We knew it wouldn’t be a dressage show, but Derek di Grazia’s cross country course truly turned the CCI4*-L leaderboard upside down here at the MARS EQUESTRIAN Bromont CCI Three-Day Event in picturesque Quebec.
Just two pairs caught the optimum time of 10 minutes, with Boyd Martin and his homebred Ray Price smoking around 7 seconds inside to rocket to the top of the leaderboard on 32.2. Boyd can’t afford even a single second over the time allowed in show jumping tomorrow, as his second ride On Cue sits in second place on 32.3 after adding 1.2 time penalties in her impressive debut at the level.
“He’s a lightning fast horse — mostly Thoroughbred,” Boyd said of Ray, an 11-year-old Thoroughbred/Dutch gelding (Raise A Stanza X Fair Fiona, by Salute) owned by the Ray Price W Syndicate. Ray is the second generation of Boyd’s breeding program, as he also bred the dam. (Click here to read all about Ray’s breeding.)
“He’s been a work in progress. He’s obviously a favorite of mine since I bred him in Australia, and I rode his mother and his grandmother. He’s a little bit spooky in the cross country. He didn’t give me the best feel at Jersey, and my coach Phillip Dutton gave me a few good cross country schooling sessions and made an incredible difference. He stills feels a little green, but he’s so fast. I didn’t feel like he was going that fast — could have gone quicker!
Christine Turner’s On Cue, a 12-year-old Anglo-European mare (Cabri D’Elle X On High, by Primitive Rising), finished with her ears pricked and still looked full of running.
“She is just all class with scope to burn. In hindsight, it’s so much easier riding the second horse because you know the lines so much better. I’m a bit annoyed at myself having four seconds over because she could have gone much quicker. But saying that, it’s her first four-star long. I’m trying to just prepare her for Fair Hill and then on to Kentucky next year. I’m really pleased with both of them. It was truly an international track with big fences.”
Lauren Kieffer and Jacqueline Mars’ homebred Landmark’s Monte Carlo, a 12-year-old Irish/Thoroughbred gelding (Formula One X Glamour), were the only other pair to beat the clock, finishing 6 seconds inside the time to move up from 13th after dressage to third on 35.4.
“With a horse like him, we’ve been around so many tracks together, so it’s pretty easy to trust him to go out and be bold,” Lauren said. “He’s such a good cross country horse. He has his show jumping demons, but for cross country there’s not much else I would rather be sitting on than him.”
Buck Davidson and Carlevo, a 12-year-old Holsteiner (Caresino X Ramatuelle, by Levernois) owned by Carlevo LLC, led after dressage but added 12.4 time penalties to slip to fourth place on 40.3.
“The distances were quite short and he has a huge stride, so that made it a little hard for him. He kept galloping the whole way. He took care of me and did everything he didn’t have to do. I put him in some places I probably shouldn’t have. He was fantastic. I just wasn’t the best. My horse was probably the best he’s ever been. He could have tried to go around a few things, and he didn’t.”
Colleen Loach and Peter Barry’s Qorry Blue d’Argouges, a 15-year-old Thoroughbred/Selle Francais (Mr. Blue x Hardie du Bourg, by Count Ivor), jumped clear with 9.6 time penalties to move up to fifth on 42.2 as the highest-placed rider for Canada.
There were problems spread all throughout Derek’s course, with just 38% of the CCI4*-L field delivering clear rounds. (Click here to watch a drone flyover video of the course.) A new combination at fence 9ABC — a rolltop on a bending right four strides to a corner, with a sharp bending left five strides to an arrowhead brush — proved to be the most influential and caught out six pairs.
Lauren weighed in with her thoughts on the course: “I think adding 9ABC before the second water was maybe just one too many questions before coming there. The way the ground is here, it’s very hard to get smooth as is, and then adding one more loop down the hill with a bit of an S-turn made it even harder. I think it really threw off your rhythm, and if the horses were a bit greener, it really threw them off too. It was a hard enough question on it own.
“Once you got through the bank to to the corner (at fence 15), you pretty much just had to get home at that point. I think it might have been smoother to move fence 9 to later in the course, but I also think the way he changed the route the horses finished a lot fresher. In the past, even the fit ones looked knackered at the end. I think he’s on the right track, and obviously Derek is one of our favorite course designers.”
Buck added: “The beginning was very up and down and they never feel balanced. I’m guessing 9ABC will be gone next year. It didn’t really work. It was just very intense at the beginning and not at the end, and the horses just didn’t settle as well.”
We asked Derek to weigh in with his thoughts on how the CCI4*-L course rode: “The course certainly had plenty to do on it, but I think it was all at the level, and they were fair questions. … For me, it was little mistakes that caught them out. At the same time, we had nine who jumped clear, so obviously those were the ones who figured it out and got it done.
“If you had a horse that went around here, you could say the horse is one that can certainly go on and probably go to the next level. The terrain here means there’s a lot to do; it can be a lot more difficult than other venues.”
As for Derek’s thoughts on 9ABC: “A lot of riders jumped from A to B fine, but then didn’t get to the C very well. You saw horses doing different things as far as how they read the ground and doing different striding. In walking it, I think it rode different than they thought it would for them, and that’s to me because of needing to understand what the horses were going to do with the way the ground went there.”
Buck Davidson retired his first ride, Copper Beach, at fence 9, and Jennie Brannigan also fell from I Bella there. We saw four rider falls in all: Lauren Kieffer parted ways with D.A. Duras at the second water at fence 11, Joe Meyer fell from Buccaneer at fence 6, and Sabrina Glaser fell from Rembrandt when the horse left a leg jumping into the first water at fence 4. All horses and riders are OK.
Katherine Coleman and Monte Classico, who sat in third place after dressage, were eliminated on cumulative refusals at fences 9, 11 and 15. Emily Hamel and Corvett were eliminated on refusals at fences 15 and 23. Eight more riders picked up jumping penalties, though even carrying a 20 we still saw Cornelia Dorr rise to eighth with Sir Patico MH thanks to a speedy round with just 0.8 time penalties.
Click here to relive all the CCI4*-L action in EN’s live updates. Stay tuned for much more from Bromont, including photos and quotes from the leaders of the other divisions. Times for show jumping are being finalized now, so keep checking back. Go Eventing.