Clark Montgomery and his Rio Olympic partner Loughan Glen are our new leaders in the CIC3* at Carolina International thanks to delivering a clear round over Marc Donovan’s show jumping course at the bucolic Carolina Horse Park this afternoon.
The 14-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding, owned by Jessica Montgomery, Kathryn Kraft, and Holly and William Becker, had pulled one rail in three of his previous CIC3* appearances over the past season, and Clark said in yesterday’s press conference that he was determined to leave the poles in the cups today.
Clark and “Glen” ultimately delivered a beautiful round, moving up to first place on 41.3, just 0.2 penalties ahead of second-placed Jennie Brannigan and Cambalda — not much breathing room as we look ahead to what is sure to be an exciting cross country finale tomorrow.
“He just felt super,” Clark said, adding that Glen was energetic and popped off the grass ring, giving him a super feeling ahead of cross country. As for Clark’s strategy, he said he certainly doesn’t plan to go slow across Ian Stark’s track.
“He likes a more forward, aggressive ride. I’m going to see how it feels. … It walks a bit firm. If it sounds slappy and dead as I’m galloping, I’ll probably back him off a bit. If it feels nice and he’s comfortable, then I’ll let him keep going. I do want it for fitness, but I don’t want him getting sore from it.”
Cambalda, a 15-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding owned by Tim and Nina Gardner, has never jumped on the grass at this venue, but he pinged around in his typical good form today with Jennie Brannigan in the irons to move to second place on 41.5.
“It was the first time I’ve ever ridden him where he was in front of my leg and I felt like I could actually sit still on him, so that was cool for me because I felt like it was one of my smoother rounds on him,” Jennie said. “I thought there was a lot of atmosphere and he jumped really well. I thought it was one of the nicest rounds I’ve had on him.”
Jennie wisely noted that this is a very strong CIC3* field, and anything can happen tomorrow as riders tackle Ian’s beefy track. The first water at fence 7, Ship’s Quarter, and the new coffin complex at fence 19, Landmark Hollow, are causing quite a stir this afternoon as rider’s finalize their game plans.
“Ian is a great designer and rewards bold riding, and I certainly came here to compete,” Jennie said. “I think the leaderboard will move around a lot, and I’ll try to go out and do the best I can do.”
Caroline Martin and Sherrie Martin’s The Apprentice continued to solidify their new partnership with a clear round to move from eighth up to third place on 44.3. She was absolutely thrilled with how “Dirk,” a 13-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding, handled Marc’s course.
“If he taps one he gets nervous because he thinks he’s made a mistake … but he didn’t touch one in the warm-up and he didn’t tap one in the ring,” Caroline said. “I thought the course rode well. He gave you options if you needed to add a stride and get your horse more collected before a combination. It rewarded the people who rode strong.”
As for Caroline’s philosophy looking ahead to cross country, she said she plans to gain every ounce of experience she can from the horse, which Buck Davidson produced to the top level and competed for six seasons at Advanced.
“I’m not trying to change the way he goes or change my style of riding. He’s giving me experience. I’m 21, and I need to get as much experience as I can at the upper levels because I want to make a career out of this,” she said. “He’s a good partner to have to learn from. He’s beautifully produced. All I can do is learn from what he does and I’ll ride to the best of my ability.”
We saw 22 clear rounds in all in the CIC3*, giving us 55 percent of the field jumping clear, a significant improvement from last year when just 20 percent of the field managed clear rounds. It could be that riders are finally figuring out Marc’s challenging course built around spooky Stonehenge after several years of competing at this event, though today’s show jumping still managed to shake up the leaderboard.
Allison Springer and the Arthur Syndicate’s Arthur, who led overnight after dressage, pulled one rail to slip down to fourth place on 44.7. Phillip Dutton and Fernhill Fugitive, owned by Tom Tierney and Annie Jones, jumped clear to move from 10th up to fifth on 45.4.
Looking to the rest of the top 10, Liz Halliday-Sharp and Deborah Halliday’s Fernhill By Night dropped one pole to slip from fourth place to sixth on 46.5. Will Faudree and Jennifer Mosing’s Hans Dampf also pulled one rail to move from fifth to seventh on 46.7.
Jessica Phoenix and Don Good’s Pavarotti jumped a bold clear to move up five spots on the leaderboard to eighth place on 46.9. Sharon White and her own Cooley On Show jumped clear to move to ninth of 47.3, and Laine Ashker and Anthony Patch also jumped clear to round out the top 10 on 48.2.
As we typically see from Marc, he built an intriguing option at fence nine on course. Riders could jump a Swedish oxer at fence eight and navigate a tight left rollback turn to a spooky vertical set against Stonehenge at fence nine, or turn right to a liverpool set against the fence line, before going on to the final line on course. (Marc has dialed back his designing schedule this year, so we are lucky to have him here at Carolina!)
Scores on the CIC3* leaderboard remain very tightly bunched following show jumping, with just 6.0 penalties separating the top 10 and less than 10 penalties separating the top 20. Just three combinations made the optimum time on cross country last year, so we can expect the clock to prove very influential in determining the final standings.
You can preview each fence on Ian Stark’s cross country course here. Cross country day starts with Intermediate cross country at 8 a.m., followed by the CIC2* at 10:15 a.m. and the CIC3* at 1:10 p.m. Both CIC2* and CIC3* cross country will stream live on EQSportsNet.
This report has been updated with quotes, scoring changes, plus amazing photos from the one and only Allie Conrad. Support your show photographers!