We may all have a bit of post-Olympic hangover, but the fall season is only now coming into full swing! The next few weeks will be busy indeed on the East Coast, with Richland Park, the American Eventing Championships, Five Points, Poplar Place and Plantation Field all running Advanced or CIC3* divisions in the next five weeks.
Richland Park generally ends up with a good mix of experienced and young horses, with several pairs coming back from Rolex or Rebecca for the first time while others take their first crack at a CIC3*. With Phillip Dutton heading to Burghley and Buck Davidson opting to take his string to Tryon for a crack at the AEC prize money, the field at Richland is fairly wide open for others to shine.
The dressage test will be 2015 FEI 3*-B. Ian Stark has created a forward and challenging cross country track here for many years, while Marc Donovan’s show jumping courses on rolling terrain are known to be tricky.
1. Allie Knowles and Sound Prospect: Thanks to an extremely consistent 12 months of competition, Allie and Sound Prospect have earned a grant to go over to Blenheim for a fall CCI3*. Richland will be their final prep before getting on the plane, and a win here would be a big boost of confidence heading into their overseas trip.
This pair averages a 50.6 on this test, which should be enough to put them near the top of the leaderboard after dressage. Sound Prospect has averaged only 0.8 time penalties over three Ian Stark courses, a bit faster than his typical pace. A very good show jumper, Sound Prospect typically jumps double clear over Marc Donovan courses. A final score in the low 50s would put these two comfortably in first place this weekend.
2. Caroline Martin and Spring Easy: Caroline has been developing Spring Easy into a solid contender for over a year now, slowly but surely gaining the consistency necessary to be competitive at the highest level. They’ve had top 10 finishes in their last two outings and will be looking to make the jump to the top of the leaderboard
Spring Easy averages a 55.8 on this particular test, a bit higher than his overall average. These two have averaged three seconds under the time in their two attempts at Ian Stark courses, making a double clear cross country round a real possibility. This horse does struggle a bit in the show jumping, averaging two rails over Marc Donovan courses. A final score in the mid-60s will put Caroline and Spring Easy in second place.
3. Colleen Rutledge and Roulette: Colleen has a newly minted Advanced horse in Roulette this spring, and he is making his CIC3* debut this weekend. Roulette has put in solid performances in his two Advanced runs and could make a case for a top finish this weekend as well.
While he hasn’t done a three-star test yet, Roulette has been scoring well on the flat, averaging the FEI equivalent of a 49.0. Colleen hasn’t yet pushed this horse for time, and an average of 17.2 time penalties will move them down a bit after the second phase. Thus far Roulette has proven to be a one-rail horse and could have one again over Marc Donovan’s tough hillside course. A final score just over 70 will easily slot this horse into the third position.
4. Ellen Doughty-Hume and Sir Oberon: Fresh off a top-five finish in the Rebecca Farm CCI3*, these two are making the trek to Ellen’s native state. After completing their first clean round at Rolex earlier this spring, this pair will likely be as consistent as ever this weekend.
Sir Oberon averages a 57.5 on this test, quite a bit higher than his typical dressage performance. He should make it up across the country though, favoring Ian Stark courses with only 8.4 time penalties, nearly 10 seconds faster than his typical pace. An average of one rail over Marc Donovan courses won’t hurt this pair any, and they should sneak into fourth with a score in the low 70s.
5. Boyd Martin and Steady Eddie: This horse hasn’t gotten a lot of attention this spring due to his high-profile stablemates, but he’s been plugging along all the same, with a top-five finish in his last outing at Bromont CIC3* after completing his first four-star at Rolex. With a wide open field, he’ll have a good shot of keeping up that momentum this weekend.
Steady Eddie averages a 52.2 on this test, right in line with his overall average on the flat. He was a bit slow over his only attempt at an Ian Stark course, racking up 15.6 time penalties at Carolina International this spring. Generally a one-rail horse regardless of the course designer, this horse will likely have just the one rail down on Sunday. With a score less than a point behind Sir Oberon, Boyd and Steady Eddie should round out the top five.
THE DARK HORSE
Jessica Phoenix and Abbey GS: Abbey GS has the good fortune of showing that she favors this dressage test, cross country course designer and show jumping designer. She has averaged almost four points better than her typical dressage average on this 2015 FEI 3*-B test, averages 13 seconds faster across Ian’s courses than her typical pace, and tends to jump Marc Donovan courses double clear when she typically averages a rail.
What does all this mean? A reduction in her final score of nearly 14 points thanks to this mare’s preferences could boost Jessica and Abbey from a top-10 finish to a top-two finish this weekend.
Will Coleman and Tight Lines: Tight Lines has only had one cross country start at this level, putting in a solid performance over a tough Great Meadow CICO3* course earlier this summer. Although he got a chance to practice his dressage and show he can drop his score at Millbrook, he was withdrawn before the cross country portion.
As the winner of the CCI2* division at the Dutta Corp Fair Hill International last fall, this horse has certainly shown that he can be a contender at this level, and even equaling his Great Meadow performance at Richland will likely put him up into the top five.
Number of entries: 15
Pairs to watch:
- Lauren Kieffer and D.A. Duras
- Rachel McDonough and Irish Rhythm
- Sean McIntosh and Wild T’Mater
- Katie Ruppel and Houdini
- Colleen Rutledge and Covert Rights