Matt Brown and BCF Belicoso have been steadily stalking their way up the USEA Adequan Gold Cup Advanced Final leaderboard here at the AEC throughout the week. They sat eighth after dressage on a score of 33.5, rose to fifth after a faultless show jumping round, then sailed straight to the top on the wings of a clear, fast cross country trip this morning.
The top of the leaderboard saw a big shift when show jumping leader Marilyn Little fell from RF Scandalous at fence #16 and third-placed Angela Bowles withdrew Bliss III before cross country. Doug Payne and Vandiver finished in the penultimate spot, having moved from 9th to 6th to 2nd throughout the competition. Jennie Brannigan and Cambalda picked up 4.8 time on cross country to drop from 2nd after show jumping to 3rd overall. Cross country was run in reverse order of standing, creating an exciting, down-to-the-wire championship finale.
Matt and Doug stopped by the media center after the awards ceremony to tell us about their rides.
“He had three really good phases,” Matt says of Belicoso, an 11-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Lux Z x Catcher Berezina) owned by Blossom Creek Foundation. “In the dressage I was very happy with him. There were some little things I could have cleaned up about the test, but the thing that is remarkable about the horse to me is that he just steps up every time and is willing to give me more and more and more.
“At the beginning of the week I joked with my wife (Cecily) that riding him is like riding an electric golf cart that is slightly running out of batteries all the time — he doesn’t have much blood to him, but he’s always willing to go when I ask him to and he showed me the same thing in the show jumping and the cross country.”
The golf cart analogy is quite fitting here at Tryon International Equestrian Center, as today’s Advanced cross country test ran along former golf course fairways which will be further developed to host WEG cross country next year. Check out our AEC Advanced course preview here.
In 2015 Matt and Cecily uprooted themselves from a comfortable business in California and moved to Cochranville, Pa., to have access to bigger events and the best possible training. Matt’s success here at the AEC is yet another indication that their risk is paying off.
“The thing I’ve found really great about being on the East Coast, in coming out here, is that in order to do well at a competition like this, with Doug and Phillip and Marilyn and Jennie, you really have to be on the inside line and you have to not give away those little points. I feel like being back here is pushing me and pushing my horses, and I feel like Belicoso really stepped up in all three phases and is constantly improving so I am really happy with him.”
For his win in the Adequan USEA Gold Cup Series, Brown took home $20,000, the lion share of the $40,000 prize money. He was also the recipient of the Jack LeGoff trophy as winner of the USEF Open Horse Trials National Championship.
The AEC was a perfect bon voyage prep for second-placed Doug Payne and Vandiver, as the horse is flying to England on Wednesday to contest Blenheim.
Vandiver, 13-year-old Trakehner gelding (Windfall II x Visions of Grandeur) owned and bred by Debi Crowley, has been at TIEC since last Wednesday, contesting some jumper classes in advance of the AEC. This venue has a home turf advantage for Doug and his horses, who are here every second or third week doing jumper shows. “I think it’s a real advantage that he was able to get into this ring three times in the last week,” Doug says.
The big crowds and bright lights affected some of the Advanced horses, who show jumped as TIEC’s “Saturday Night Lights” feature yesterday evening. “(Vandiver) gets a little worried but he’s the most genuine creature I’ve ever been able to work with and I’m very lucky that Debi has trusted me with him,” Doug says.
“The dressage is still coming,” Doug says of their test, which scored a 33.7. “Where it’s lacked in the past is that he just needs a little more engagement, more power making him go a little bit. We had a couple bobbles but looking to the future it’s very bright.”
“The jumping was good last night, and today he was like a seeing eye dog — I just sit there and enjoy,” Doug says.
The pair came in second last year and second at The Fork CIC3* this spring. Last year, Mark Bellissimo, managing partner of Tryon Equestrian Partners (TEP), jokingly gave Doug the pole that cost him the win; this year, to continue the tradition, Mark presented him with a dressage marker as he lost by a mere 0.2 to Matt.
Safe travels and best of luck at Blenheim, Doug and Vandiver!
Props to 3rd placed Jennie as well, who had an enormously successful weekend. In addition to her very respectable Advanced finish, she won the Boehringer Ingelheim Open Intermediate division with FE Lifestyle as well as the Prelim Horse division with Balmoral Oakey. And she managed it all with a broken hand, incurred after jamming it into the neck of Cambalda during their Saturday night show jumping warmup. Eventer tough!
Today’s cross country course caused a couple spots of trouble: Marilyn fell at fence #16, “The Stick Pile,” when RF Scandalous added a step before the fence that wasn’t quite there. Both horse and rider were OK.
Kylie Lyman fared less well when her first of two rides in the division, Lup the Loop, had a heavy fall over #5D water complex. The horse tried to squeeze a stride into the bounce between up-bank and skinny brush and chested the latter. Kylie clearly got the wind knocked out of her but remained conscious throughout the incident. She was transported to Spartanburg Regional Hospital in Spartanburg, SC, where she was diagnosed with a concussion and broken clavicle. Lup the Loop was examined by the veterinary team on-site and led back to the stables unharmed.
Courtney Cooper and Who’s A Star picked up 20 at the water complex as well.
A couple videos from Advanced cross country:
USEA Adequan Advanced Gold Cup Final Top 15: