Emily Beshear and Silver Night Lady set the early bar yesterday in the CCI2* at the Dutta Corp Fair Hill International on 43.0, and like Marilyn Little and RF Scandalous in the CCI3*, no one could match their leading score in the sandbox today. That leaves “Silvy,” a 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare owned by Deep Purple Eventing, enjoying the overnight lead for a second consecutive day here in Maryland.
But Fair Hill is never a dressage show, and Emily has carefully honed her game plan with success in mind tomorrow. Silvy is still a new ride for her, having just come into her barn in May as a former rider of Bill Levett. (Click here for more background on Silvy and Emily’s comments on her dressage test yesterday.)
“My plan is to go out there and let her gallop and hope she listens when I need her to. I’ve had trouble in the past being able to turn and gallop at the same time, so I’m hoping that’s been remedied because there are a lot of places where you definitely get rolling out there,” Emily said.
“For my horse in particular it’s really just a mind game for me because I’m used to my other mare (Shame on the Moon), where I always have to think about closing some of the bending lines to make the distances work for her, and this mare is totally the opposite. She has a tremendous stride and a big jump, so I think for me it’s reminding myself to stay on a true line and give her space.”
Derek di Grazia reversed the track for this year’s event, which means time will be more difficult to make up at the end of the course than it has been in years past. “To be quick you’ve got to make the most of the galloping lane. For me it’s a matter of trusting I can get her back when I need to and keeping a little bit of a lid on the exuberance in her jump,” Emily said.
“The distances that walk quite forward I’m really excited about, because it should be just right for her. Really I’m just still getting to know her, so I’m going to take it jump by jump and gallop on in the stretches that we have available and see what I have left at the end and try to manage her well out there.”
Jennie Brannigan and Stella Artois delivered the best test of the day to slot into second place on 44.5, just 1.5 penalties behind Emily and Silvy. “Toddie” is looking to complete her first CCI2* at Fair Hill this weekend, and if the 8-year-old Holsteiner/Thoroughbred mare finishes the weekend on a high note, it will be incredibly special for her team.
Philipp Kolossa sourced the mare in Germany, and when she became available for sale as a 5-year-old, Jennie knew she couldn’t let her get away. Beth Battel stepped in to own the mare in partnership with Jennie, who used the insurance money from her beloved late partner Cooper to purchase her share.
As Jennie put it: “It’s a little bit of Cooper to me, and Beth; when I didn’t have anyone else to pony up, she was like, ‘Yep, let’s do it.’ … I’ve believed in this horse for a long time, and we’ve taken our time with her. … To be here on the first day is great. She’s a great jumper; she’s really bold, and she’s come into her own the last few goes. I know she has the heart and all the pieces; it’s just putting them all together.”
The pieces definitely came together in the dressage today, with Toddie delivering a personal best by nearly 8 marks. “I was glad she had a good day today because I’ve felt like she had that test in there, and I’ve just been waiting for it to come through,” Jennie said. “Even today, leaving the ring, I knew she could be so much better. You feel like you leave points all over the place, but she’s young still, and I’m glad it’s coming together.”
Looking ahead to cross country, Jennie said Toddie is leggy and bold, so she doesn’t always run her for time because the mare can get quite strong. “I am a competitive person, but my goal is to give this good horse a good go,” she said.
“As always with Derek, it’s tough, but he designs so well; I just think the world of him as a designer. There are plenty of places that could catch anyone out, but I think it’s also helpful that — knock on wood — we have fast ground. This is the first time I’ve been here it hasn’t been wet.”
“I’ve been having difficulty trying to find the perfect warm-up for him, and I think that today everything came together. We both stayed super calm, which sometimes I find hard to do for dressage; I can get a little tense and start rushing him. He got in the final warm-up and he stayed calm and supple, and we gave him a nice walk, which I don’t normally do, and decided to go on that,” Dasha said.
“Going around the ring, he kind of locked onto the cross country fence at first, so I turned around and went the other way. Then it just felt like the moment was right, and he was perfect throughout the whole test. I found that he could get a little tense going down the long side where the cross country fences are, but he contained himself beautifully.”
Derek’s reversal of the course’s direction has been repeatedly praised by the riders, and Dasha is another who said she likes the change. “It definitely puts the bad juju from the other courses to rest. I think there’s a lot to do up until the very end, and it’s definitely going to be a true test, especially those two skinny tables at the end. My horse is fit and he’s ready to go, and we’ll just take it jump by jump.”
Looking to the rest of the leaderboard, Lauren Kieffer and Jacqueline Mars’ Landmark’s Monaco are sharing fourth place with Meghan O’Donoghue and Pete Humphreys’ Rich N Famous on 45.8. Our Best Dressed winners sit back-to-back in seventh and eighth, with Lauren Balcomb and Guido Hatzis on 46.6 and Randy Ward and Grando on 47.2.
Matt Flynn and Wizzerd scored 48.1 for eighth place, with Michael Walton and Woodstock Wallaby’s score of 48.8 from yesterday still keeping them inside the top 10 in ninth at the conclusion of dressage. Will Coleman and Boris O’Hara round out the top 10 on 48.9.
Click here to check out a drone flyover preview of the CCI3* course courtesy of Jamie Rees, and you can see photos of each fence on both the CCI3* and CCI2* courses in the Fair Hill program here (click the button on the cover to see the course preview).
CCI2* cross country starts at 9:30 a.m. EST tomorrow, with the CCI3* set to start at 12:25 p.m. EST. There is no live stream or radio feed, but I will be running live updates here on EN to keep you up-to-date with all the action. Click here to catch up on all of EN’s #DuttaFHI coverage so far and here to check out our behind-the-scenes photos on Instagram. Go Eventing.