This year Red Hills has re-claimed its position as the first CIC3* of the season in North America, bringing with it a big, star-studded field. Here, you can opt to run show jumping first by doing the CIC3*, or enter the Advanced to sharpen your skills jumping after cross country, splitting the numbers slightly between the two divisions. Most of the experienced horses have been aimed at the CIC3* for this show, opting for the show jumping-first format.
Now in the third year with Mike Etherington-Smith designing the cross country, Red Hills is well into its course transformation. Chris Barnard took over the design of the show jumping last year. It’s also a good time to remind everyone that the FEI dressage scoring has dropped the 1.5 coefficient and is now equivalent to dressage scores at USEF horse trials.
- 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. Riders inside the top three after dressage have gone on to win the division every time in the last decade.
- Only three riders have ever made the time with a clear round at Red Hills in its entire history; Selena O’Hanlon (A Fine Romance and Foxwood High, both in 2013), Phillip Dutton (The Foreman in 2005 and Nova Top in 2004) and Peter Atkins (Henry Jota Hampton in 2012).
- The last horse to win the CIC3* while still having a rail down in show jumping was Mighty Nice, who won with Phillip Dutton in 2013. The CIC3* winner typically goes clear in show jumping.
- RF Eloquence was lightly competed over the past year but has laid down two tests that scored over 75% out of the three competitions he’s attended. He and Ellie O’Neal are one of three pairs averaging a sub-30 dressage score over the last 12 months in this field.
- Until the Ocala Jockey Club CIC3* last fall, Marilyn Little and RF Scandalous had received scores of 70% and above from 16 of the 17 judges who had ever scored them at the Advanced, 3* and 4* levels. An uncharacteristic test in Ocala broke that impressive streak, so Red Hills will be the first opportunity the pair have to bounce back to their normal scoring patterns.
- Selena O’Hanlon and Foxwood High have been on an absolute tear recently, winning their last two Advanced/3* runs at Rocking Horse and Fair Hill, and placing in the top three at Plantation Field CIC3*. This pair hasn’t been out of the top five since Kentucky last spring. They’ve now scored in the 20s in their last three dressage tests at this level, one of which was at Rocking Horse last month, proving they haven’t lost an edge over the winter break.
- Jessica Phoenix and Pavarotti are perennial contenders in the first phase, and Pavarotti in particular has been Mr. Consistency over the past 12 months. In six tests at the Advanced and 3* level, Pavarotti has varied only 3.1 penalty points from highest (31.5) to lowest (28.4) scores.
- Jordan Linstedt and Revitavet Capato are another who have really hit their stride in the first phase, almost matching Pavarotti for consistency. Setting aside their first Advanced of 2017, they scored between 28.6 and 31.5 for six consecutive Advanced/3* starts to end last year, then came out with a bang in February and laid down a 25.4 at Rocking Horse.
Show Jumping Powerhouses
- Jessica Phoenix buckled down with Pavarotti in 2017 and seriously improved their show jumping form. In the last 12 months, this pair are five for five on clear rounds at the Advanced and CIC3* levels.
- RF Scandalous and Marilyn Little have been prolifically good show jumpers, adding nothing to their score in the stadium phase in six of their eight rounds at the Advanced, 3*, and 4* levels. They’ve only ever had one rail, adding just four penalties to their final score at Jersey Fresh CIC3* last spring.
- Bill Hoos and Celtic Rhythm have been very strong in the stadium phase over the last half of 2017, jumping clean in four of their last five attempts at the Advanced level. They added only one rail in the last eight months at this height, incurring one rail at Stable View.
- The Canadians are currently dominating on cross country, with Selena O’Hanlon and Foxwood High leading the way. Their last four runs at Advanced and CIC3* have a combined seven seconds over the optimum, they’ve averaged only four seconds over the last year, and they haven’t been more than 12 seconds over optimum time at this level since The Fork in 2016. And, as mentioned earlier, Foxwood High is the only actively competing horse to have ever made the time at this venue.
- Neck and neck with Selena are her Canadian teammates Lisa Marie Fergusson and Honor Me. This pair has finished clear at 20 consecutive Advanced and CIC3* dating back to 2015, and their average time at A/CIC3* has dropped from an average of 30.25 seconds over optimum in 2015 to 6.67 seconds over in 2016 and 2.17 seconds over in 2017.
- Three pairs to keep an eye on are Whitney Mahloch and Military Mind, Jacob Fletcher and Atlantic Domino, and Waylon Roberts and Lancaster. These three horses have struggled with consistency on cross country, but when they run clear, they have been very fast. Lancaster clocked in his first clear round at Pine Top earlier this year only six seconds over optimum, while Jacob and Atlantic Domino have averaged only 7.5 seconds over optimum in their career clears. Whitney and Military Mind have come home under optimum in three of their four career clears, clocking in with only 1.6 time penalties in the fourth clear round.
Jack of All Trades
- I’m Sew Ready and Phillip Dutton fall just outside of the top tier of performers for each phase, but just barely. I’m Sew Ready hasn’t quite averaged 70% at the Advanced and 3* levels in the last 12 months but he’s been hitting that mark for the last six months. He’s not the most careful jumper in the field, but he’s never had more than one rail in an Advanced/3* round with Phillip. And although he’s only once made time at a CIC3*, he’s always come home within 30 seconds in 91% of his career clear Advanced/CIC3* runs with Phillip and within 20 seconds at 55% of them. These two will be right in the mix come Saturday.
- Tsetserleg is another who might fly under the radar right into a top five placing by Saturday. Boyd Martin has patiently developed this gelding and was rewarded with two top-three placings at premier events at the end of 2017. Tsetserleg has yet to crack into the 20s but has only once failed to achieve a sub-35 score at this level. He’s only once had more than one rail at A/3*, yet has jumped clear his last three rounds, including a CCI3*. And excluding a horrendously muddy Jersey Fresh last spring, Boyd and Thomas have never been more than 18 seconds over optimum. This is another pair who will advanced through the ranks throughout the weekend.
PREDICTED WINNER: Selena O’Hanlon
Keep Your Eye On …
- Phillip Dutton and I’m Sew Ready
- Lisa Marie Ferguson and Honor Me
- Boyd Martin and Tsetserleg
- Marilyn Little and RF Scandalous
- Whitney Mahloch and Military Mind
- Jacob Fletcher and Atlantic Domino