Press Conference Musings from Fair Hill

Boyd Martin and Pancho Villa hold the overnight lead in the CCI2* after the first day of dressage. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Boyd Martin, Sharon White and Leslie Law joined us for a press conference at the conclusion of the first day of dressage in the CCI2* at Fair Hill. Boyd and Pancho Villa hold the overnight lead on a 41.4, with Sharon and Under Suspection in second on a 43.9, and Leslie and Billy Wiz on a 44.2. Boyd and Pancho looked fantastic in the dressage this morning, and he attributed that to the fact that the horse has natural swing and suspension … and that his wife happens to be Grand Prix dressage rider Silva Martin.

“I’ve been in a wonderful situation being shacked up with a dressage rider,” Boyd said. “Thanks to Silva’s knowledge, she’s been able to create suspension out of a horse that has that ability.” Indeed, Pancho is a really impressive mover, and he’s definitely a very different type from the horses Boyd’s has had most of his success with in the past, like his gritty cross-country machine Neville Bardos.

Derek Di Grazia’s CCI2* track will by far be the biggest challenge of Boyd and Pancho’s partnership to date, and while they’re coming off a win in the Plantation Field CIC2*, it’s no secret Fair Hill is a different animal. “I’ll figure out if he’s a four-star horse on a weekend like this,” Boyd said. “It’s a big, intimidating track with lots of accuracy questions. This will be the first time most of these horses have gone over eight minutes, so you get a feel for their endurance and stamina and heart.”

Leslie Law is also facing the biggest test of Billy Wiz’s career, but he’s confident the horse will rise to the occasion in his first two-star. He and his wife, Lesley, bought the horse as a 5-year-old in England and have since watched him blossom into a fierce two-star competitor. “He’s very Irish-bred and seven-eighths Thoroughbred, so he’s taking a little more time to mature than other horses, but he’s bred for the job, and he’s probably going to be a proper four-star horse eventually.”

Billy is actually Lesley’s horse, and the plan is for her to take over the ride in the spring to tackle a two-star and hopefully qualify for the Pan American Games, so Fair Hill is definitely an important time for the horse to step up. “If you take the questions apart, there’s nothing he can’t do,” Leslie said. “But when you put all the questions back together, it comes down to the cumulative effect of all the questions. Fair Hill is a great education for the two-star horses, and we like to come here to really see what we’ve got for the future.”

Sharon White already has a good idea of what she has for the future in Under Suspection, as the mare successfully campaigned in Germany with Dirk Schrade in the irons before she took over the ride this spring. Pippy dazzled the spectators today with a fluid, accurate test, and Sharon couldn’t wipe the smile off her face when she talked about the mare in the press conference.

“She’s really special and really easy and kind, and it’s just fun,” Sharon said. “She knows I adore her, and she’s happy with that. You know there’s that saying that dogs have friends and cats have staff. Pippy definitely has staff. I’m really glad to be on her. She’s very competitive, and she takes care of things and she loves it.”

Sharon wasn’t sure she would make it to Fair Hill, as she’s dealing with a broken hand after she fell from Don Sheffield at Plantation Field, and her mother is also not doing well. “I decided on Tuesday to come because it makes me really happy to ride these horses,” Sharon said. “I have very genuine, gentle, kind horses here this weekend, and it’s really where I’d like to be. This weekend is about that for me.”

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