Plantation Field is known for its stiff reputation as a difficult CIC3*, and Mike Etherington-Smith’s course certainly didn’t prove easy for the 58 horses and riders that ultimately left the start box today. After a dramatic afternoon of thrills and spills — and plenty of holds on course as a result — Tamie Smith and Mai Baum triumphed as the final combination on course, jumping clear with 1.2 time penalties to win on 39.4.
How does a rider mentally handle seeing the course shake things up like that? “It was definitely hard because there were so many people falling off and having running outs,” Tamie said. “I watched the beginning, which was tough because the course wasn’t really riding like I expected. I’m using to having five people in the division at Advanced being from the West Coast, so we don’t even know how the course is riding — we just go out and run.
“I went almost an hour later than I was supposed to go because of the holds, but I know the horse, and I have a great partnership with him,” Tamie continued. “He’s got a fabulous jump, and cross country is actually his strong suit, so I kept telling myself: ‘You ride great. He’s great. You’re going to be fine.’ And it went great. He was foot perfect.”
Tamie and “Lexus,” 9-year-old German Sport Horse gelding owned by the Ahearn family, clinched their fourth international win of the season today, and they haven’t finished lower than fourth in any of their FEI starts this season. After besting the top three-star horses in the country this weekend, it’s safe to say Tamie and Lexus are on a hot streak.
They next head to Maryland for the horse’s first CCI3*, and Tamie said yesterday that this was the most terrain she’s ever seen at an event, so she was wondering how Lexus would handle the hills with Fair Hill’s own rolling course in mind. But it’s all good news after the fact: “He felt very fit; that’s actually the fittest I’ve ever felt him. I’m thrilled.”
Marilyn Little is also thrilled with RF Scandalous, a 10-year-old Oldenburg mare owned by Raylyn Farms and Phoebe and Michael Manders, after cross country. “Kitty” completed her first CIC3* in fine form this weekend, jumping clear with 4 time penalties to finish in second place on 45.1. It was also a long day for Marilyn as she also watched the course cause trouble, but she said it didn’t affect her mental game going into the start box.
“I woke up this morning, and I had a great feeling about the day. I felt very positively about the course walking it. There were a lot of questions that caused some problems, and although it was her first CIC3* cross country, I thought it was something she could handle, and she handled it exactly the way I hoped she would,” Marilyn said.
“She gave me a beautiful ride around out there and answered all the questions before I even realized I was asking them. She took me to the jumps the way you hope an older horse would. She gave me a confident run, and I’m thrilled with her. It was enough out there that I feel great about aiming for Boekelo, and I feel like she came off the course confidently. I feel great about going to Europe with her, and she’s ready to go for it.”
While all the trouble on course had many riders nervous, Phillip Dutton said it didn’t bother him — like any good Aussie would. “I was relishing it,” Phillip said. “I like it when there’s a a bit of trouble out there. That’s what it’s meant to be about. I think you get a bit complacement if you go out there and nothing is happening.”
Phillip didn’t take anything for granted, attacking the course to ultimately be the only rider to make the time aboard Tom Tierney and Simon Roosevelt’s Fernhill Cubalawn. That cracking round moved the 12-year-old Holsteiner gelding up from 11th place after show jumping to ultimately finish in third place on a final score of 48.3.
“I went quite fast on him at Aachen, so I wasn’t quite sure if he might be a little bit frazzled after that, but it’s actually made him event better,” Phillip said. “He’s naturally a very quiet horse, and now he is coming out and taking me to the jumps. Aachen turned out to be a good trip for him because I think he’s gone to another level on his cross country.”
“Cuba” is also aiming for the CCI3* at Fair Hill, and Phillip is planning to do the combined test at Morven Park as their final preparation for the event. Phillip said Plantation Field’s strategic date on the calendar serves as an ideal run for horses heading to Fair Hill — or Galway Downs, which is where he’ll go with Mr. Candyman on a USEF Land Rover Competition Grant.
“I think the horses feel it; you’ve got to go quick. Mike (Etherington-Smith) did a good job of not running us up and down the hills too much,” Phillip said. “All credit goes to to Jamie Hicks; he’s doing a great job on the footing. In five years, this will be like a cushion. He’s fertilizing and putting mushroom compost down and aerating, and all that takes a few years to see the benefits.”
It’s been a busy weekend for Phillip, as he also sits on the organizing committee for the event, which is part of the Adequan USEA Gold Cup Series. So what are his thoughts on how the weekend went? “There’s always things you can do to improve, but I do think the course is riding well. We’ve got two really exciting designers in Mike E-S and Nina Fout, who I think could be a big-time designer for America. I think it could be as good an event as any in the country.”
Marilyn agreed that the event is a special one: “It raises the sights of the up and coming riders, and it gives professionals a great gauge of their special future horses coming up. It’s a real preparatory event, not just for our U.S. CCIs, but for CCIs on the international scene. We’re grateful as a group of riders to have an event like this.”
Looking to the rest of the CIC3* leaderboard, Holly Jacks-Smither and More Inspiration finished as ths highest placed Canadian combination in fourth place on 49.5 after delivering the second fastest round in the division to come home with 0.8 time penalties. That’s the best CIC3* finishing score of their FEI career by 28 penalty points!
Jennie Brannigan and Cambalda round out the top five in the CIC3* on a score of 50.0 after jumping clear with 3.2 time penalties. They’ll head to France for Pau next along with Lillian Heard and Share Option, who finished sixed in the Advanced division today. His stablemate LCC Barnaby ultimately took the win with a clear round and 3.2 time penalties.
We have to give a huge shout out to the officials for working hard to keep things running smoothly all day. As Marilyn pointed out: “There was a lot of chaos out there today, and it was handled really well. You can plan all you want, but how things are handled in the heat of the moment is all very tell-tale, and the report card is incredible today.”
While there were a number of falls, we’re relieved to report tonight that there were no serious injuries in the CIC3*. Allie Knowles and The Dark Mark fell at the Arch Spread at fence 19, but both were OK, and she returned later in the afternoon to ride Sound Prospect. Cody Sturgess was transported to Christiana Hospital as a precaution after falling from Imperial Melody at the Brush Corners at fence 12b, and we will update you on his condition as we have more information.
Thank you so much for following along with all of EN’s coverage this weekend. Our newest reporter Dave Taylor did a super job of covering the CIC* divisions — click here to see his final report — and Samantha Clark has been across the pond in England covering Clark Montgomery and Loughan Glen’s incredible win at Blenheim CCI3*.
It’s been a super weekend across the board, and we have to thank all of the organizers, officials, volunteers, riders, owners, grooms, spectators and everyone who supported the Best. Event. Ever. It’s been a weekend we won’t soon forget. Go Plantation Field. Go Eventing.