California Dreaming: West Coast Dominates Dressage at Fair Hill

Frankie Thieriot Stutes and Chatwin. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Frankie Thieriot Stutes last competed in the CCI3* at Fair Hill International in 2009 when she made the long journey from California to Elkton, Maryland with her legendary partner Fric Frac Berence. She returned with a bang today aboard The Chatwin Group’s Chatwin to take a resounding lead in the CCI3* on a dressage score of 27.3.

Frankie and Chatwin, a 10-year-old Oldenburg gelding (Contendro I X Oktav, by Oldtimer), didn’t quite catch their personal best of 26.9 from when they won the Rebecca Farm CCI3* this summer. But considering Chatwin took a distinct disliking to the cameraman standing by the letter B during the extended walk, Frankie said she was relieved they held it together at all.

“I was so proud of him for that,” Frankie said. “A couple of years ago he would have come completely undone. For me it was a special thing in seeing how far our partnership has come and how much he trusts me now. For him to come back to me and be so good in the canter was a big deal because it could have gone the other way.”

Chatwin made the trip from California thanks to receiving a Jacqueline B. Mars Competition Grant to offset the cost of travel to Fair Hill, which this year is celebrating its 30th anniversary. (Coincidentally, title sponsor The Dutta Corporation is also celebrating 30 years of flying horses around the world.)

Frankie said she is delighted to be leading the dressage, but as Caroline Martin so aptly put it — no one comes to Fair Hill to do the dressage. Her focus is now firmly on tackling Derek di Grazia’s cross country course tomorrow.

“I’m not going to view it like I’m leading anything tomorrow,” Frankie said. “It’s a different day, and it’s an entirely different thing to do. I always want to do right by Chatwin … I feel grateful to ride him, and for the rest of the weekend I hope we can do our personal best. Whatever we can do amongst these Olympians and world-class riders, I’ll be really thrilled.”

The final CCI3* group to go in dressage today definitely didn’t disappoint, with the entire top three changing following the lunch break. Jessica Phoenix and Pavarotti, a 15-year-old Westphalian gelding (Pavarotti Van De Helle X Fidelia), scored 28.7 to sit in second place. “Rotti” finished 15th at Fair Hill last year, and Jessica said she hopes to improve on that result.

“Pavarotti is the horse of a lifetime,” Jessica said. “To be able to bring him here and have that much fun in the dressage ring is really exciting.”

As for the cross country: “The footing looks almost ideal. We have never had better Fair Hill footing ever. I think it’s a fair test and there’s a lot to do out there, and when you cross the finish you will feel like you’ve really accomplished something.”

Caroline Martin and Danger Mouse, a 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding owned by Sherrie Martin, also went in the final group of the day and scored 29.0 for third place. “Mouse” also cracked the 20s in the Bramham CCI3*-Under 25 this year when he delivered a personal best of 26.0.

“This is Mouse’s second year at the Advanced level, so he’s getting more confirmed,” Caroline said. “He’s such a good mover that I can make a mistake and his movement makes up for it.”

Caroline said she didn’t expect to be sitting in the top three overnight and gave credit to Felix Vogg for giving her a few pointers on the flat in the lead-up to Fair Hill. But, like the other riders, Caroline emphasized all of her focus will now be on tomorrow’s challenging track. (Click here for a fence-by-fence preview.)

Boyd Martin and Long Island T. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Boyd Martin and Long Island T led the CCI3* at the lunch break and now sit fourth on 29.4. “Ludwig,” a 12-year-old Oldenburg/Thoroughbred gelding owned by The Long Island T Syndicate was another horse who had a good spook at the cameraman standing near B. (You can watch the dressage replay on USEF Network to see how influential that proved to be today.)

Caroline Martin and The Apprentice. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Caroline Martin also has a second ride in the CCI3* top five in Sherrie Martin’s The Apprentice, a 14-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Casado X Funny Girl, by Fernblick), who scored 30.6 for fifth place. Click here to view full scores in the CCI3* following dressage.

Only 15 seconds separate the top 10 in the CCI3*, so we can expect time penalties to prove influential tomorrow on cross country. While Mother Nature has kindly blessed us with perfect going, Derek di Grazia has crafted a demanding track that will require a fit horse and accurate riding. You can watch CCI3* cross country live on USEF Network starting at 1 p.m. EST.

Heather Morris and Charlie Tango. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Looking to the second day of dressage in the CCI2*, the California crowd continued their domination. Heather Morris and Charlie Tango, a 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Shannondale Sarco X Our Queen Bee, by Ricardo Z) owned by the Team Express Group, took the lead on 22.9 as the first pair out today and never relinquished it.

“He’s pretty good in the atmosphere, and he was quite good today,” Heather said. “We had a couple bobbles, but Tamie (Smith) was really happy, so I was happy. He really excels in the canter work. We had a little bobble in the trot work, so I made sure the canter work was perfect.”

Considering Tamie Smith, who just returned from Boekelo CCIO3* with a top-10 finish aboard Judy McSwain’s Fleeceworks Royal, warmed up both Frankie and Heather today, we can officially call her a secret weapon on the flat.

(Tamie also holds the Fair Hill CCI3* dressage record of 25.7, which she delivered aboard Mai Baum in 2015 when they won the Dutta Corp/USEF National CCI3* Championship. Tamie and Mai Baum performed the CCI3* test ride this morning, and he looks in flying form in the lead-up to his highly anticipated return to the CCI3* level at the Ocala Jockey Club next month.)

Boyd Martin sits in second place in the CCI2* on 23.7 with Christine Turner’s On Cue, a 12-year-old Anglo-European mare (Cabri d’Elle X On High, by Primitive Rising) who won her CCI2* debut at Jersey Fresh in May.

Anna Loschiavo and Melanie Loschiavo’s Spartacus Q, a 9-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Soleil Q X Laura Q, by Loerke), sit third on 25.8. This horse finished sixth in his CCI2* debut at Bromont, and Anna said she is extremely excited about his future.

“I think he has a lot of potential for dressage, and he’s gotten a lot stronger over the last year especially,” Anna said. “As he gets stronger, he gets more consistent in all of the movements. We’re really looking forward to developing that consistency even more and seeing where he can go from there.”

Bobby Meyerhoff and Gail Dady’s Almanac, a 9-year-old Hanoverian gelding (As Di Volare X Fuerst Aphrodites R, by Fuerst Gothard), led the CCI2* after the first day of dressage and now sit in fourth place on 26.3.

Caroline Martin and her own Cristano Z, a 9-year-old Zangersheide gelding (Chippendale Z X Nalan VH Schoterhof, by Omar), round out the top five in the CCI2* on 26.4. Click here to see full scores in the CCI2* following dressage.

Holy hind end! Tamie Smith and MB MaiStein. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Speaking of California domination, Tamie Smith and MB MaiStein won the USEA Young Event Horse 5-Year-Old East Coast Championships today. Courtney Cooper and R River Star were crowned the 4-Year-Old Champions. Follow full coverage on the USEA website.

Cross country day starts at 9:15 a.m. EST tomorrow with the CCI2*. Click here for cross country start times for both the CCI2* and CCI3*. Keep it locked on EN for much more from Fair Hill. Go Eventing.

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