting them all together on a consistent basis.
This horse is solid but not yet spectacular on the flat, averaging a 35.0 on the B test. However, this pair favors Tremaine Cooper courses; their average of 3.6 time penalties is nearly six points better than their overall average. A very careful jumper, DeLux Z is unlikely to have a rail on Sunday, tending to jump double clear whether Marc Donovan is the course designer or not. Kurt will be breathing down Laine’s neck with a score only tenths behind hers to finish in third.
4. Sally Cousins and Tsunami III: Sally and her longtime partner are about as close to cross country machines as you can get. That turn of foot will come in handy this weekend, when a fast run can move you right up the leaderboard on a less than optimal dressage score.
Tsunami isn’t quite the dressage queen, but an average of 37.1 will keep her in the game. This pair is consistent, accumulating an average of 11 seconds over the optimum time whether or not Tremaine is the course designer. This mare actually favors Marc Donovan courses, jumping clear with one time penalty when she normally averages a rail. A final score just over 40 will put this pair neatly into fourth.
5. Holly Payne Caravella and Never OutFoxed: Holly has set a goal of taking this horse to Burghley next month (and you can help here!), so this may be their final run before a hop across the pond. Another speedster who will benefit from a tightly timed track, Never OutFoxed could have quite an impressive weekend.
Holly gives Never OutFoxed a good ride in the sandbox, squeezing out every point for an average of 38.4 on this particular test. These two will likely have one of the fastest rounds of the weekend, averaging only 2.8 penalties over Tremaine’s courses. This Thoroughbred averages only one rail over Marc Donovan’s courses, which well help him end up with a top five finish. Holly should end up in fifth with a score in the mid-40s.
6. Doug Payne and Vandiver: A little bit of sibling rivalry might be in play this weekend, as Doug will be hot on his sister’s heels with Vandiver. No longer a new partnership, Doug has now been riding this horse for more than a year, and their placings are creeping higher and higher.
Vandiver and Doug average a 30.7 on the B test, which should put them near the top at the end of the first phase. A more sedate pace over Tremaine Cooper courses, averaging 16.4 time penalties, will drop them down a bit. However, these two are very good show jumpers and trend towards double clear rounds no matter the course designer. They’ll pop back up come Sunday, finishing just outside the top five on a score in the mid-to-high 40s.
THE DARK HORSE
Kim Severson and Fernhill Fearless: Fernhill Fearless is strong enough on the flat to stalk the leaders, a strong stadium jumper who can climb the ranks thanks to a one-or-none rail round, and speedy enough cross country when running clear to really be a threat to the top of the leaderboard.
However, this horse hasn’t quite regained his cross country form since the 2014 World Equestrian Games, picking up a stop in the majority of his runs since that event. However, he is historically strong at Millbrook, where he ran clear in his first Advanced post-WEG with one of the fastest rounds of the day. If he can match that performance, he could invade the top three this weekend.
THE DARK HORSE
Kim Severson and Cooley Cross Border: Kim made a huge splash last fall with the arrival of her precocious Cooley Cross Border to the Advanced and three-star levels. After sitting out the entire spring season, this talented horse is back out to play. Likely to be at or near the top after dressage and to put in a clear jump round on Sunday, everything depends on how quickly Kim decides to push him on cross country after a long hiatus. While this may not be their weekend, keep an eye on this pair for the fall season.
Will Coleman and Tight Lines: Will Coleman and Tight Lines won the Fair Hill CCI2* last fall but took their time moving up to Advanced. They made the jump for the first time at Great Meadow CICO3*, where they put in three solid phases for a good outing. Simply matching their performance there would give these two a top 10 finish at Millbrook, but we think this horse has more in the tank. This may not be the weekend for a win for Tight Lines, but he’s certainly one to watch for the future.