CCI2*-S victor Liz Halliday-Sharp capped off a winning week at Virginia Horse Trials (VHT) International with a first and second place finish in the CCI2*-L.
Halliday-Sharp and Cooley Be Cool, owned by The Monster Partnership and Ocala Horse Properties, led from start to finish, ultimately adding 0.4 time penalties in show jumping to win on 25.1.
“They both came out really good this morning. They looked great after running yesterday in their first long format,” Halliday-Sharp said of the two 7-year-old Irish Sport Horses. “I purposely went quiet [in show jumping with Cooley Be Cool] because I knew he had a lot in hand. I wanted to keep him settled as he can get steamed up in the ring.”
Cooley Seeking Fortune, owned by Ocala Horse Properties, sat second behind his half-brother through all three phases. One rail added in today’s final phase gave them a finishing score of 32.6.
“He warmed up amazing. He’s really a jumper but he can be a little difficult at smaller heights. He’s better at 1.20 meters than 1.10 meters,” Halliday-Sharp said. “He had one rail just being a bit sleepy but he jumped the rest really well. It’s just a matter of getting him stronger and more grown up.”
This was Halliday-Sharp’s first visit to VHT and she was pleased with more than just her wins. “I thought they did a good job on the course and the ground. [The footing] was good even before all the rain because they aerated it so much. The hills of course are a good test of fitness. The horses were good, they ran well. I’d definitely like to come back.”
Alexandra Green Kerby and Fernhill Leitrim Lass were the only pair in the CCI2*-L to finish on their dressage score, rounding out the top three with a 39.1.
Andrew McConnon and Jeanne Shigo’s D’Luxe Steel took an early lead in the CCI1*-L. Today they lowered one rail to win the 6-year-old Dutch Warmblood’s first international event on a 33.6. Joanie Morris and Betterthanexpected finished second with a final score of 38.1.
D’Luxe Steel spent most of last year focused on moving up to Training level and competing in the USEA Young Event Horse Series. McConnon feels the next logical step in a young horse’s progression is the Modified division and an international debut in the CCI1*. He lamented that more riders should take advantage of this level.
“Personally, any 6-year-old of mine isn’t going to do a CCI2*-L,” McConnon said. “But having the opportunity to go to a CCI1*-L and teach them to trot up and be there four or five days — I learned more about him this week than I would have just coming and competing. It’s a great experience; they grow up quite a bit.”
McConnon appreciated the opportunities afforded by VHT’s midweek event, to gain both qualifications and education for his horses. He also finished fourth in the CCI3*-S riding Ferrie’s Cello and fourth in the CCI2*-L riding Wakita 54.
“I understand [a midweek competition] isn’t a reality for everyone, but to be able to bring some horses during the week and potentially compete some others over the weekend is great,” McConnon said. “VHT always does a great job. I love to go there. This week in particular running midweek and the added challenges with the virus, they did great making it professional and relaxed.”
Thus concludes another successful week at the Virginia Horse Trials. Organizer Andy Bowles commented, “Thanks everyone for a good week. We were taking a chance rescheduling to midweek in July, and we had added challenges associated with COVID-19 — even the weather gave us a run for our money. It all came together and I’m grateful to my team and to everyone who participated or supported us in other ways.”