Tamie Smith and Mai Baum are one step closer to the Dutta Corp Fair Hill International CCI3* win after delivering one of the nine double clear rounds across Derek di Grazia’s cross country course today. It doesn’t seem to matter that Tamie has only campaigned the horse since February, nor that this is the horse’s first CCI3* and it wasn’t exactly an easy day across the board — they just keep getting better.
It’s been something of a fairytale run for this duo since Tamie took over the ride earlier this year for owners Ellen and Alex Ahearn and Eric Markell. Tamie and the 9-year-old German Sport Horse gelding have won three CIC3* events since July, including besting an all-star field at Plantation Field last month.
They had an equally classy, impressive performance today, delivering the second-fastest ride in the CCI3* division to come home 14 seconds inside the time and take their overnight lead on their personal best dressage score of 38.5 — and a rail in hand — forward to tomorrow’s show jumping.
“He was fantastic. I went out of the box and he was a little bit sticky to the first two, and I gave him a little encouragement after that, and then he was right in my hand and galloped around the course,” Tamie said. “I kept looking at my watch and going, “Gosh, I’m 5 seconds over the clock, and now I’m 7 seconds over the clock, and I’m getting a little too far ahead of the clock. But his stride just kept getting bigger, and he was so rideable that I just let him stay in a rhythm. I was thrilled with his ride.”
Phillip Dutton and Mighty Nice were originally assessed 1.2 time penalties after being held on course before fence 9, but official scoring removed those time penalties to keep them on their dressage score of 43.5. That double clear round has “Happy,” an 11-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding owned by Caroline Moran, Annie Jones, Michael Bombar, Kevin Keane and Evie Dutton, sitting in second place overnight in the horse’s first trip to Fair Hill.
It wasn’t the smoothest start to their round, Phillip said, as they were delayed getting into the start box. “That was a shame, but then you can’t get a better cross country horse than he is. He wouldn’t be the fastest horse I’ve ever had, but he’s just got one speed and he was able to stay and that speed, and he’s got good wind. He kept going and didn’t tire. The conditions were pretty perfect for the horses, too.”
Boyd Martin was very happy after accumulating just 2 time penalties between his CCI3* horses, with his newest ride Blackfoot Mystery leading the way with a double clear round. The 11-year-old Thoroughbred gelding owned by the Blackfoot Mystery Syndicate moved up two spots on the leaderboard thanks to that effort and now sits in third place on his dressage score of 44.6.
“I think the ground was very fast. It was probably the first time I’ve ever been to Fair Hill where it’s not deep in mud,” Boyd said. “I will say I do think Derek softened it up a wee bit, which I’m not complaining about because it was still very, very difficult. But I thought last year he made it a three-and-a-half-star, and this year was a proper three star. I think if you had a good galloper, then the time was pretty easy to make.”
Just nine horse and rider combinations — about 17 percent of the field — managed to make the optimum time of 10 minutes, and the fact that Boyd was sitting on an off-track Thoroughbred in “Big Red” certainly didn’t hurt. Their time of 9 minutes, 55 seconds was the fourth fastest in the division.
“I think he’s a class horse, and I was so impressed with him today. He’s got unbelievable endurance, and I felt like I was coasting around pretty easy,” Boyd said. “It sort of showed me that he is a proper four-star horse, and we’re still getting to know each other a little bit because we just weren’t quite in sync over a few of the fences, so I think that in maybe another six months we’ll be sweet.”
It was a great day for Boyd, who has all four of his rides sitting in the top 15 (Blackfoot Mystery, 3rd; Crackerjack, 6th; Steady Eddie, 7th; Welcome Shadow, 13th). For that matter, it was a great day for riders hailing from Australia across the board. Phillip also has both his rides in the top five (Mighty Nice, 2nd, and Fernhill Cubalawn, 5th with the fastest time of the day).
Fellow Aussie Ryan Wood picked up just 0.8 total time penalties between his three horses, which has them all sitting inside the top 20 (Frankie, 10th; McLovin, 14th; Fernhill Classic, 16th). Those three speedy efforts moved Ryan up a collective total of 53 spots on the three-star leaderboard.
In a great nod to girl power, the only other riders to make the optimum time in the three-star division are all women. Tamie Smith put the pedal down to hold her overnight lead on Mai Baum. Jenny Caras had a cracking round in her second CCI3* with Fernhill Fortitude to move up to 11th place on 55.9, and Erin Sylvester stormed around with Mettraise to move up 25 spots on the leaderboard to 17th.
Looking to the rest of the scores, Kim Severson and the Cross Syndicate’s Cooley Cross Border, who finished second in the CCI2* at Fair Hill last year, jumped clear with 0.8 time penalties in the horse’s first CCI3* to sit in fourth place on 46.6. Buck Davidson and Sherrie Martin’s The Apprentice stayed in eighth place after jumping clear with 6.4 time penalties. Holly Payne Caravella and Bethann Groblewski’s Santino continued their string of good cross country runs with a clear round and 4.4 time penalties.
Just as we didn’t see any serious injuries in the two-star, all three-star horses and riders that fell on course are OK. While More Inspiration was taken off the course in the horse ambulance after he fell with Holly Jacks-Smither at fence 9, Holly confirmed that he is totally fine. Justine Dutton was a bit banged up after her fall from Huck Finn at the Frog Pond fence 6 and withdrew her second ride Jollybo as a result.
Allie Knowles is also OK after falling at the Frog Pond with The Dark Mark, and she later withdrew Sound Prospect, as she said she too was a bit too banged up to ride. Joe Meyer was having a super go on Sanskrit before falling at fence 15 and giving us a bit of a scare, but he returned later in the day to ride Clip Clop to a clear round.
All other horses and riders involved in falls are OK, and you can get a full play-by-play of all the three-star cross country action in our live updates thread. We will still have much more to bring you from #DuttaFHI, including more photos. In the meantime, catch up with our Instagram here and click here to read all of EN’s Fair Hill coverage so far.