It’s a big week for U.S. eventing as a large contingent of Americans take on the Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials. Easily recognized as one of the most prestigious and grueling events in the world, we have seven Americans (and one U.S.-based Aussie!) in the CCI3*, as well as Lauren Kieffer with two rides in the CIC3* 8/9-year-old class.
Samantha Clark will be on the grounds for EN keeping up with our Americans all weekend, so be sure to keep it locked on EN for everything you need to know from Blenheim. The first horse inspection just wrapped up with all horses passing, so stay tuned for a full report with photos.
U.S. CCI3* Competitors
Kate Chadderton and VS McCuan Civil Liberty: U.S.-based Australian Kate Chadderton is the honorary American we’ll be following along with this weekend as she competes in her first UK event aboard VS McCuan Civil Liberty, an 11-year-old off-track Thoroughbred gelding owned by Patrick McCuan that is making his overseas debut.
Civil Liberty has had a big step up this year, completing his first CCI3* at Bromont. While this little OTTB isn’t fond of the dressage phase, he’s a consistent and fast cross country horse and has the chops to get around this big Blenheim track. Aussie Aussie Aussie!
Liz Halliday-Sharp and Fernhill By Night: Liz knows the challenge she’s up against in Blenheim, having competed in the CCI3* with her other top mount HHS Cooley in 2013. Now she’s bringing “Blackie,” a 12-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding owned by Deborah Halliday, for a crack at the track, and there’s a lot to like about their chances.
These two shine in dressage and will almost certainly be one of the best-placed American combinations at the conclusion of that phase. Their scores in the little white box just keep getting better and better, and Liz and Blackie most recently delivered a personal best of 36.1 on the flat in the CIC3* at Breda. The horse has also jumped clear show jumping rounds at plenty of big CCI3* events before, so the outcome of their weekend likely comes down to cross country — kick on, Liz!
Lauren Kieffer and Veronica: Lauren and Veronica, a 13-year-old Dutch mare owned by Team Rebecca, have completed three major competitions in Europe in the past year, never finishing lower than 15th in any of their efforts. They’re most recently coming off a seventh-place finish at the Bramham CCI3*, another very imposing British track, and a 15th-place finish at Aachen, where they helped Team USA to a third-place finish in the Nations Cup.
“Troll” is nothing if consistent dressage, and we can likely expect her to score under 45 in the first phase. She also rarely pulls rails in show jumping and has jumped clear at each of her National and FEI competitions all year. So it really comes down to cross country as to how Blenheim will play out for these two. If Lauren can let the mare cruise, they’ll be very much in the hunt come Sunday.
Jen McFall and High Times: Jen and “Billy,” her own 11-year-old Holsteiner gelding, have made the longest trek of any of our Americans at this event, traveling from California to compete in their first overseas competition. The horse has had a lighter season after a minor injury sidelined him during Rolex, so he’ll be coming in to Blenheim fresh and full of running.
Jen has been working extremely hard on her dressage this year, and the lower scores are definitely starting to hit the board. They delivered a personal best of 48.2 at the level at the Galway Downs CIC3* in March and also delivered a respectable 53.1 at Rebecca Farm following Billy’s lay-up from his injury. It will be exciting to see what they deliver at Blenheim with even more time spent honing in on the dressage this summer.
Will Coleman and OBOS O’Reilly: Will and “Oboe,” a 12-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding owned by the Four Star Eventing Group, have had a very exciting season, with the horse making his four-star debut to finish sixth at Rolex Kentucky and continuing to show good form with a 13th place finish at Richland CIC3*. Oboe delivered one of his better dressage tests at Richland, and that phase continues to be the big challenge for him, as he can get tense and hot in big atmospheres.
But Will is no stranger to Blenheim, having completed the CCI3* with Nevada Bay in 2010. “Oboe” is a superb cross country horse and has the advantage of a very experienced pilot in the irons as the horse makes his overseas debut. If Will can keep the lid on in dressage, these two have the potential to finish high up the leaderboard.
Clark Mongtomery and Loughan Glen: Clark and “Glen,” a 12-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding owned by Jess Montgomery, Kathryn Kraft, and Holly and William Becker, have the most experience at Blenheim by far of any of the other U.S. combinations competing. They placed third in the CCI3* in 2013 and fifth in 2011, and Clark and Glen have a real shot at improving on those performances and winning the whole thing.
Indeed, Clark and Glen are coming in hot to start their fall season after a stellar spring and summer campaign that saw them win the massive Grantham Cup CIC3* class at Belton Park before going on to finish sixth at Luhmühlen CCI4* in June on 37.5. After a well-deserved summer break, Glen continued in his good form by winning the CIC2* at Somerford Park last month as his final prep for Blenheim. We’re expecting great things from these two this weekend.
Elisa Wallace and Simply Priceless: Easily this year’s Cinderella story here in the U.S., Elisa Wallace and Simply Priceless, a 14-year-old Australian Thoroughbred gelding owned by David and Jill Hopcroft, have continued to impress since finishing Rolex Kentucky as the highest placed rookies in their CCI4* debut. After trying to compete at Blenheim a decade ago before an injury to her horse cut that goal short, Elisa has finally accomplished her dream of making it overseas.
Elisa and “Johnny” have been diligently training with Karen O’Connor since this spring, and the proof that their hard work is paying off is evident when looking at their ever-dropping scores. They finished the Richland CIC3* in seventh place on 51.4, improving on their previous best CIC3* finishing score by a whopping 21.9 points. These two are more than ready to make their overseas debut.
Emily Beshear and Shame On The Moon: Emily and “Delta,” a 9-year-old Trakehner/Thoroughbred mare owned by Deep Purple Eventing, have been an exciting combination to watch for some time now, and it’s clear the partnership is really starting to mesh when looking at their results from these last few months. While the mare is one of the younger horses in the field, she has the added advantage of a rider who knows the event well, as Emily finished 24th at Blenheim in 2012 with Here’s To You.
This pair came oh so close to winning the Bromont CCI3* in June, with one too many rails down ultimately seeing them finish in second place to the seasoned four-star campaigner RF Demeter. Then Emily and Delta jumped their first clear FEI show jumping round in a year at Richland CIC3* and stormed around cross country to finish third in a very competitive division. All the pieces are there for this mare to deliver in her overseas debut.
U.S. CIC3* 8/9-Year-Old Competitors
Lauren Kieffer and Landmark’s Monte Carlo: It will be a busy week for Lauren as she competes Veronica in the CCI3* and two horses in the CIC3* 8/9-year-old class. Landmark’s Monte Carlo, a 9-year-old Irish/Thoroughbred cross owned by Jacqueline Mars, is one of the horses she’s been really excited about coming through the ranks, and he definitely has a lot of potential.
“Patrick” won the CIC3* at Jersey Fresh in May before completing his first CCI3* at Bromont in June. He’s only competed at the National level since then, completing two events in England to get a good feel for the type of terrain he’ll be facing this weekend. He’s had some blips on cross country this season, but Lauren has all the experience to pilot him around clear at Blenheim.
Lauren Kieffer and Vermiculus: This 8-year-0ld Anglo-Arab gelding owned by Jacqueline Mars is a blast to watch ping around a cross country course, and his game attitude should suit him well for Blenheim. He has already run one CIC3* since arriving in England for Lauren’s overseas fall tour, completing Wellington last month as his final prep for this event.
This horse has flown a little under the radar this season in the shadow of his stablemate and U.S. Pan Ams team gold medalist Meadowbrook’s Scarlett. Vermiculus was named as an alternate for Toronto and also followed the same team path this summer, and while he’s still green to the level, he has all the tools he needs for a good finish in this CIC3* class at Blenheim.