Marilyn Little came out swinging yesterday in the CCI3* at the Dutta Corp Fair Hill International, delivering a dominant score of 41.5 with RF Scandalous that no one could catch today. RF Demeter came the closest with 44.6 to also give Marilyn the second-place slot on the leaderboard as we look ahead to cross country tomorrow.
With Emily Beshear and Silver Night Lady also holding onto their overnight lead in the CCI2* on 43.0 and Jennie Brannigan and Stella Artois throwing down today to sit in second on 44.5, that gives us female riders aboard mares in the top two slots in both CCI divisions. Fair Hill has gone to the girls, ya’ll!
RF Scandalous, an 11-year-old Oldenburg mare owned by Phoebe and Michael Manders, Jacqueline Mars and Robin Parsky, is making her return to the three-star level at Fair Hill following an injury last fall at Boekelo that sidelined her until March.
“I wanted to give her the benefit of having an entire year to be back up to the level,” Marilyn said. “She’s been in work since March, so she really only had a little bit of time off after Boekelo last year, but she’s been competing since June. I didn’t want to push her to this level until we were here, so it’s been slow.” (Click here to read Marilyn’s comments about her test with “Kitty” from yesterday.)
RF Demeter, a 14-year-old Oldenburg mare owned by Jacqueline Mars, Raylyn Farms and Patrick Witte, didn’t quite catch her personal CCI3* best of 40.5 from Galway Downs last year, but she still delivered one of her better performances at the level today.
“Demi was a little bit more tense than I was hoping she would be, but I think that’s normal for this time of the year. She still was very obedient and she was really looking forward to the test and was just a little anticipatory of things, so not quite as relaxed and uphill as she can be, which is something we’ve been working on over the past year,” Marilyn said.
“All in all I’m really pleased with her, and it’s such a privilege to ride an old partner out there. We know each other very well and I can trust her to do her job and can almost underdo a little in the warm-up knowing that she’s going to want to go in and be beautiful and put on a show.”
As for Marilyn’s strategy on cross country tomorrow with both mares, she said she is hoping to put her “love-hate relationship” with Fair Hill firmly in the past. “For me historically it’s been an event that almost went well a few times, and I didn’t quite bring it home like I thought I should have and wanted to, and I was disappointed in myself not my horses. I really hope to do a good job for them tomorrow,” Marilyn said.
“I think they are both very prepared, very fit. They are obviously in very different places in their career. Kitty is green to the level for sure, but she is a very brave, courageous horse. … I’ll probably be a little bit more conservative with her in the beginning of the course to save her so that at no time do I feel that she is panicking about looking for air. … I’d like to have her come home feeling as confident as when she left the start box.
“With Demi I just have to keep control because she is very strong and she knows her job and comes out of the start box like a tornado and just wants to do it all at once, right away. I have to try to find a good rhythm, help her settle in quickly, stick her nose on the ropes and let her start doing her job and just keep the rhythm.”
Reigning Adequan USEA Gold Cup Champions Ryan Wood and Powell made a valiant attempt to catch Marilyn but had to settle for third place and a score of 45.0 after a missed flying change and a sticky half-pirouette. Overall, Ryan said he was very happy with the performance from Powell.
“He’s a pretty special horse and I’m lucky to be riding him and have him in my barn,” Ryan said. “He was awesome. He did everything really well. I made a couple little mistakes in there, but on the whole I was thrilled with it.”
The 10-year-old Oldenburg gelding owned by Summit Sporthorses won his CCI3* debut at Jersey Fresh in May, and Ryan said he’s excited to have an even more seasoned partner to tackle Fair Hill. “We’ll have our work cut out for us. It’s a pretty tough track … a real endurance test and one of the strongest three-stars I’ve seen.”
Heather Morris and Charlie Tango, who received a Land/Rover USEF Competition Grant to travel from California to compete, scored 45.7 to sit in fourth place in the CCI3*. The 8-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding owned by Team Express Group is making his CCI3* debut at Fair Hill, coming off a strong second-place finish in the Twin Rivers CIC3* last month.
Hannah Sue Burnett and Under Suspection round out the top five on 46.8. The 12-year-old Holsteiner mare owned by Mary Ann Ghadban finished second in the CCI3* at Rebecca Farm in July, and we also predicted her to finish second this weekend at Fair Hill. “Pippy” is well within striking distance after dressage.
We also saw a lovely test today from Emily Beshear and Deep Purple Eventing’s Shame on the Moon, scoring 46.9 to sit sixth. (Her score had a large spread between the judges: 72.12% at M, 69.42% at C, 64.62% at E.) Mackenna Shea and Landioso went early this morning and are another pair making the West Coast proud, sitting in eighth on 48.7.
Phillip Dutton and John and Kristine Norton’s I’m Sew Ready did their test yesterday and now sit in ninth on 49.2. Buck Davidson has two rides in the top 10 in Carlevo, who sits seventh on 47.2, and Park Trader, who scored 49.4 to round out the top 10. Phillip delivered the only other score in the 40s in the division, with Z sitting 11th on 49.7.
Fair Hill is never a dressage show, and Derek de Grazia has mixed things up this year by reversing portions of the cross country course, which is fondly known as “Mini Rolex.” The consensus from the riders is that this year’s course is especially tough, with questions coming thick and heavy starting with an especially difficult angled brush combination at fence 6.
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 courses in the Fair Hill program here (click the button on the cover). Fair Hill’s going is usually sloppy, but this year we have fast ground, so tomorrow is going to be exciting from start to finish.
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.