Plantation Field — often billed as the Best. Event. Ever. — is upon us again, and as usual a huge contingent of riders has shown up to contest the CIC3* division. With a monumental effort to make sure the facilities and festivities please riders, owners and spectators, the Plantation Field event has become a permanent fixture in most riders’ fall schedules.
The majority of the three-star division is fairly experienced and aimed at a fall CCI3*, some overseas and some in America. With such experienced competitors, the fight for the top will be fierce and close at the end of the weekend.
The dressage test will be 2015 FEI 3*-B. Mike Etherington-Smith is now entering his third year designing this course, so will likely see him really start to leave his mark this year. Chris Barnard takes over as the show jumping designer for the first time, which will likely create a shake-up in stadium.
1. Hannah Sue Burnett and Under Suspection: Although they’ve only been together for a short time at this level, Hannah Sue and Under Suspection have quickly proven they are a dominant duo. With the ability to really succeed in all three phases, they could grab the win for the first time together.
This pair has averaged a 47.7 on this test thus far, which will put them in striking distance of the leaders. A very good jumper, the only rail Under Suspection has had thus far with Hannah Sue in the irons came over Chris Barnard’s Rebecca Farm stadium course. In July, they tackled Mike Etherington-Smith’s Great Meadow course with aplomb, clocking in only one second over optimum time. Matching those scores would put this pair in the pole position come Sunday, ending on a score in the low 50s.
2. Boyd Martin and Welcome Shadow: Welcome Shadow is a future star for Boyd, and she’s come a long way in proving she is team material this spring. With plummeting dressage scores and quicker cross country times, this mare has potential to place quite high within the division.
Although Shadow averages a 51.1 on this test, her scores have dropped drastically this year, and it’s likely we’ll see a sub-50 score from her. This will be her first attempt over Chris’ show jumping designs, but she tends to put in double clear rounds in the stadium phase. This mare has averaged 6.4 time penalties over three different Mike E-S courses at three different venues. Look for Boyd to finish in second with Welcome Shadow on a score in the mid-to-high 50s.
3. Sharon White and Cooley On Show: This pair keeps knocking on the door and proving they have what it takes. The real trick will be to string it all together in one weekend, which they could do if previous performances are any indication.
Cooley On Show will be trailing a bit after the first phase, averaging a 53.8 on this particular test. He does average one rail over Chris Barnard courses, which matches his overall average. These two should really climb the ranks on Sunday though if they match the 1.2 time penalties they accumulated over Mike’s Great Meadow course. If they choose to push the pace again, they should climb inside the top three with a score in the high 50s.
4. Ryan Wood and Powell: Ryan and Powell have been kicking butt and taking names all year, most recently coming off a win in the Adequan USEA Gold Cup at the American Eventing Championships. With a career that’s only going to get better with more and more experience, these two will be right in the mix this weekend.
With an average on this test of 45.1, this pair ought to be right near the top of the leaderboard after the first phase. Powell jumped clean with one time penalty over his only Chris Barnard course, keeping him right up near the top after the second phase. This will be his first Mike E-S course, and an overall average of 14.4 time penalties may drop him down if Ryan chooses to ease off the gas pedal a bit this weekend. Look for Powell well inside the top five on a score just over 60.
5. Matt Brown and Super Socks BCF: Matt and his super horse Super Socks BCF are almost always in the mix, with a strong record of performance in all three phases. As a newly minted four-star pair this spring, they’ll have some swagger to their step heading into the fall season.
An average of 49.0 on the B test will put this pair at the top of the leaderboard from day one. Although they do average one rail over Chris Barnard courses, that would still keep them right in the hunt. An average of 6.8 time penalties across the country in their first go at a Mike E-S course would put them in fifth on a score less than a point behind Powell.
6. Ellie MacPhail O’Neal and RF Eloquence: A now experienced pair, Ellie and RF Eloquence can always be counted on to bring it on the flat. If they can hold on in the other two phases, they’ll be rewarded with a top 10 finish this weekend.
An average of 44.7 on this test will put these two at or near the top after the first phase. A tendency to pull one rail over Chris Barnard courses will drop them down a bit, and an average of 12.4 time penalties over Mike E-S courses will push them a little further. They should still hold onto a top 10 finish with a score in the low 60s.
7. Will Coleman and Tight Lines: The winner of the Dutta Corp Fair Hill International CCI2* is making his mark at the three-star level, having just won at Richland. A solid finish here could set him up for another strong finish at Fair Hill in October.
Thus far this horse averages a 51.1 on this test, although he has the capability of putting in a 40s test as he did at Richland. This will be his first Chris Barnard course at this level, and overall he averages one rail in the stadium phase. In July he laid down 7.2 time penalties over Mike’s Great Meadow course, which also happened to be his first start at this level. Look for this horse to finish well inside the top 10 on a score just over a point behind RF Eloquence.
8. Boyd Martin and Crackerjack: Boyd and Crackerjack just keep improving slowly and steadily, and have quietly become top contenders over the past year. With quicker times across the country and stronger dressage tests complimenting their prowess in the show jumping, they’ve become a real threat on the leaderboard.
An average of 52.4 on this test will put these two chasing the leaders after the first phase. Crackerjack is a wonderfully tidy jumper and typically puts in a double clear over Chris Barnard courses. An average of 11.2 time penalties over Mike E-S courses may nudge him down a bit but he should finish comfortably inside the top 10 with a score in the mid-to-low 60s.
9. Emily Hamel and Ramsey: Emily and Ramsey are an experienced pair who have been slowly chipping away at all three phases. With a definitive preference for these course designers, they have a real chance at making a splash this weekend.
Ramsey averages a 58.7 on this dressage test, about three points better than his typical average. In this pair’s only attempt at a Chris Barnard course last winter, they bettered their show jumping average with only one rail. Most impressively, they tackled Mike’s Plantation course last year with only 1.2 time penalties, which would move them well up the order. If they can match their previous attempts, Emily and Ramsey can sneak in with a top 10 finish.
10. Phillip Dutton and Sportsfield Candy: Phillip gave his greener Advanced string a bit of a break during the Olympics, but they’re back for the fall season. Sportsfield Candy, who won the Jersey Fresh CCI2* in May, has only been at the three-star level since the spring and will be looking for solid experience this weekend.
Sportsfield Candy averages a 50.7 on this particular test. A good jumper, this horse averages one time penalty and no rails over Chris Barnard’s designs. This horse is still gaining experience at this level and accumulated 14.8 time penalties over Mike’s Red Hills course earlier this year. That would knock Phillip down the ranks a bit but still keep him inside the top 10 at the end of the weekend.
Kim Severson and Cooley Cross Border: In this horse’s relatively short Advanced and three-star career, he has almost exclusively finished in the top five. It’s not hard to believe that when he hasn’t scored higher than the FEI equivalent of a 46.4 on the flat and has no rails in seven show jumping rounds.
However, while he’s been consistent across the country for the most part, he did have a stop at this event last year before retiring, and he also picked up a 20 at the American Eventing Championships in his most recent outing. That appears to be the exception, not the norm, and a clear cross country round will almost guarantee these two a place very close to the top this weekend.
THE DARK HORSE
Phillip Dutton and I’m Sew Ready: Phillip has been re-united with the 2015 Carolina International CIC3* winner, taking over the ride for Kristen Bond once again while she’s expecting her second child with husband Andrew. As a bit of a powerhouse pair, it’s difficult to count these two out.
They may have had a stop over the only Mike Etherington-Smith course they attempted together, which happened to be here at Plantation, but that was back in 2014, and it’s been clear sailing since. If these two hit it off again right away, their averages together indicate they could easily crack the top five.
Ryan Wood and Woodstock Bennett: I keep calling Woodstock Bennett a sleeper, but it’s a hard line to hold to when he’s placed first or second in four of his last five outings. Quietly consistent, Woodstock Bennett perhaps make less of a splash as his stablemate Powell but keeps improving his way right on into the top placings. If he just equals his overall averages, this horse will place comfortably inside the top 10.
Number of pairs: 14
Pairs to watch:
- Sally Cousins and Tsunami III
- Lillian Heard and Share Option
- Holly Jacks-Smith and More Inspiration
- Lauren Keiffer and D.A. Duras
- Boyd Martin and Steady Eddie