Girl Power Trend Continues Atop The Fork Leaderboards

Jennie Brannigan and Cambalda. Photo by Jenni Autry. Jennie Brannigan and Cambalda. Photo by Jenni Autry.

The ladies continued to bring the heat today at The Fork, with Jennie Brannigan, Sinead Halpin and Molly Tulley leading the CIC3*, CIC2* and CIC* divisions, respectively, at the end of a windy, dusty day of show jumping, and we caught up with them at the afternoon press conference to break down their rides.

Nina Gardner’s Cambalda had a hard rub at the final fence in the CIC3*, a blue oxer set on a six-stride bending line. Jennie looked back at the fence as she galloped past the timers, and with the pole still sitting in the cups, she took the lead with a double clear round to stay her dressage score of 42.8.

“He’s so behind the leg, and I was laughing because he can do two-time changes, but then he wouldn’t do a clean flying change in the show jumping,” Jennie joked, but she said she was very happy with the round, which course designer Chris Barnard told me he thought was one of the nicest in the division.

Jennie and “Ping” have never finished lower than third place in three appearances in the CIC3* at this event, and they won it in 2011. With Jennie planning to put the pedal down on Tremaine Cooper’s cross country course tomorrow, chances look good for our prediction that she’ll take home the win for a second time.

But first they’ll have to get past the final water complex, which has been overhauled this year and has all the riders chattering in the barns. Coming at fence 15 on course, the jump in at A is a big, airy log, with five strides to a sizable brush corner in the water at B, followed by three strides out of the water to a chevron at C.

The technical delegate did approve adding a black flag option at the B element, which Jennie said she was happy about so riders have a Plan B if they do run into trouble there. “I love this place; the ground is always great, and we got some rain last night, so I’ll be going out to try to give him a good, solid round for Kentucky.”

Liz Halliday-Sharp came into show jumping sitting in the overnight lead with Deborah Halliday’s Fernhill By Night. A rail down at the second to last fence dropped them to third place on a score of 45.8, and Liz took full responsibility for the dropped pole.

“Blackie jumped great; the rail was completely my fault,” she said. “I was going for time, and he’s a really big, rangy horse; he has a huge stride, and I always struggle with distances with him. But I know him well enough now, and he jumped big over the vertical, the third to the last, and I realized I was going to get there in 5 1/2 strides.”

Liz said she’s not planning to run fast tomorrow on cross country, as she needs a confidence-building go heading into her first CCI4* at Rolex with the horse after having runouts at both Red Hills and Carolina International.

Sinead Halpin Takes the CIC2* Lead

The live scores are not correct for the CIC2*, and Sinead Halpin and Nicole Carolan’s Topgun are actually leading on their dressage score of 40.3 after jumping double clear. Sinead has had the ride on “Gunnar,” a 9-year-old gelding by a Dutch stallion and out of an Irish pony mare, since last spring when his owner went to college.

“He’s a character,” Sinead said. “He’s a really talented horse — a super jumper. He’s just been a little quirky.” They worked through some bitting issues last fall, and Sinead said things have started coming together really nicely in the last few events this season. “We’ve come up with a few different tricks for him — the right noseband, the right bit and no warm-up before dressage.”

The plan is for Sinead to keep the ride on Gunnar through the year, as Nicole is having surgery on her ankle next month, and they’re aiming for the CCI2* at Bromont. She said she plans to go fast out of the box tomorrow to help give him the experience he’ll need in Canada.

Lillian Heard and Abbie Golden’s Arundel pulled one rail to drop to third place in the CIC2*, and she said she was still really pleased with the performance, as he had two rails at Carolina International. “He jumped really well,” Lillian said. “I just got him a little close to the second jump and tried to do something about it too late.”

With the CCI2* at Jersey Fresh or Bromont as their major goal for the spring, Lillian said she’ll try to have a fast run tomorrow with “Spencer,” though she’ll adjust her plan if he feels rusty, as he hasn’t had that many runs this year.

Molly Tulley Moves Into CIC* Lead

Molly Tulley took the CIC* lead with a clear show jumping round aboard Allie Knowles’ former upper-level mount Last Call, who she is leasing to gain mileage at the Preliminary and one-star level. She successfully completed her first CIC* at Carolina International aboard “Fergie” and said she’s incredibly grateful to have the opportunity.

“I kept saying to Allie, ‘I really feel like we’re going to nail it this weekend, because I feel like everything is coming together,’” Molly said. “She’s not the kind of horse that just gives everything to you. I’ve learned so much from her, and I can’t wait to apply it to my own horses at home.”

Molly, who works for Allie and also exercises horses at the Maker’s Mark Secretariat Center in Lexington, hopes the experience she gains on Fergie will help her with her Trakehner mare Miriam, who she hopes to take to her first CIC* at Morven Park or Plantation Field in the fall.

Beau Guimond is sitting in second place in the CIC* with his own Filibuster ST on a score of 44.3 after jumping a clear round with 1 time penalty; this is the horse’s first one-star, and Beau said he’s been extremely happy with him all weekend.

Boyd Martin originally found the horse, an 8-year-old Hanoverian gelding, through Alex Robertson and told Beau, who was a working student for him at the time, that he thought the horse would be a good mount to take through the levels.

“He’s a really cool horse, and I’m very lucky to ride him,” Beau said. “He had a reputation for bucking people off, and he’s still wild now, but he’s gotten a lot better in the dressage. I’m going to take him as far as he’ll go.”

Marilyn Little and RF Overdressed moved into the top three in the CIC* with a clear show jumping round. Though the horse, an 8-year-old Hanoverian gelding owned by Jacquie Mars, Robin Parsky and Raylyn Farms, has two-star mileage, Marilyn has been competing him at the one-star level to develop the partnership.

“His show jumping has been a work in progress,” Marilyn said. “He’ll gallop along tomorrow because he is a two-star horse, and he’s had some great two-star runs, but also the partnership is going up and down right now in a building phase,” Marilyn said.

She has been working on the shape of his jump and creating more of an arc, as she said he tends to “jump like Bambi” — “Carolina was better, and today was an improvement,” she said. The plan is for the horse to aim for the CCI2* at Bromont.

CIC* cross country starts at 8:30 a.m., followed by the CIC3* at about 10 a.m., with the CIC2* scheduled to go around 3 p.m. PRO Tour Radio will be streaming live all day, and we’ll also be posting live updates for the CIC3* and Advanced here on EN.

If you missed the Advanced report from earlier, click here to read it, and stay tuned for the full preview of the CIC3* course with analysis from Tremaine Cooper.

#TheFork: WebsiteEntry StatusRide TimesLive ScoresEN’s CoverageTwitterInstagram