Ladies dominated the leaderboard at the inaugural Pine Top CIC3*, with Colleen Rutledge and Covert Rights leading the charge in a wire-to-wire victory to win the the first three-star of the North American eventing season on a final score of 53.5. Colleen said her 10-year-old Thoroughbred/Clydesdale homebred gelding was a “rockstar” today.
Coming off a second-place finish at the $75,000 Wellington Eventing Showcase earlier this month, Colleen and “CR” kept the momentum going today by delivering their personal best three-star dressage test to date, scoring 44.3 to handily take the lead in the first phase.
“I was absolutely completely pleased with what he gave me today,” Colleen said. “In dressage I’ve been working on trying to keep his balance up a bit more, and it was better today. I was happy with the test, but we’re not there yet. We left points on the table, and there’s still plenty of room for improvement.”
Show jumping has been CR’s most challenging phase, and though they had one rail down with 2 time penalties today, that kept Colleen and CR in the lead. After jumping clear rounds at Burghley last fall and then in Wellington, Colleen said she went into the ring today not focusing as much on how many rails they did or didn’t pull.
“I went in with a goal to start riding him so that he could have a better shape and trying to really help him actually do what he’s supposed to do in the air, and it was better,” Colleen said. “Even though he pulled a rail and we had time penalties, his shape was better, so I consider that a good thing.”
A clear cross country trip across Derek di Grazia’s course (click here to view a fence-by-fence course walk) sealed the deal for Colleen and CR, who crossed the finish line with 3.2 time penalties to take the win.
“He had some green moments, especially at the corner in the water, but he was dead honest the entire way around. He was so happy to see big fences. His gallop was great the whole time. This is his second run of the year, and he was looking for the flags, staying straight and reading the questions,” Colleen said. “He definitely learned from last year. When you finish an event with room for improvement but he learned from last year, you have to be happy.”
Colleen and CR will next head to Carolina International and The Fork as their final prep runs before making a return trip to Rolex, where they finished 11th in the horse’s CCI4* debut last year. With the confidence and maturity CR has shown so far this season, Colleen said she’s excited for the spring.
“Derek had a course that really asked you to stand up on your feet and be looking where you were going. You couldn’t waste time looking down. You had to stay moving and look for your next fence because they weren’t set in a straight line,” Colleen said. “As big of a horse as CR is, he’s handy when it comes to courses like this. He’s so non-plussed by the size of the big fences and he can turn on a dime.”
Looking to the rest of the CIC3* leaderboard, one little second prevented Liz Halliday-Sharp and HHS Cooley from taking the win. Liz and Deborah Halliday’s 12-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding came home three seconds over the optimum time to pick up 1.2 penalties and finish second on a final score of 53.9, .4 penalties behind Colleen and CR.
Despite delivering the fastest cross country trip in the division with “Cooley,” Liz said an awkward jump over the final fence on course likely cost them that one second. Liz and Cooley scored 48.7 in dressage to sit in third place initially, then had one rail down in show jumping to drop to fourth before the speedy cross country round boosted them to finish second.
“I honestly thought he deserved a better score than he got in the dressage; he did a beautiful test. The rail in show jumping was my fault for sure. I put him in a snaffle and he was so good,” Liz said. “I’m thrilled to bits with the way he ran around cross country. I’ve been second in so many three-stars and it would have been amazing to win, but I’m super happy with my horse.”
Cooley is also bound for Kentucky, and Liz said she will likely only run him in the Advanced division at Carolina International as his final prep run, as he’s an experienced cross country horse that doesn’t need another run. Liz’s other top mount, Fernhill By Night, will also aim for Kentucky and is slated to next compete in the Intermediate at Rocking Horse on Friday.
Sydney Conley Elliot and Cisko A, a 10-year-old-Westphalian gelding owned by Carol Stephens, round out the top three in the CIC3* on a final score of 56.7. A dressage score of 54.7 placed them in 11th after the first phase, and a double clear show jumping round over Chris Barnard’s course boosted them to sixth. A clear cross country trip with 2 time penalties — the second fastest in the division — saw them move up to finish third.
“It is so hard to put together all three phases, and you’re just always hoping it all works out. He can be very temperamental, so dressage is touch and go for us. He was very good today, but there is still a lot more there. He was super sensitive with the wind and the cold this morning, but I felt like we managed to pull off an OK test,” Sydney said.
“I was super pleased with the show jumping. We’re constantly working on keeping him round over the fence. He has a different style, but he managed to be efficient and clean. He totally loves cross country and was in the zone. I feel pretty confident going out, and as long as I don’t make too big of a mistake, he is rock solid. I was really happy with him, and I thought the course was great.”
Sydney hauled to Pine Top from her home base in Louisiana specifically to run Derek’s course in preparation for her four-star debut at Rolex, which he also designs. Cisko and Sydney will head north for The Fork as their final competition before Kentucky, staying at Will Faudreen’s Gavilan Farm in the lead up to the event.
As for how Sydney is feeling about aiming for her first four-star: “You kind of don’t think about it. If it happens to work and Cisko stays sound and we get there, then that’s just a bonus. I have a plan, and I wanted to run a couple of Derek’s courses (at Fair Hill and Pine Top) and that went well. So far we’re checking the boxes off, and this was one of them.”
Hallie Coon and Celien, a 9-year-old Dutch mare she owns with Helen Coon, had a banner day, finishing in fourth place on 60.4 to improve on their previous best CIC3* finishing score by 16.2 points. Doug Payne and Debi Crowley’s Vandiver, a 12-year-old Trakehner gelding, continued to show they are on the right track for Rolex with a fifth-place finish on a final score of 61.8.
Colleen Rutledge and Jessica Phoenix both finished two horses in the top 10 of the CIC3*. Colleen also finished sixth with her own Escot 6, a 10-year-old Hanoverian gelding known as “Monkey” in the barn. Jessica finished seventh and ninth with her Pan American Games partner Pavarotti and Bentley’s Best, respectively.
All the CIC divisions ran in a one-day format today at Pine Top. Jon Holling and Team Rebecca’s Avoca Druid, an 8-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding, easily took the CIC2* win on a score of 51.6. Matt Brown and Talking Point BCF, a 9-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding owned by Blossom Creek Foundation, finished second on 58.7. Jeanie Clarke and Head for More, a 9-year-old Holsteiner gelding owned by Head for More LLC, finished third on 58.4.
While Liz Halliday-Sharp missed the win in the CIC3*, she did take home a blue ribbon in the CIC* with Elarona, a 6-year-old Dutch mare she owns, on a final score of 43.5. Colleen Loach and Peter Barry’s Kalle 86, a 10-year-old Hanoverian gelding, finished second on 46.0. Liz also finished third on 49.9 with Gorsehill Cooley to obtain the 6-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding’s qualifying score to compete at Le Lion d’Angers later this year.
You’ll see various rider falls throughout the CIC divisions when looking at the live scores, but all reports coming in tonight are confirming no major injuries. There’s still much more to come from Pine Top, with the Advanced divisions wrapping up tomorrow after holding dressage and show jumping today, and all other divisions running Saturday and Sunday. Keep it locked on EN for all your #gooddirt news.