While Red Hills is no longer the first CIC3* of the season in North America, it does still draw the first big, star-studded field of the year. With the option to now choose to run stadium first by doing the CIC3*, or enter the Advanced to sharpen your skills jumping after cross country, Red Hills has made an effort to offer flexibility to riders and horses on their path to the big three-days.
With Mike Etherington-Smith taking over the design of the cross country last year, Red Hills has really stepped up the international caliber of the course. Now entering his second year, Mike will likely be pushing the design a bit as he gains more feel for the unique track and terrain this iconic event offers.
Chris Barnard is taking over the design of the show jumping this year, taking the reins from long-time designer Fuzzy Mayo. In years past, Fuzzy’s stadium course over a grassy, hilly arena stumped many of the best jumpers out there, but with the addition of a stadium arena two years ago, the difficulty of the stadium phase has vastly transformed at this venue.
- Every winner of the CIC3* at Red Hills since 2013 has been in second place after dressage. Those winners were Mighty Nice, Trading Aces, Czechmate and Fernhill Fugitive.
- No one has finished clear and inside the time on a Red Hills CIC3* track since 2013, when Selena O’Hanlon did it with two horses: A Fine Romance and Foxwood High.
- Red Hills built a ring for their stadium phase two years ago. Since then the average number of rails incurred by the Red Hills CIC3* field has dropped below the national average.
- Harbour Pilot led the field after dressage at Red Hills last year in his first FEI start after recuperating from his Burghley injury. In the 12 months since, he and Hannah Sue Burnett have solidified their dominance in this phase. An average Advanced/three-star dressage score of 42.8 since their return gives them a good chance to repeat their lead again this year.
- This year the comeback kid is Cambalda, whose past performance indicates that he and Jennie Brannigan could top the leaderboard if their form has held through his time off. This pair flirted with the 30s when they won the inaugural Great Meadow CIC3*, but more often settle closer to their three-star average of 43.9 penalties.
- Who’s A Star lays down a strong dressage test show after show with Courtney Cooper in the irons. With a range that varies approximately 10 points within the 40s, this pair is a good bet to be within striking distance of the leaders after the first phase.
- Keep a sharp eye on Halimey, who laid down his best dressage score for the level at Rocking Horse Winter II Horse Trials with Buck Davidson in the irons. An equivalent performance could put this pair on top on day one in this horse’s first three-star.
Show Jumping Powerhouses
- Hannah’s other mount Under Suspection is one of the strongest show jumpers in the field, having put together a completely flawless record last year when show jumping was held prior to cross country. Overall, this pair only has one rail on their record when competing together at any level.
- When show jumping is held first, Petite Flower is in her element, jumping clean 11 of 13 times in her career. Her lone flaw in the past two years when this phase is first was at Ocala Jockey Club CIC3* last fall, when she and Buck Davidson incurred a single rail.
- Cambalda is another notable show jumper in the field, with only one rail in their four attempts that held show jumping first in 2015. Although Red Hills stadium used to be a bit of a weak spot for Cambalda and Jennie, that all changed in 2015 with a double clear when Red Hills moved their stadium from the challenging grass field to a new arena.
- Jennie knows Cambalda like the back of her hand, and it shows in their cross-country execution. At the CIC3* level they have a flawless jump record, paired with a speedy pace that averages only eight seconds over the time in 2015. However, Red Hills slows even the fastest of horses and these two are significantly slower at this venue than any other, averaging almost 30 seconds over.
- Petite Flower is one of the cattiest horses on the circuit, as proven by her blazing round at the Wellington Eventing Showcase. Buck and Petite Flower have averaged only 10 seconds over the optimum time in all of their Advanced and CIC3* runs since 2015. However, like Cambalda, this mare was considerably slower in her only start at Red Hills, clocking in 25 seconds over.
- I’m Sew Ready doesn’t have quite as extensive a resume, but benefits from having the master on board. With Phillip Dutton in the irons, this pair has averaged only 11 seconds over optimum time. However, this will be I’m Sew Ready’s first run at Red Hills, which has a proven record of slowing horses down.
- Lisa Marie Fergusson and Honor Me have really picked up the pace in the past 12 months. Their average A/CIC3* pace went from 31 seconds over optimum in 2015 down to only 6 seconds over optimum in 2016. Red Hills was the slowest pace they had at this type of show last year, clocking in at 18 seconds over optimum.
PREDICTED WINNER: Jennie Brannigan and Cambalda
Keep Your Eye On …
- Hannah Sue Burnett and Harbour Pilot
- Hannah Sue Burnett and Under Suspection
- Buck Davidson and Petite Flower
- Phillip Dutton and I’m Sew Ready
- Buck Davidson and Halimey
- Phillip Dutton and Fernhill Revelation