Marilyn Little may have relinquished her dressage lead after the lunchbreak Friday to the True Prospect Farm raiders Jennie Brannigan and Phillip Dutton who moved into first and second places, but she claimed it back with a clear show-jumping round later in the afternoon and took the reserve slot with her second ride RF Demeter for good measure.
Marilyn’s lucky irons? Since coming 2nd at Fairhill last fall, Smoke has had plenty of time off “hanging out in the field”, and almost incredibly has only had his shoes on for just over a month and this is his first event of the season. Marilyn said “I didn’t know what to expect, he was quite fresh before the Dressage but he put in a nice test, not his best test, we left plenty on the table and I’m excited about what’s to come this Spring.” What will come this spring depends on US Coach David O’Connor’s advice, “I was looking towards Rolex but David has been talking about some other plans for him, maybe considering Saumur. I will likely defer to whatever he considers thinks is appropriate because I haven’t been to Saumur, this is only my second full year in eventing and I don’t know what the possibilities are in terms of the development of a young horse to the higher levels.” After The Fork with Smoke and immediately following Rolex, Marilyn is planning to take a mixture of her jumpers and eventers to Holland to spend the summer there, close enough to the German border to use their gallops, she explained, but in Holland because her business is located there primarily and she prefers the lifestyle.
Marilyn must have been pleased with RF Demeter’s clear round, as the show-jumping is something she’s been working on with her since her “wake-up call” at Rolex, three rails down, last Spring. “We’ve been working on a lot of things with her since last year. I hadn’t been aware of the history that she had with (former rider) Raf Kooremans in the terms of the show-jumping so there’s been a serious plan in place for that mare to develop that. Fairhill went well so I was looking for a good round from her today on the grass; the grass here at Red Hills always throws a wrench into the works, because you can have a good jumper, and they’re used to the grass and the undulating terrain but it’s not often that you see that mixed with the show-jumping, it adds a little bit. I was really thrilled with her performance today. For me, the dressage is always a work in progress, and I’m feeling with Demeter that I’m getting there, I’m getting closer. As David O’Connor said today, I’m within range, and I can count on her more and more.” With two rides in both the CIC** and CIC*** Marilyn conceded that the new format (running both dressage and show-jumping before the cross-country) made for a busy day but added that in her opinion it’s well worth it to increase spectator-friendliness and bring the sport in line with Europe. Marilyn did not ride Mr Medicott who was entered in the Advanced Division, “He’s not my horse. The plan was always for the horse to come to Wellington, long before Karen was hurt, and Karen really wanted to focus on his show-jumping during the winter months because he had had a break since the Olympics so his off season started very early. When she got hurt she wanted to keep the plan the same so the horse came down (to Wellington), I competed him up the 1 meter 30 level and started getting him fit for the events, and it’s up in the air, it’s not up to me to decide the horse’s plans, he has a syndicate that is in place and they are going to make all the decisions. He’s fit, well and ready to go, he’s ready for anything.”
Jennie conferring with US Team Coach David O’Connor before the show-jumping. David has been tireless so far this weekend, watching, helping, talking.
Jennie had one rail on Cambalda to drop behind Marilyn into 3rd place
Phillip Dutton also had one down on Mighty Nice to stay right behind his True Prospect Farm assistant Jennie, in fourth place
Jan Byyny moved up 5 places to 5th with a clear show-jumping round
A clear on Atlas, who never looked in danger of even breathing on a rail, also moved Phillip Dutton up so that he has both his horses in the top 6 overnight. You can find all the scores here.
Peter was rightfully delighted with H J Hampton’s (Henny – look at those famous ears!) dressage and a genuine clear leaves them in touch in seventh place. Last year not only were they clear around the CIC*** xc track, they were also the fastest combination, ever! Look for them to worry the leaders.
The experienced Ballynoe Castle RM ended up the best of Buck’s three rides in this division, adding one rail to his score and dropping two places to 8th.
Kristin Shmolze and a keen Ballylaffin Bracken had two down to stay in 21st place
Come on, Leslie! It worked – Lesley’s wife Leslie jumped clear on Zenith ISF to move up from 26th to inside the top 20
Buck Davidson and D.A Adirmo had two down to drop to 16th place
DHI Zatopek had three down to drop to 30th place, but things went from bad to worse when poor Jon Holling rode his second horse Proper Timing , racking up a cricket score and plummeting from 3rd to 33rd place.
Emily Renfroe and Walk the Line, 24th
Selena O’Hanlon and Foxwood High move up to 18th with one rail down
Alexandra Green and Fernhill Cubalawn, 23rd
A beautiful clear round from Emily Beshear and Heres to You move them up to 13th place
Peter Barry and his loyal campaigner Kilrodan Abbot jumped clear and moved up to 15th place
Buck Davidson had one down on Park Trader to tie with his stablemate D.A Adirmo in 16th place
Jan Byyny and Syd Kent jumped clear to move up five places to 11th
Young rider Jacob Fletcher had one down and sits in 12th place overnight. I spoke to him after his dressage and have that video slowly, slowly uploading – I’m hoping I will wake up and have it all magically ready to go Saturday morning – stay tuned, he’s adorable, will bring you that ASAP.
Red Hills attracts tons of spectators, many of them completely un-horsey and simply enjoying a day out, and also lots of local media. As usual everything ran to time, the volunteers and organisers are friendly and helpful, the commentators, Nigel Casserley and John Kyle are outstanding and the weather couldn’t have been better. Horse and Hound’s Pippa Roome and I did spare a thought for all those attempting to compete at Tweseldown this weekend (Jess and Clark Montgomery xxx check & like Uptown Eventing’s facebook page for great pictures) and a quick EN Get Well Soon shout out to Lucinda Fredericks who broke her collarbone and several ribs in a fall there. Wishing everyone safe and successful rides across country – Go Red Hills and Go Eventing!