We’re into the home stretch on the East Coast for the Rolex-bound horses. The Fork is the last chance to gain a qualifier for the four-star later this month, but this year the field is in great shape, with no one looking to squeak in a final MER.
While the CIC3* field swelled to almost 80 entries at one point, there was a bit of a mass exodus from the division after Carolina. Quite a few riders opted to switch to the Advanced division, while others felt their mounts would be best served by bypassing the event all together. Regardless, the CIC3* division will still contend quite a strong field in both numbers and quality.
The dressage test will be 2015 FEI 3*-B. Tremaine Cooper has been a mainstay here for many years for the cross country design, while Chris Barnard, who also designs at Pine Top, will provide some variety for the show jumping course.
1. Buck Davidson and Ballynoe Castle RM: For the Carolina By the Numbers, I trotted out the fact that Ballynoe Castle RM has won every event he has completed since The Fork CIC3* last year … when he placed second. That streak still exists, since he was withdrawn before cross country at Carolina due to Buck falling from another horse earlier in the division.
Reggie averages a 44.5 on this test, although his Carolina score was uncharacteristically high. A supremely good jumper, this horse also tends to show jump double clear over Chris Barnard courses. He averages double clear rounds over Tremaine Cooper courses, finishing double clear over The Fork course in particular in 2013 and 2015. Look for this horse in first with a score just a shade under mid-40s.
2. Lauren Kieffer and Veronica: Lauren and Veronica will be taking another go at Rolex this year, and The Fork is historically their final preparation. These two tend to put the pedal to the metal only at CCIs and the event just prior to CCIs, which means we will likely see them press the pace this weekend.
Veronica is no slouch on the flat, averaging a 44.9 on this test. Another consistently clear show jumper, the mare will likely put in a double clear over Chris Barnard’s course. Their cross country pace over Tremaine Cooper’s courses is significantly faster than their typical average, and they should accumulate only 2.0 time penalties in the final phase. Look for this pair in second on a score in the mid-40s.
3. Sinead Halpin and Manoir de Carneville: Sinead and Manoir de Carneville returned with a bang at Carolina, placing inside the top 10 in the CIC3* without looking like they were even trying. A double clear show jump round over Carolina’s tricky course was particularly impressive in what has historically been this horse’s toughest phase.
Tate can certainly lay it down on the flat, but scored a 48.5 on this test at Carolina, the only time he has executed this test. He does tend to favor Chris Barnard courses, averaging double clear rounds over them. Manoir de Carneville can fly across Tremaine Cooper courses, averaging double clear rounds. Sinead and Tate, who won this event in 2014, will likely finish in third this year, with a score in the mid-to-high 40s.
4. Lauren Kieffer and Meadowbrook’s Scarlett: Meadowbrook’s Scarlett has quickly turned into one of the most solid contenders in Lauren’s arsenal, and this weekend should be no exception. Although she’s not competing at Rolex and will instead go back to Jersey Fresh CCI3* this year, she’ll be every bit as competitive as the horses heading to Kentucky.
Scarlett average a 49.2 on this test, a few points higher than her typical average. This horse jumped a double clear over Chris Barnard’s course last year, the only time she’s seen one of his designs. Similarly, she accumulated only 2.8 time penalties over Tremaine’s course at The Fork last year. A similar effort will put this pair in fourth, with a score in the low 50s.
5. Phillip Dutton and Fernhill Cubalawn: Fernhill Cubalawn is taking a similar competition path as he did in the spring last year, with Rolex as the end goal. Phillip was slightly conservative with his pace on this horse in his final prep for Rolex last year for the horse’s first CCI4*, which would still be good enough for a top five placing at The Fork this year.
Cuba averages a 48.4 on this test, fairly in line with his overall average. A double clear show jumping round over Chris Barnard’s course will boost them up the ranks slightly. He tends to be a couple seconds slower over Tremaine Cooper courses than his typical pace and will likely accumulate around 4.0 time penalties. A final score less than half a point behind Meadowbrook’s Scarlett will leave these two to round out the top five.
6. Lynn Symansky and Donner: Lynn and Donner are another pair who tend to crank the speed at the final show before a big CCI, historically using The Fork as a brake check before heading to Kentucky. With a trip overseas to Badminton in their crosshairs thanks to a Land Rover USEF Competition Grant, we might see a more conservative pace from these two, since they already pushed the pace at Carolina to finish third in the CIC3*.
Donner is generally right up near the leaders after the flat, averaging a 48.9 on the B test. While they do tend to jump clear rounds over Chris Barnard courses, they do have an average of 2.0 time penalties over them. A quick average of only 1.6 time penalties over Tremaine’s courses will keep them in contention. Lynn and Donner should end up breathing down Fernhill Cubalawn’s neck with a final score only a tenth of a point behind.
7. Selena O’Hanlon and Foxwood High: Selena and Foxwood High are currently Canada’s most competitive pair based on the numbers, and their perennial presence at the top of my 2016 rankings demonstrates how they are leaps and bounds ahead of where they were this time last year. These two are headed next to Rolex, with another year’s experience to help give them a good finish.
Selena and Woody average a 48.5 on the B test, but can certainly push their score into the low 40s on a good day. A tendency to accumulate only 1.0 time penalty and no rails over Chris Barnard’s designs will keep them moving upwards in the placings. They do tend to take a slightly slower pace over Tremaine Cooper courses, averaging 8.4 time penalties over his tracks. These two should finish in seventh, with a score in the mid-to-high 50s.
8. Jennie Brannigan and Catalina: Jennie and her precocious ride turned a lot of heads with an impressive second-place finish in the Red Hills CIC3* earlier this season. Despite only a few starts at this level, this mare seems more than capable of the challenges set before her and will be looking for a good final run at The Fork before her first Rolex at the end of the month.
Catalina averages a 53.9 on this test, but only performed it once last fall. She proved at Red Hills that she improved on the flat over the winter and could score in the mid-40s instead. Catalina has not yet seen either of the course designers here this weekend, but averages a double clear show jumping round and 4.8 time penalties across the country. A final score less than a point behind Selena will put the pressure on.
9. Maya Black and Doesn’t Play Fair: Maya and Doesn’t Play Fair reminded everyone that this pint-size package has talent in spades at Carolina when they finished second in the CIC3*. This is a horse that is capable of putting in stellar performances in all three phases and is getting closer and closer to consistently doing that in the same weekend.
Maya and Cody average a 49.5 on this dressage test, but this is another pair capable of a mid-40s dressage score on a good day. Chris Barnard can be a challenging designer for them, as they average two rails and 2.0 time penalties over his courses. On the other side of the coin, they’ve finished two double clear rounds in two tries over Tremaine Cooper cross country courses. Look for these two in ninth with a score in the high 50s.
10. Phillip Dutton and Mighty Nice: Phillip is bringing quite a string here, but it is his two most experienced mounts that will likely net him his highest placings. Mighty Nice is another of Phillip’s who is headed to Rolex next and similarly tends to have a slower pace at his final prep event.
Happy averages a 43.3 on this test, which could be good enough for the lead in this division. He does tend to have a rail over Chris Barnard courses, and a slower average of 12.4 time penalties across Tremaine’s designs will drop him down a bit. Happy should round out the top 10 with a score just a hair under 60.
THE DARK HORSE
Kim Severson and Fernhill Fearless: This horse is well capable of putting together a strong effort in all three phases, with dressage averages in the high 40s, a tendency to jump Chris’ courses double clear, and the ability to hold the pace across the country. However, Kim and Sparky have struggled on cross country since the horse made a comeback from a coffin bone injury sustained at the 2014 World Equestrian Games. If this horse can return to his pre-WEG form across the country, they’ll easily be contenders for a top 10 placing.
Will Faudree and Hans Dampf: Will hasn’t had a chance yet to to truly showcase Hans Dampf due to the neck injury he sustained in a fall last year. Acquired last summer from Andreas Dibowski, Hans is truly capable of being a world class horse, with averages in the mid-40s for the dressage, only 12 seconds over optimum time in his first four runs at the three-star level, and proving he can be a one-or-none rail horse in the show jumping. Once Will and this horse cement their partnership, they should be up at the top of the leaderboards for a long time to come.
Kylie Lyman and Lup the Loop: Kylie has the distinction of being the Sleeper for EN’s By the Numbers a second show in a row, but with a different horse this time. “Loopy” proved at Carolina that he has the chops to play with the big boys after a green first attempt at the level at Pine Top. Thus far, this pair has averaged the equivalent of a 44 in the dressage and had no rails in show jumping. A similar effort to their Carolina performance, where they won the Advanced, could catapult this pair into the top 10; they are certainly a combination to watch going forward to the spring CCI3* events.
ADVANCED DIVISION A-A
Number of entries: 28
Pairs to watch:
- Hannah Sue Burnett and Harbour Pilot
- Buck Davidson and Copper Beach
- Liz Halliday-Sharp and Fernhill By Night
- Lauren Kieffer and Landmark’s Monte Carlo
- Allison Springer and Arthur
ADVANCED DIVISION A-B
Number of entries: 23
Pairs to watch:
- Lisa Barry and F.I.S. Prince Charming
- Sally Cousins and Tsunami III
- Will Faudree and Caeleste
- Jennie Jarnstrom and Penelope
- Kate Samuels and Nyls du Terroir