Doug Payne and Lysander were early to jump in the order of go on a very foggy morning at Plantation Field International Horse Trials, and maybe we could blame the fog for the fact that he nearly missed a vertical after the triple combination on Marc Donovan’s course. But “Big Leo” didn’t miss a beat when Doug re-directed about two strides before the fence, ultimately leaving all the rails in the cups to hold their overnight lead in the CIC2* on 31.7.
That’s the second clear FEI show jumping round in a row for this horse, as the 8-year-old Thoroughbred/Holsteiner gelding Doug owns with Kristin Michaloski also jumped clear at Richland Park last month to finish ninth in the CIC2* there. With show jumping being the horse’s greenest phase at this point in his career, Doug said he’s been really pleased with Big Leo’s progress.
“He’s 18.1 hands, so I think it’s just going to take him time before he’s able to maintain his balance and ultimately have good control of where his legs are,” Doug said. “He’s only 8, and it’s coming along. Because of his size, we’re trying to give him as much experience as we can, and I have no doubt that going forward he’ll have it.”
With the Dutta Corp Fair Hill International CCI2* being the ultimate goal for the horse’s fall season, Doug said he indeeds to set out at a good pace on cross country tomorrow to give Big Leo a good final prep run. He has a 4.4-penalty margin to play with when it comes to making the optimum time of 5 minutes, 52 seconds.
“I’m not going to go crazy fast, but I’ll certainly give it a shot. I’ve been trying to get better with setting him up less for every fence and allowing him to have a little but more control,” Doug said. “He’s responded really well to having more freedom, and that allows me to be more efficient and save a few seconds at every fence we jump.”
Alex O’Neal and Rendezvous With Charly also jumped a lovely round clear inside the time to remain in second place on 36.1. It’s been about four months since Alex took over the ride on “Rudy,” a 9-year-old German Sport Horse gelding, from his fiancé, Ellie MacPhail.
“He had some confidence issues last year, so we ran into a situation where we were thinking maybe we should sell him. But the timing worked out well for me to take the ride, and Ellie was gracious to let me ride him and get his confidence going. Tomorrow on cross country will be a true test to see if we have his confidence where it needs to be.”
Alex said their mutual strengths and weaknesses have thus far complimented each other well and helped the partnership to continue moving in the right direction. “He’s really good on the flat, which is my weaker phase, so he’s given me confidence in dressage,” Alex said. “Jumping is his weakness, but that’s my strength.”
Alex and Rudy are coming off a win in the CIC* at Richland Park last month, which was their first FEI event together, and they need to get their qualifier this weekend at Plantation Field to run the CCI2* at Fair Hill next month.
“I think the first few fences on cross country are nice and inviting and give a good chance to get his confidence going early,” Alex said. “I think halfway around you need to have it together, so I’m hoping I can create that confidence after the first few jumps and get him raring to go and have a shot at going quickly.”
Tamie Smith and Dempsey moved up from fifth to third place with a clear round after Hannah Sue Burnett and Cooley Dream had one rail down and Peter Barry and Long Island T were eliminated for going off course. Dempsey, a 7-year-old Dutch gelding owned by the Dempsey Syndicate, finished second in his first CCI2* at Rebecca Farm in July, and Tamie said she’s thrilled he seems to get better and better with each outing.
“He was really, really good in dressage yesterday — the best he’s actually been. He’s a young horse that I got as a 5-year-old, and he hadn’t done anything before that,” Tamie said. “We’ve been working to channel his excitement, and I was really happy with how he handled everything in his test.”
While Tamie said Dempsey is much more rideable in show jumping when the phase is held after cross country, the horse was very well behaved today. “He’s very careful and loves to jump high,” she said. “Even though he had some extra energy, he was still very good and not spooky in the ring.”
Dempsey is yet another horse using Plantation Field as a prep run before taking on the CCI2* at Fair Hill, a course Tamie thinks will suit the horse well. “He really could probably do the three-star there, but he’s only 7. He’s just a jumping machine, and I feel like I have a horse that is going to be really cool for the future. I’m really excited about doing Fair Hill because the hills and terrain will create a more rideable horse.”
Phillip Dutton and Z and Caroline Martin and Effervescent moved up to fourth and fifth places, respectively, after jumping clear rounds inside the time. Live scores are not yet finalized, but you can click here to see the order in which everyone is currently sitting after show jumping.
We’re on the lunch break now, with CIC3* show jumping set to start at 12:32 p.m. EST. CIC* cross country is wrapping up now, and Dave will have the full report and photos from that shortly. Keep checking back for much more from Plantation Field.