Maya Black and Doesn’t Play Fair defended their overnight lead in the CIC3* at The Fork with a speedy cross country trip — one of just four in the division to make the optimum time — to take the second CIC3* win of their career on their dressage score of 41.8. It’s taken time for this duo to return to their winning ways after Maya went back to the drawing board to work on the horse’s rideability, which makes today’s win all the more gratifying.
Maya and “Cody,” an 11-year-old Holsteiner gelding owned by Dawn Dofelmier, are preparing to compete in their second CCI4* at Rolex in two weeks, and she came into cross country today with a very specific game plan. Using the hills on the course to her advantage to hone Cody’s fitness as they count down the days to Kentucky, Maya said she was very pleased with how he handled the track, breezing around to come home 15 seconds inside the time with the fastest round of the day.
“I wanted to have a good smart run on my part but also use this as a fitness run before Kentucky. I wanted to get around safely and confidently and use this to move forward. They have some great hills here, especially toward the end, so I really used that as a fitness run and really made him gallop up it and then take a breath before the bigger tables,” Maya said.
“I think this was a great run because moving forward I will be able to take away that the combinations that maybe walk a teeny bit long, I actually have to work harder about getting him back for them because they don’t ride long for him, they ride short. That’s something good for me to know going into Kentucky. I have to make sure he’s in the right balance for the combinations because he has such a huge stride for his size.”
At 15.2 hands, Cody’s size certainly doesn’t slow him down. He was a bit of a handful on course today, and Maya said she’ll be practicing a few long downhill gallops and then pull him up to check her brakes before Kentucky. “It’s fun to know that finally it feels like some of the pieces are coming back together again. The horse is very capable of winning at this level, so it’s nice to be showing that our hard work at home is paying off,” Maya said.
“I know him very well now, but it always changes. Every year is different. Now he’s just so much more confident than before. He’s always been a confident horse on cross country, so his over confidence now isn’t always to our benefit, so that’s what I have to work on between now and then to get him back in my camp a little bit.”
Lauren Kieffer and Veronica, a 14-year-old Dutch mare owned by Team Rebecca, jumped clear with 1.2 time penalties to hold onto second place, finishing on a final score of 43.3. The 2014 National CCI4* Champions are looking in very good form as they prepare for a return trip to Rolex once more; they also delivered a personal best CIC3* dressage score this weekend of 43.3.
“The ground was quite hard, so I let her pick her own pace,” Lauren said. “She’s only run at Red Hills, so she was quite keen to get out there. Everything felt straight forward on her, and I feel good heading in to Kentucky. She’s quite fit, and I’m happy with where she’s at.”
As for what Lauren will be fine-tuning in the countdown to Rolex: “We’ll certainly be picking apart the Kentucky test and schooling individual movements. She’ll also have a cross country school to do sharp angles and corners. At this point it’s about trying to keep her sharp going into the event.”
Colleen Rutledge and Covert Rights delivered another of the four clear rounds inside the time to to move up from seventh after show jumping to finish in third place on their dressage score of 45.1. “CR,” a 10-year-old Clydesdale/Thoroughbred gelding Colleen bred, felt very rideable today, she said, which is exactly what she wanted heading into Rolex.
“There was a moment when he shifted his shoulders a little bit at the angled brushes, but he was really honest,” Colleen said. “He’s just so easy to ride and he’s so game for everything, so I’m thrilled with how he ran. I didn’t really ask him to go make the time, and he covered the ground super nicely.”
The Norwood area hasn’t seen much rain this week, and the gusting winds further dried up the ground, making for harder going than the riders wanted. But Colleen said the ground wasn’t as much of an issue for CR. “For him I thought the footing felt great. I wasn’t terribly concerned. My guys are a little more used to being on harder ground, and I thought it felt great. It’s great turf and great galloping hills, and (the grounds crew) did what they could.”
Phillip Dutton took the next three spots on the leaderboard, finishing fourth with Mighty Nice (49.1), fifth with Fernhill Cubalawn (50.5) and sixth with Indian Mill (51.4). Lauren Kieffer finished a second ride in the top 10 with Meadowbrook’s Scarlett in seventh place (51.8).
Will Faudree and Pfun had just 1.6 time penalties to move up from 14th to finish in eighth place (52.9). Katherine Coleman and Longwood were the third pair to make the time, moving up from 30th after dressage to finish in ninth on 54.5. Kim Severson and Fernhill Fearless round out the top 10 with a clear round and 1.2 time penalties (54.5).
The course rode fair smoothly across the board, with the majority of the division jumping clear rounds. Click here for a breakdown of where any trouble occurred on course. There were two falls on course. Colleen Rutledge and Escot 6 when the horse added a stride at fence 9c, the duck coming out of the first water complex. Both Colleen and “Monkey” are fine, and she returned later in the division to ride CR.
Sara Kozumplik Murphy and Catchascatchcan were having a great go until he refused at the fence 9a, a big airy log jump into the first water, sending Sara out the side door. She confirmed to EN after the fall that she is totally fine. Sara was the only other rider to make the time in the CIC3* aboard Fly Me Courageous.
Stay tuned for more from #TheFork. You can catch up on all the Advanced cross country action in our live updates thread. Boyd Martin and Blackfoot Mystery won the A division on 32.4, with Katie Ruppel and Houdini winning the B division on 38.1. There was a scary moment when Liz Halliday-Sharp fell from Fernhill By Night at the third fence from home. “Blackie” is totally fine sans some stitches in his left front leg. Liz is nursing some bruises but is otherwise fine.
It wasn’t all a bad day for Liz, as she won the CIC* with Deniro Z on their dressage score of 34.3. Doug Payne and Lysander added another CIC2* win to their growing list of accomplishments, going clear and inside the time to finish in first place on 37.0. Click here for final scores in all the divisions. Then click here to catch up on all of EN’s coverage so far.