The first U.S. CCI4*-S of the 2019 season is upon us! Red Hills International Horse Trials kicks off tomorrow in Tallahassee, Florida, and we have an exciting field coming forward for the CCI4*-S (formerly CIC3*). The ground jury is Vanda Stewart (IRL), Jane Hamlin (USA) and Bobby Stevenson (USA).
Mike Etherington-Smith is now in his fourth year of designing the CCI4*-S cross country course. The track has been modified this year to be more galloping, and portions of the course have been re-routed to improve flow. While parts of the track will still wind through the woods, the galloping lanes have been widened to provide a more open feel. Extensive work has also taken place on the footing.
Show jumping is held last for all the FEI divisions at Red Hills, with Chris Barnard returning for the third year as course designer. Who can we expect to take the CCI4*-S win come Sunday? Read on for EN’s analysis.
- The last time a pair outside of the top two after dressage won the event was in 2011, when Allison Springer was in third on Arthur after the first phase. Riders inside the top three after dressage have gone on to win the division every time in the last decade.
- Only four riders have ever made the optimum time on cross country with a clear round at Red Hills in its entire history: Whitney Mahloch with Military Mind in 2018; Selena O’Hanlon with A Fine Romance and Foxwood High, both in 2013; Phillip Dutton with The Foreman in 2005 and Nova Top in 2004; and Peter Atkins with Henry Jota Hampton in 2012.
- The last horse to win the CCI4-S* while still having a rail down in show jumping was Mighty Nice, who won with Phillip Dutton in 2013. The CCI4*-S winner typically goes clear in show jumping.
- Jessica Phoenix and her longtime partner Pavarotti have the best dressage average in the field of 28.7. They sat third after dressage last year in the CCI4*-S at Red Hills on 29.8. Expect them to once again be close to or at the top of the leaderboard after the first phase.
- The striking grey mare Cayenne is a new ride for Switzerland’s Felix Vogg, having been produced to the CCI3*-S level by Finland’s Elmo Jankari. She is very green to the level and only just ran her first Advanced at Rocking Horse Winter II H.T. last month, but she won it on her dressage score of 28.9.
- Hannah Sue Burnett and Harbour Pilot are making their triumphant return to international competition at Red Hills. They won the CCI4*-S in 2017 and will make a strong case to challenge for the win again. Their dressage average of 29.2 from when they last completed a full season in 2017 would be very close to the top of the leaderboard after the first phase.
- In seven international runs at this venue, Selena O’Hanlon and Foxwood High have never finished outside of the top 10 at any level, but an international win at Red Hills has eluded them thus far. There is a good chance that changes this weekend. Their dressage average of 29.4 would put them in striking distance from the start.
Cross Country Machines
- Foxwood High is only of only six horses to catch the optimum time in the CCI4-S* at Red Hills in the 20-year history of the event. Expect Selena O’Hanlon to put the pedal down in one of this horse’s key prep runs as we look ahead to their return trip to the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials.
- Brandon McMechan and speedy Oscar’s Wild have only picked up time penalties once in their entire international career across all levels — 2.4 in their CCI4*-S debut at Bromont last year. Look for them to push the clock in their second appearance at the level.
- Katherine Coleman is well known as a fast cross country rider, and she’s picked up just 1.6 time penalties in both of her runs with Billy Bandit this season. He is green to the level, having only run his first CCI4*-S at the Ocala Jockey Club last fall where they incurred 20 jumping penalties, but expect him to come out looking like a different horse in his first international run of 2019.
- Sydney Conley Elliott and Cisko A average 8.0 time penalties at the level, but they delivered several super speedy runs last season, including being one of the only pairs to catch the time in the Nations Cup at Great Meadow. They won the last time they competed in an international division at Red Hills, finishing on their dressage score to top the CCI3*-S back in 2014. Look for them to shoot right up the leaderboard after cross country.
Show Jumping Powerhouses
- Selena O’Hanlon and Foxwood High had rails down in just one of their international runs last season. Last year they jumped a clear show jumping round in the CCI4*-S at Red Hills with 2.0 time penalties to finish fourth. With show jumping time penalties now changed for the 2019 season — 0.4 penalties for every second over the time allowed — pairs like this will benefit.
- Leslie Law and Voltaire de Tre only had one rail down at international level last season, and they delivered clear show jumping rounds every time the phase came last in 2018. They also jumped clear at Red Hills in the CCI4*-S last year in the horse’s debut at the level.
- Jacob Fletcher and Atlantic Domino didn’t have a single rail down at international level last season, including at Red Hills when they finished second in the CCI4*-S. Look for them to leave the poles in the cups once again come Sunday.
- Cristano Z has only had two rails down in his entire career at both national and international levels with Caroline Martin — that’s 22 clear show jumping rounds out of 24 total.
PREDICTED WINNER: Selena O’Hanlon and Foxwood High
Keep Your Eye On:
- Hannah Sue Burnett and Harbour Pilot
- Jessica Phoenix and Pavarotti
- Jacob Fletcher and Atlantic Domino
- Felix Vogg and Cayenne
- Brandon McMechan and Oscar’s Wild
- Mia Farley and BGS Firecracker
Thank you to EN’s data analyst Maggie Deatrick for extracting the data for this article.