It’s an unprecedented three-way race for the three-star win at the Cloud 11 ~ Gavilan North Carolina International Horse Trials, with leading ladies Emily Beshear and Shame on the Moon, Maya Black and Doesn’t Play Fair, and Allison Springer and Arthur all tied for first place on a score of 43.4 at the conclusion of dressage.
Allison set the tone early this morning as the first test of the day, delivering a solid if spooky performance that shows 17-year-old Arthur is in good form and raring to go as they prepare for the 11th CCI4* of his career and his seventh appearance at the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event next month.
While Allison is sharing the three-way tie for the lead, she said the test certainly could have been better, and her pre-ride in the pitch black before her 8 a.m. test did nothing to help soothe Arthur’s nerves. “He is fully capable of much nicer trot work, but the stuff he does well he does really well,” she said. “I think like most eventers you always think it could be way better. The changes felt good and certain things felt good, but he felt super spooky.”
This is Arthur’s first appearance at an FEI competition since this event last year, when he and Allison parted ways in the galloping lane — a result she is hoping to improve on this year. The Irish Sport Horse cross gelding owned by the Arthur Syndicate stretched his legs at the $75,000 Wellington Eventing Showcase last month, and this is his next competition on the road to Rolex.
Allison has been working hard on her show jumping with Katie Monahan Prudent and said she was very pleased with how Arthur jumped in Wellington despite having a rail down. Marc Donovan is much loved as a show jumping course designer by the riders, and Allison said she is looking forward to the challenge he lays out for them tomorrow.
“Show jumping is never the most amazing thing to do on Arthur, but I know him so well,” she said. “I have a good mindset with him. I know what I need to do to warm him up; I know how I have to ride him. That’s all I can do.”
As for Allison’s thoughts on Ian’s beefy new cross country track: “The course looks awesome. Its very different — a completely different track, but I like it. There are a couple of things that are very different, but you kind of always feel that way with an Ian course, but I have so much confidence in him as a course designer,” Allison said.
“He’s a horseman, and (his courses) always seem to work out well. … It’s definitely a bit of work to do, but it should be fun. … He’s so good as a course designer because some of (the fences) are really rider frighteners; it’s impressive to look at. But he prepares you for a smart, forward, correct riding.”
It’s been a long time coming for Maya Black and Doesn’t Play Fair to get back to a dressage score in the low 40s, and she said after her test that it felt great to produce that quality of work she knows “Cody” can achieve. That’s their best score in the sandbox since Richland Park CIC3* in 2014 when they scored 42.4.
Maya knows this 11-year-old Holsteiner gelding owned by Dawn Dofelmier inside and out, and it’s great to see them back at the top of a big leaderboard — a place we know they’re very much capable of being as the 2014 winners of the Plantation Field CIC3*. Though their names currently on showing on the Rolex entry list yet, Maya confirmed to EN that she and Cody are aiming for a return trip to Kentucky.
“You feel like every year you get better, but sometimes it doens’t show like that in the ring. Over the winter I worked a lot on how to make his brain better in the ring. The last few years I was really trying to improve how he moved, and we would have that at home but then struggle with his attention in the ring,” Maya said.
“Now I feel like he’s at home working much more relaxed and able to have bigger movement, and I’ve been working on figuring out techniques where I can ride him without placing so much pressure on him.”
Maya started training with Karen O’Connor both on the flat and over fences while being based in Ocala this winter, and she said that has helped immensely in getting Cody back to this point. “There are still things to improve, but I felt like he’s starting to take a breath in the ring. … I know how good he can be, but it’s been a little bit of a struggle trying to show that he can be that good.”
Cody will head to The Fork next as his final prep for Rolex, and Maya said she’ll see how show jumping goes over Marc Donovan’s course tomorrow before deciding whether she’ll put the pedal down on cross country. Last year she and Cody had a rather memorable show jumping round due to her saddle trying to exit stage right, so she’ll be entering the ring with a much tighter girth and a non-slip pad tomorrow.
Emily Beshear and Deep Purple Eventing’s Shame on the Moon proved once again today that they are serious combination for the future of U.S. eventing. This is the first FEI outing for Emily and “Delta” since the 10-year-old Trakehner/Thoroughbred cross mare delivered an impressive seventh-place finish at the Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials in her overseas debut last fall.
“I was really pleased with how focused and relaxed she stayed in the test,” Emily said. “Last year at this event she was very tense and reactive having the tent so close to the ring, so it was nice to see how much she has matured.”
Looking to the rest of the leaderboard, Liz Halliday-Sharp and Deborah Halliday’s Fernhill By Night are the leading the CIC2* on 42.8. Liz stepped “Blackie,” a 13-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding, down to the two-star level this weekend for a confidence-boosting trip before he moves back up to Advanced at The Fork.
“I thought it was a good test and he tried hard. There were a couple bits where I could have probably ridden him better; any marks we lost weren’t his fault. I’m trying to give him a bit of confidence and practice a few new things we’ve been working on with Phillip Dutton,” Liz said.
“The aim is Rolex for him, but it’s no secret he can be tricky on cross country. I think he wants to be a good boy, but we need to get him thinking a bit faster. The (cross country) course is good. The two-star is strong enough. It should set him up well to go back to Advanced at The Fork. We’re here for education and a good run to keep getting his confidence up.”
We also have a fun report still to come on 17-year-old Kristine Burgess, who battled through the stomach flu today to lead the CIC* with Lianne Burgess’ Roza CMF on 38.5 in the mare’s first one-star. They are on a quest to represent Area IV at the North American Junior and Young Rider Championships this summer, and they look to be well on their way if today is any indicator.
Yesterday’s leaders Ryan Wood and Summit Sporthorses’ Powell now sit in fourth place on their score of 44.1 in the horse’s three-star debut, with Buck Davidson rounding out the top five on Carlevo LLC’s Carlevo, who went early this morning and delivered an impressive 44.4 performance. Kudos to new father Buck — he also has The Apprentice and Ballynoe Castle RM in the top 10.
In looking at the live scores, you’ll notice many names that appear further down the leaderboard than where we typically see them. Though the judges were arguably more forgiving in their scoring today, it was a tough day in the sandbox for numerous combinations. Many riders are currently nursing their score with an ice cold Southern Pines Brewing Co. beer in the Sagmae Competitor’s Lounge.
One consolation is this certainly won’t be a dressage show. Marc Donovan’s show jumping course on the grass at Carolina is notoriously tough, and Ian Stark’s new track has his signature style written all over it. It requires a forward, attacking ride. The questions come early and fast — with fence 1 just six strides out of the start box — and the jumps are pee-your-pants big.
Stay tuned for the full three-star course preview courtesy of EN’s own Kate Samuels, who counted the number of big ditches on the course and promptly headed for the bar. If you’re just tuning in to EN, don’t miss this social media roundup with behind-the-scenes photos from #2016CI, and you can also few plenty more photos from the day on our Instagram.
Our friendly neighborhood videographer David Frechette is currently uploading videos to his YouTube channel, so keep checking back for more action from the day. Tomorrow will be a jam-packed day, with Advanced dressage and CIC2* show jumping running simultaneously at 8 a.m. EST, followed by CIC3* show jumping at 10:45 a.m. EST. Remember you can watch show jumping live on EQSportsNet.
Thanks for making EN part of your Carolina International experience. Good luck to everyone tomorrow, including the CIC* riders, who will be the guinea pig test pilots over Ian’s new course. Godspeed, brave souls. Go Eventing.