The first 13 horses in the CCI3* danced in the sandbox today at the Dutta Corp Fair Hill International, with Marilyn Little and RF Scandalous’ handily taking the early lead on 41.5 in the horse’s first appearance in an FEI competition and at this level in more than a year.
The 11-year-old Oldenburg mare owned by Phoebe and Michael Manders, Jacqueline Mars and Robin Parsky, jumped clear on cross country in her CCI3* debut at Boekelo last fall but unfortunately put a stud through her coronary band on course, forcing her withdrawal before show jumping.
“She’s been out of it for a year and this is the first three-star test that I’ve done on her in a year. I didn’t have the advantage of running any combined tests because I thought she needed the run at Morven, and so she did the Intermediate there. It’s a pleasure to have her here and so much fun to ride her on the flat,” Marilyn said.
“She didn’t complete last year at Boekelo but she did the cross country course well and she was very solid out there, so I’m reasonably optimistic that she’ll put in another good performance Saturday. I’m really, really looking forward to having her out there.”
Their score of 41.5 bested their test from Boekelo by four marks, and Marilyn said that improvement is in part thanks to taking “Kitty” to different venues for pure dressage shows to work on maintaining relaxation in dressage while being fit enough to run a CCI.
“She was very submissive and very obedient and focused. I think of her as a very seasoned competitor, and yet she’s dealing with this level of fitness and she is very excited. For her to be that focused and workmanlike today, it was wonderful to see that.
I had a feeling she was going to be, and was quite focused yesterday,” Marilyn said.
“I thought her extensions were obedient and the downward transitions back to the gate. The canter work lacked a bit of the brilliance that I can have sometimes; the changes weren’t quite what I hoped, but there is plenty of room for improvement. I thought the walk was much improved for her. When she gets excited sometimes I don’t get quite as much in the extended walk as I’d like, and she gave that to me today.”
Phillip Dutton and I’m Sew Ready scored 49.2 to sit in second place in the CCI3* in the early going. The 12-year-old Dutch gelding owned by John and Kristine Norton is coming off a big win at Plantation Field CIC3* but didn’t quite replicate the wow factor we’ve seen from them in past tests. “I didn’t get him at his best today,” Phillip said. “He backed off a little bit on me when I got in the ring.”
Phillip went into cross country at Plantation Field in the lead with I’m Sew Ready and ultimately had to settle for third after choosing a more conservative place. With the horse’s fitness now in more peak condition, Phillip said he’s ready to take a crack at it come Saturday. “He’s run twice now, so I think he should be ready to go,” he said.
Phillip temporarily has the ride once again on “Jackson” while the horse’s usually jockey Kristen Bond and her husband Andrew are expecting their second child. In addition to a third-place finish at Plantation Field, Phillip and Jackson finished eighth in a star-studded division in the inaugural Advanced at Stable View in their final prep run for Fair Hill.
Marilyn and Phillip have our only scores in the 40s so far. Kim Severson and Cooley Cross Border scored 50.8 for third place after a bummer of a break in the first medium trot. That’s about six marks off of their typical average on this test and opens the door for other top contenders to sneak in tomorrow when the rest of the division goes. Click here to see our predictions for the top 10.
Of course, it’s not going to be a dressage show here at Fair Hill, as Derek di Grazia’s “Mini Rolex” course always manages to shake things up on cross country day. Stay tuned for a full fence-by-fence preview of the course, and you can watch a drone flyover video here.
The first part of the CCI2* division is going now, as well as the 4-year-old division in the USEA Young Event Horse East Coast Championship. Tim Bourke and Foreign Quality lead the 5-year-old division after dressage and conformation on 42.62%. Stay tuned for much more from #DuttaFHI.