As is tradition here at EN, we’re taking a comprehensive look at the competitors entered in what many consider the most challenging CCI3* in the United States. Fair Hill International is something of a rite of passage for eventers in North America, and rightfully so.
The field of horses and riders is always strong, and the course is always huge, and usually there is a decent amount of mud to battle throughout the weekend. Without further ado, let’s look at the competitors, who I’ve listed in order of draw, because that is definitely part of the equation at this event.
Boyd Martin & Steady Eddie: Poor Eddie has the distinction of being the horse that accompanied Boyd as he broke his leg this spring at Carolina International on the infamous Stonehenge corner jump. However, it has not tarnished his reputation, and he’s been developing at the Advanced level in a lovely way all year. They were 11th together last year here in the CCI2*, and most recently placed 9th at the competitive Plantation Field CIC3*, adding only 13.2 time penalties to their respectable dressage score of 55.5. This will be Eddie’s first CCI3* and Boyd’s first of four rides for the division.
Buck Davidson & The Apprentice: Buck has only three rides in the CCI3*, and Dirk is his first one out. At only 10 years of age, Dirk already has three CCI3* completions under his belt, with a fifth place at Galway Downs in 2012, an eighth place there in 2013, and most recently a third at Jersey Fresh. At Jersey in the spring he scored a 47 on the flat and added only 4.4 time penalties to that score, and while I think the cross country here is more challenging and tiring, I expect Buck to produce a similar result with Dirk at Fair Hill.
Jon Holling & Proper Timing: Jon has two rides in this division, with this bay Thoroughbred gelding as his first. They did attempt their first CCI3* together here last year, but retired on course. They re-routed to Bromont in the spring with a few more CIC3* finishes under their belt and finished in 10th place, scoring a 52.4 on the flat, going clear with 8.8 time on cross country and pulling three rails on Sunday. They were most recently 6th at the AECs in the Advanced division, with just a rail and cross country time to add to their dressage score of 34.7.
Philippa Humphreys & Rich N Famous: This flashy pinto gelding will surely catch your eye as he and Philippa both attempt their first CCI3* this weekend. This pair just moved up to the Advanced level this summer at Horse Park of N.J. and have completed four competitions at this level. Most recently, they finished in 39th place at the Plantation Field CIC3*, scoring a 58.8 on the flat, pulling three rails with 11 time in stadium, but going clear with 18.8 time on the final day for the cross country phase. They’ll be looking for a nice steady round to get them through their first attempt at the level.
Lizzie Snow & Coal Creek: Devon is an old pro at Fair Hill, having competed here three times in the past, including winning his debut at the tender age of 8 with Amy Tryon in the irons. However, Lizzie and Devon have some unfinished business here in Maryland, as they have been unlucky in their past two attempts in the CCI3*. They did complete Bromont this summer in good style, with a third place ribbon to show for their efforts. Lizzie scored a 56.8 in dressage there, and added just one rail and 4.6 time penalties to that score in Quebec, but she better have her most determined pants on here to get it done. Third time’s the charm, girl!
Tim Bourke & Luckaun Quality: Obie is only 9 years old but already has a fair amount of experience at this level. No, he doesn’t love the dressage phase, and that’s coming along, but when I say that he loves both jumping phases, I mean he loves them. Last year, Tim and Obie were the only pair in the CCI3* to finish on their dressage score, which was 58.6 and good enough for 8th place at the end of the weekend. Their first phase will leave them somewhere in the middle to the end of the pack, but if they keep up the trend of adding nothing, they’ll be right back with a repeat top 10 performance.
Eliza Farren & Bantry Bays Dublin: Eliza and her Connemara-cross gelding return to Fair Hill to improve upon their performance from last year, where they finished in last place with 60 penalties on cross country. This pair consistently scores in the low 60s on the flat, but when they are on the same page can produce good jumping rounds. They were most recently 21st at Plantation Field CIC3* with a 62.1 on the flat, 11.4 time penalties on cross country and just a rail in stadium.
Lauren Kieffer & Lucky Devil: Lauren is piloting this handsome gelding around his second CCI3* for 2014 before rushing over to France to compete at Pau with Veronica, who is currently already in the country. They finished in 10th place this spring at Jersey Fresh in the CCI3*, but they accrued a stop on cross country, which marred the performance. They completed the Advanced at Richland Park this summer, finishing in third place, but that has been their only run at this level since Jersey.
Will Coleman & Obos O’Reilly: In 2013, Oboe and Will won the Bromont CCI3*, scoring 50.2 on the flat and adding only 8 cross country time penalties to that to take home the top prize. However, this will be Oboe’s return to the CCI level, as he was out much of last fall and this spring. They were recently 25th at Plantation Field CIC3*, with a 60.6 on the flat, 14.8 time penalties on cross country and a rail in stadium. I know they are both capable of better scores in the little white box.
Lauren Ferguson & Mainway’s Dry Ice: Lauren and Dice are one of the most inexperienced pairs here this weekend, entering their first CCI3* with just one Advanced and one CIC3* on their record. This will be their first effort at the level for both of them, and while the sophistication isn’t quite there on the flat yet, Lauren must be very confident in her horse’s jumping abilities to aim for the stars in Maryland and will be looking to complete happy and healthy.
Jennie Brannigan & Cambalda: Jennie and Ping are definitely one of the most formidable pairs at this level that we have here this weekend, and they have some unfinished business at Fair Hill International. Last year, they scored a 42.6 in the dressage only to have a runout at the second corner on a very influential combination on cross country. They went to Rolex this spring, and to be fair, jumped around the whole course, but unfortunately jumped the widest part of a corner and missed the flags, causing a technical elimination. Jennie just won the Advanced at Richland and Plantation, and I can guarantee you she’ll be riding corners smartly this weekend.
Boyd Martin & Crackerjack: Last year this pair competed in the CCI2*, finishing in sixth place with only 1.6 time penalties to add to their dressage score of 48.6. Now they are returning for the step up in class for Cracker’s first CCI3*. As Boyd’s second ride in the division, he will have the advantage of the knowledge that Boyd gains from piloting Steady Eddie around cross country earlier in the day, and they should pull off a good performance together. They were most recently 11th at Plantation Field CIC3* with a 53.7 on the flat and just 15.2 time penalties to add.
Werner Geven & Vilas County: Werner’s first ride of the division, this pair finished in 19th place here last year, with a 57.6 on the flat, 21.2 time penalties on cross country and three rails on Sunday. They’ve had steady performances this year at the CIC3* level, but their dressage score and tendency to pull a handful of rails on the last day will keep them out of the top placings.
Cody Sturgess & Imperial Melody: As one of our Canadian competitors, Cody and Melly have been competing at the Advanced level since 2013, but this is their first Fair Hill experience. They completed their first CCI3* this summer at Bromont, finishing in 11th place after scoring a 64.6 on the flat, going double clean on cross country, and pulling two rails with 9 time on the last day. The sophistication in the first phase isn’t quite there yet, but their record on cross country is pretty impeccable and should serve them well for this event.
Leah Lang-Gluscic & AP Prime: These two completed the Fair Hill CCI2* here last year, finishing in 19th place with a 62.2 on the flat and two rails to add to that score. They moved up to the Advanced level this spring and completed Bromont CCI3*, scoring a 73.8 in dressage, adding 14.8 time penalties on cross country and pulling three rails on Sunday. While the dressage isn’t quite competitive, they are capable of a good cross country round that would move them up in the final standings.
Kevin Keane & Fernhill Flutter: I’m going to go ahead and say that this pair has the largest cheering section at every competition that I see them. Kevin and Flutter completed their first CCI4* this spring and are heading back in 2015! This will actually be their first CCI3* since Bromont in 2012, where they finished in third place. They were recently 15th at the Plantation CIC3* with a 57 on the flat and just 17.2 time penalties on cross country to add to that score.
Allison Springer & Copycat Chloe: Allison and Chloe both have all the talent in the world, but unfortunately this year hasn’t been going their way. They’ve struggled with consistency on the cross country course, racking up stops here and there. While they completed the dressage at Rolex, they retired early on course after a stop at the first water. They did complete Jersey CCI3* this spring, finishing in 9th place, but they had a stop on course there too. At Plantation Field recently they finally got into the same groove and finished with 14.8 time to add to their dressage score of 62.7. I hope Fair Hill is where they will finally come together and perform to their potential.
Holly Payne & Santino: Holly and Sonny are one of my favorite pairs, and they have been competing at the Advanced level since 2013, but through unlucky strikes and injuries to both parties, they are still seeking their first CCI3* competition as a pair. They have been having a little trouble on cross country this year, but I know that they are fully capable of three competitive phases, and I hope that all their bad luck goes away for this weekend.
Kendal Lehari & Totally Frank: Kendal and Frank are somewhat of a sleeper pair, as they tend to creep up the leaderboard after day one. Their dressage leaves them in the middle of the pack, as they usually score in the low 60s at this level. However, Frank is an unbelievable jumper and can finish on that initial score easily, which is how they placed seventh this spring at Bromont CCI3*.
Emily Beshear & Shame On The Moon: Emily has found a really great horse in this lovely grey mare, and although their partnership only began this year, it has promise for many good things to come. They consistently score in the low 40s on the flat, with a blip on that record at Plantation Field, where they scored a 54.9, with Delta looking fighting fit. The mare has no record of cross country penalties at any FEI level, but show jumping is certainly her weakness, with only one double clear in the past two years. This will be Delta’s first CCI3*, as she only just moved up to the Advanced level this summer at 8 years old.
Mackenna Shea & Landioso: After a mistake on cross country at her last prep event, Mackenna and Landi have re-routed from their original plan of traveling overseas for Boekelo to take on the equally big challenge of Fair Hill International. This West Coast stayed east after suffering a fall at Jersey Fresh and found redemption at Bromont. They consistently score in the mid-40s in the dressage, have never had more than 15 time penalties on cross country and usually jump clean in show jumping. The Fair Hill mud might be a new challenge for these two, as they definitely don’t make it like this in California.
Kyle Carter & Conahy’s Courage: This horse is amongst the least experienced of the field, having completed only two Advanced horse trials this year and one CIC3* at Poplar. Kyle will certainly be using all of his experience to give this horse a good go around this tough course. They don’t necessarily have the first phase down, but with Kyle in the irons, they should be looking forward to a completion with a happy ending.
Allie Sacksen & Sparrow’s Nio: Allie and Nio won the CCI2* last year, and this year are returning for the next challenge. They moved up to the Advanced level last fall before their CCI2* win and have been steadily working toward a more competitive result all year. They were second this spring at The Fork Advanced and have proved that despite Nio’s small stature, they can jump around some of the toughest tracks we have on the East Coast. Their dressage usually sits in the high 50s, and their cross country record is fabulous, but the show jumping is generally what lets them down. Allie will be happy to have a CCI3* horse at the end of the weekend.
Caitlin Silliman & Catch A Star: Caitlin and Hoku are old pros at the three-star level, having competed at this level for more than two years and completing Rolex once in 2013. But this will be their first Fair Hill CCI3* together. Hoku’s dressage generally leaves her in the middle of the pack, scoring in the high 50s, and is fully capable of an aggressive and clean cross country round. Occasionally they suffer from some lack of consistency in that phase, but seem to be doing well lately. Hoku does have demons in show jumping, but Caitlin has been dealing with that for years and knows how to handle it well.
Maya Black & Doesn’t Play Fair: Hot off their dominating win at Plantation Field in the CIC3*, Maya and Cody are entering their first Fair Hill with a good likelihood of taking home a top prize. A West Coast transplant, Maya moved east this spring and has thrived in this environment, conquering her first CCI3* this summer at Bromont with a fifth place finish. They scored a 50.2 on the flat there, added 12.4 time on cross country and just a rail on Sunday. I expect they can continue on their good mojo and finish right up with the big boys when the weekend is done.
Jodi Hemry & In Style: Jodi and Styles have not accepted that the first phase is entirely necessary, but have been successfully competing at this level since their move up this spring at Carolina International. Most recently they completed Plantation CIC3* in 36th place with a 69.6 on the flat, three rails and four time in show jumping, and a clear cross country trip with 14.4 time. Styles knows how to take care of business on cross country, and Jodi will be thrilled to have her first CCI3* under her belt.
Nilson Moreira da Silva & Muggle: Nilson and Muggle are a pair that have much more talent to come and will be looking to complete their first CCI3*. They were having a good go of the level, completing with competent results, until their fall at Plantation Field CIC3* and have not been seen competing since that time. Hopefully all is well in their camp, and Muggle will be ready and healthy to compete here at Fair Hill for the first time since his 33rd place finish at the CCI2* last fall.
Check back tomorrow morning for part two of the CCI3* preview!