Only the first third of the CIC3* division did their dressage today at The Fork, with Maya Black and Doesn’t Play Fair finding themselves at the top of a major leaderboard for the second time in as many weeks. Maya and “Cody” shared a three-way tie for first place after dressage at Carolina International on 43.4, and they bested that score today at The Fork to lead on 41.8.
Cody, an 11-year-old Holsteiner gelding owned by Dawn Dofelmier, would have almost certainly cracked the 30s had the 15.2-hand dynamo not gotten away from Maya and broken to canter while showing off his exuberant, powerful trot in the first few movements of the test.
“I think that moving forward I still know how I need to make it better for the first few movements. Those are what have been tricky with him for the last few months or so,” Maya said. “It takes him a minute to settle in the ring, so I need to be better about being sure I have him on my seat and leg going into the ring. (The break to canter) was disappointing, but I was really happy we were able to move forward and have a decent rest of the test.”
Maya and Cody are gearing up for their second appearance at the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, and she is diligently working on his rideability and self carriage as they count down the final days to the competition.
“He knows what his job is, and sometimes he does get away from me,” Maya said. For example, “he comes around the corner and he thinks extended trot when it’s shoulder-in. When you tell him, ‘Actually, let’s do this,’ he has an opinion about it.”
Phillip Dutton and Fernhill Cubalawn are sitting in second place in the early going in the division on 44.9 following a lovely test. “I thought it was good and forward and reasonably soft,” Phillip said. “There were a couple parts I could have improved on, but overall I was pleased with the way it’s going.”
The 13-year-old Holsteiner gelding owned by Tom Tierney, Simon Roosevelt and Caroline Moran is the reigning USEF National CCI4* Champion and will look to defend that title later this month in his second appearance at Rolex.
“Hopefully we can do a little bit better than we did last time; that would be the goal,” Phillip said. “We’re taking it one day at a time, and it should be an exciting three-day event this year with big entries. I’m sure Derek (di Grazia, the course designer) is making sure that whoever wins has to work for it. (Cuba) is reasonably seasoned now, so he should be up to it and ready for it.”
Cuba is one of three entries Phillip has for Rolex, all of which are on the radar for this year’s U.S. Olympic team and ranked in the top 10 on EN’s Rio Olympic Power Rankings. So does one of the three — Fernhill Cubalawn, Fernhill Fugitive and Mighty Nice — stand out to Phillip as his top Rio prospect?
“We’re not thinking like that. That’s sort of like having a favorite child. You’re not allowed to do that,” Phillip joked. He also has Mr. Candyman qualified for Rio and will look to gain qualification for Indian Mill and Z at Jersey Fresh next month, which would give him six possibilities for the Olympic team.
Colleen Rutledge and her own Covert Rights are rounding out the top three in the CIC3* in the early going on a score of 45.1. The 10-year-old Clydesdale/Thoroughbred gelding is another horse that will be making his second Rolex appearance this year. Rolex released the final list of accepted entries yesterday; click here if you missed those.
Colleen said she thought the test was considerably better than their effort at Carolina International last month, when “CR” scored an uncharacteristically high 51.6. “He was a lot softer and a lot more willing to play with me (today),” Colleen said. “All in all, I’m a lot happier with it. There are always things that can be improved.”
As for what she’ll be working on in the final weeks before Rolex: “It’s more just simply polishing up the bits and pieces that leave points on the table. He’s still a bit tight in his walk. That’s the biggest thing we’ve been having an argument about since Carolina. He was better (today) but still worried about it.”
Colleen has walked portions of Tremaine Cooper’s cross country course so far and said her first impressions are good. “It’s going to ask enough questions, and I’m excited to go ride it.” You can check out a sneak peek of the CIC3* course on CrossCountry App here, and stay tuned for Kate’s full course preview.
With both Rolex and Burghley completions under his belt, Colleen said she is taking a much different horse into Kentucky this year. “Hs experience level this year is a lot better,” Colleen said. “He’s reading the questions a lot better. He learned from last year, which is all you can ever ask.”
Doug Payne and Lysander, a 9-year-old Holsteiner/Thoroughbred gelding he owns with Kristin Michaloski, earned one of the highest individual marks of the day (79.1%) on their way to throwing down a 37.0 to easily lead the CIC2* by 10 points after dressage.
Doug said his goal today was to ride “Big Leo” more forward and go for it a bit more than he had been in his tests so far this season. “Throughout the entire test, I was trying to make sure he stayed active,” Doug said. “He’s an obedient horse. I’m very lucky in that regard because it makes my job easier. He’s becoming more consistent, so it’s getting to where I can take a shot at it.”
Big Leo, who earned his barn name because of his staggering height at 18 hands, is very comfortable at the two-star level now, but Doug said he is waiting to move the horse up to Advanced until he’s totally confident the horse is ready. “Due to his size, I want to be 100 percent sure that he’s adjustable and able to get out of trouble,” he said. “He’s close, but he’s not there yet.”
Doug has also been making sure Big Leo spends more time in the show jumping ring to finetune his performance, as that has historically been the horse’s weakest phase. While Doug is eyeing a move up to Advanced for Big Leo this fall, he also said he’s thinking of taking a crack at the prize money for the new CCI2* at the Ocala Jockey Club over Thanksgiving weekend.
Elena Hengel and her own Zipp, a 12-year-old Dutch gelding, sit in second place in the CIC2* after dressage on 47.2, with Boyd Martin and Shamwari 4, a 14-year-old Hanoverian gelding owned by the Shamwari 4 Syndicate, in third on 48.1. Shamwari is one of three horses Boyd has entered at Rolex.
The first handful of horses went today in the CIC*, and Sara Kozumplik Murphy and Sebastian, a 9-year-old New Zealand Thoroughbred gelding owned by Edy Rameika, lead on 38.0. Click here to view the full live scores.
Stay tuned for a full report on the Advanced divisions, and keep it locked on EN for all your news from #TheFork. Heads up to everyone competing that on Friday night Holling Eventing will be sponsoring a reprise of last night’s wildly popular Welcome Party — in which Meg Kep finally got the 90’s dance party she’s always dreamed of — with a DJ, bar and food.
Be sure to check Instagram for photos throughout the weekend. Go Eventing.