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By the Numbers: Tryon International 4*-L Stadium Day

Woods Baughman and C’est La Vie 135. Photo by Abby Powell.

It wasn’t clear to me until the cross-country how excited I truly was to have a long day of live-streaming ahead of me, filled with the size and type of field you normally only see at Kentucky. The ultimate goal of U.S. eventing needs to be to fill every 4*-L and 5*-L in North America with as big and quality fields as this one; hopefully the population of Advanced riders in this country are busy expanding their strings and working on maintaining their top campaigners for many years.

CROSS COUNTRY DAY ANALYSIS

The cross-country phase was certainly influential yesterday, but ultimately the biggest concerns regarding the footing in the end seemed unfounded; the grounds crew at Tryon made a herculean effort to get the turf as good as possible, and primarily succeeded.

Ultimately, 69 pairs started the course and 73.9% finished, a touch lower than the five-year world-wide completion average of 76.8% for this particular division. 62.3% of the field finished clear with no jumping penalties, a touch above the clear rate at 4*-L and 13.0% finished inside the time, which is almost exactly equivalent to the worldwide average of 13.4%. These averages indicate that the distribution of penalties across the field is consistent with a typical 4*-L.

The fastest time of the day was ultimately put in by Ariel Grald and Leamore Master Plan, who came home 18 seconds under optimum time. Nine pairs ultimately made the time, although one pair was also assessed a flag penalty that remains at the end of the day.

As always there are a few horses expected to be influential on the final day who ended up well down the running order today, if not completely out of the event. C’est La Vie 135, QC Diamantaire, and Carlevo are all unexpectedly well-placed yesterday after strongly exceeding their pace expectations. Leamore Master Plan also took advantage of his newly found flow to also jump up into the top ten and be in a better position to capitalize today.

THE COURSE

Chris Barnard has been the stadium course designer at this venue since its inception, and will continue to be the designer for this weekend. As a frequent designer for venues all up and down the East Coast, most riders will be very familiar with his style of courses. This venue also has a large number of rings to choose from for the stadium round, and therefore even though a pair may have jumped at this venue before, they may not have done so in the same ring.

It should hardly be surprising to hear that in this particular field, we have a high number of extremely good jumpers, with 29.4% of the remaining pairs expected to jump clear. More surprisingly is the fact that in the remaining top ten, only four pairs are expected to jump clear. This leaves significant room for improvement for any pairs who put in clean rounds today.

SHOW JUMPING SPECIALISTS

Buck Davidson and Carlevo. Photo by Shelby Allen.

It’s nice to see an experienced horse like Carlevo put his best foot forward and deliver a personal best speed rating for the 4*-L level yesterday; as consistent as he’s been at the level, the speed has always been the thing that has caught him up. Now he and Buck Davidson can look forward to the stadium phase, where this horse is particularly strong; in five completions at the 4*-L level, Carlevo has had only one rail.

Will Coleman and Dondante. Photo by Abby Powell.

DonDante has been quietly developing under the tutelage of Will Coleman for the past two years, and for the second year in a row he shows his jumping prowess is particularly valuable in the long format. Sitting just outside the top ten, this pair is extremely likely to put in a clear round; they’ve jumped clear in seven of eight of the horse’s A/4* starts, including his only 4*-L completion. A clear round will very quickly put pressure on those directly above, should they want to maintain their top ten rank.

Boyd Martin and On Cue. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Boyd Martin will be well poised to move up on some of his other horses but On Cue is more apt to maintain her placing rather than move up. In seven A/4* rounds, this mare has had one rail at five of them, jumping clear only at her first start at the level back in 2018. In her only 4*-L completion, she incurred one rail at Bromont in 2019. On Cue is a good bet to match her current average and maintain a top ten placing.

Will Faudree and Mama’s Magic Way. Photo by Abby Powell.

The young horse Mama’s Magic Way is green for the level but that didn’t seem to bother him yesterday as he cruised to the first clear round inside the time under Will Faudree. Although this horse has yet to see a stadium round as the final phase at the A/4* level, he’s jumped three of his four rounds clear. The only occasion on which he dropped rails was an unusual morning at Great Meadows, when the pair jumped around the stadium course in a blanket fog with surprisingly low visibility.

Jennie Brannigan and Stella Artois. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

In her first year at the level in 2017, Stella Artois showed promise in the stadium phase but lacked consistency, with three rails at her first 4*-L completion and a clear round at her second. After Jennie Brannigan brought her back in 2019, the improvement in consistency was apparent; in six A/4* rounds she’s jumped clear in all but one, incurring only one rail total. That includes adding another two clear 4*-L rounds in 2019 at Rebecca and Boekelo, something that she should be able to replicate today. A clear round should move this pair up massively, putting them well in contention for a top five placing.

Sydney Elliot and QC Diamantaire. Photo by Abby Powell.

In their only start at the 4*-L level, Sydney Conley-Elliott climbed with QC Diamantaire up to the fourth place position last fall at Fair Hill 4*-L. They are in a position to do so again, but will need to make sure that this one-or-none horse is none today. In two runs when stadium was last, he jumped clear only once and his record is almost perfectly split between clean rounds and one-rail rounds with one two-rail round thrown in early in the horse’s career. A rail is more likely than not, but these two have pulled off the round they needed under pressure once, and could possibly do so again.

Ariel Grald and Leamore Master Plan. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Ariel Grald has used 2020 to her horse’s best advantages, showing vast improvement in both the dressage and in the cross-country pace. Stadium has been a more secure strength for Leamore Master Plan, and these two could easily put in a clear round to put pressure on the later riders. In seven A/4* starts when stadium was the final phase, they’ve jumped clear in five of them, including both of their 4*-L completions in 2018.

Doug Payne and Vandiver. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

While primarily an eventer, Doug Payne does spend a considerable amount of time in the jumper ring as well which has paid off in spades with Vandiver. This horse’s record in this phase has transformed under Doug, jumping clear in 67.8% of their 28 completed rounds together. They’ve only once ever had more than one rail as a pair, back in 2017 at the Blenheim 4*-L. Out of five long format stadium rounds at the 4/5*-L, Vandiver has three clears and have also jumped clear in three of four A/4*-S when stadium is last. This pair will have no more than one rail today, and have a good shot at having a clear round; they’ll be in good position to capitalize on any mistakes from the riders placed above them.

Woods Baughman and C’est La Vie 135. Photo by Abby Powell.

C’est La Vie 135 and Woods Baughman have performed above and beyond their experience all weekend and are in a strong position to maintain a top ten placing. Their stadium record at the level isn’t squeaky clean; in two A/4* starts in 2019 they accumulated a total of three rails while their two 2020 A/4* starts in 2020 were both clear. They clinched the Fair Hill 3*-L title on the back of a clear stadium round last fall and haven’t had a rail in six starts at various levels in 2020. This pair could certainly put in a clear round and end up as the highest placed 4*-L rookie here this weekend but even a single rail should keep them in the top ten.

Phillip Dutton and Z. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Phillip Dutton has one of the best stadium horses of his career in Z; he has only ever had three rails in his career out of twenty-five 4* rounds, including three clear 4*-L rounds. He’s also jumped clean in two of three 5* rounds, including a clear here at this venue during the World Equestrian Games in 2018. He’s also jumped clear in his last consecutive eight A/4* rounds, three of which were in 2020. While it’s not impossible for this horse to have a rail, it’s highly improbable.

Boyd Martin and Tsetserleg (USA). Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

Boyd Martin‘s second horse in the top ten is the famous Tsetserleg, who also happens to be the horse with the most potential to put in a clear round for Boyd. This horse has not had more than one rail in his entire career at the A/4* level, including three clears in five rounds when cross-country is the final phase. Despite a notorious three rails at this venue in the 2018 WEG, Tsetserleg has also jumped clear here in the spring of 2019, as well as famously jumping clear to preserve his second place at the 5* in Kentucky last year. A clear will rocket him up to put pressure on those at the very top, but even a rail should keep them in the contest for a top five placing.

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Deniro Z. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

The hottest rider on the circuit this year is Liz Halliday-Sharp, who has won each of the three fall 4*-S on the East Coast, two of them with this horse Deniro Z. One thing that might surprise a lot of readers is that this pair has not yet jumped a clear round in the stadium when cross-country is before stadium; in five rounds under the phase order, they have twice had one rail, twice had two rails, and once had three. However, the pair has jumped four clear rounds out of four 2020 starts, so Liz Halliday-Sharp will be looking to translate that recent success to the long format this weekend.

PREDICTIONS – FINAL

Division Winner: I have to continue to call out Z as the biggest possibility of winning; his stadium record is considerably more solid on the final day than the two horses ahead of him. It will ultimately be a nail biter, where even the seconds matter; the top six are all separated by less than a rail.

MARS Tryon International: WebsiteScheduleOrder of GoRide TimesLive ScoresLive StreamCoverage

By the Numbers: Tryon International 4*-L, Cross Country Day

Coverage of Tryon International this weekend is brought to you by Strides for Equality Equestrians (SEE). Diversity and inclusion in all equestrian sports are important, and we’ll be bringing you tidbits on what this new organization hopes to accomplish.

Ariel Grald and Leamore Master Plan.
Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

This weekend has felt almost as exciting as a weekend at Kentucky, with so many top competitors and a large field to watch all day. I’ve greatly enjoyed the live commentators, letting me listen in even while working and unable to fully focus on the dressage tests going on.

DRESSAGE ANALYSIS – DAY TWO

On the surface, yesterday proceeded much like Thursday, with very few real surprises in the scoring. That is a testament both to the quality of the judging and the consistency of the pairs who rode in an echoing, empty, imposing stadium; despite the lack of crowds, the atmosphere remains electric. Being able to bring out, at minimum, a test that meets expectations in a moment that matters is a critical skill and the riders this weekend have displayed it in spades.

On Thursday, 33% of the pairs finished within a point of their expected dressage score; of the 39 pairs who competed today, 38% did the same thing. Yesterday’s overall dressage average of 34.17 is only 0.21 penalty points below the expected average of 34.38 showing once again the consistency of the performances and the judging. Overall for the two days dressage, the expected overall average differed from the actual overall average by just over a tenth of a point.

What is extremely fascinating though, is that now that judge percentiles have been made available, an additional story has unfolded. Although the overall dressage averages from the three judges appeared consistent, it is clear that a difference of opinion was consistently occurring based on the views each judge had. The three judges varied by more than 5.0 percentages points on 17 tests, or 21.5% of the field, which is significantly higher than the average variance of 13.7% you might see at a 5* field who have that large of a gap between scores. Similarly, the number of riders with differences of 3.0 percentages points or more was 48, or 60.8% of the field, compared to a more typical 42.5% that you might see in a 5*.

Initially, this could seem alarming but let’s look further. It turns out that the judge at M consistently scored tougher throughout the divisions, awarding the lowest percentages to 64% of the field and ultimately only rewarding 9% of the field with the high score. And the judge at E scored almost the reverse, awarding the highest percentage of the three judges to 68% of the field and only being the toughest judge on 6%. At C, the judge was fairly balanced throughout, giving the highest percentage to 26% of the field, the lowest to 36%, and remaining the middle score on the remaining 38% of pairs.

Only one other pattern emerges; although M was tough on the majority of the field, she did utilize the higher end of her scoring scale more readily than the judge at C. When looking at those who scored in the twenties, the judge at E maintained his habit of awarding the highest percentages but the position of the judges at C and M switched. For the top end of these scores, C awarded the lowest percentages of the three for 63% of the 19 sub-thirty pairs, and was the highest for only 5% while M was evenly split between being the highest, middle, and lowest percentages.

So what does this mean? Ultimately, it means that the differences in judging compensated quite nicely for each other overall. This is not normally the case when variances as large as these appear but explain why ultimately, the judging appeared to overall be quite even across the board.

Moving on to the actual results, we saw quite a bit of play in the results near the top, although as expected, RF Scandalous remained untouchable. Those who entered the top five were the usual suspects, with Deniro Z, Tsetserleg, and Danito all performing expectedly stellar tests. One horse to keep an eye on who did 3.2 points better than expected is Islandwood Captain Jack; it may not seem important now but with the jumping phases yet to come, those three points might make a world of difference to their final placing. RF Cool Play, Stella Artois, and Laz Paz are also all horses who did themselves a world of good by edging themselves into the twenties.

RF Scandalous and Marilyn Little will enter into cross country with only a cushion of 7 seconds over Deniro Z, and only 16 seconds over Tsetserleg. It likely won’t be sufficient to deter Deniro Z no matter the scenario, but if the clock is easy to make, it might be just enough to stay ahead Tsetserleg.

THE COURSE

Although Captain Mark Phillips has designed for Tryon since the inception of the venue, the course itself has undertaken several metamorphoses, starting from a track that was made partially of footing combined with grass and evolving to the track on a former golf course that is utilized today. It should be noted that this course is different than the track utilized at the World Equestrian Games, beginning at the stabling area and concentrating many of the jumping efforts south of one reservoir while looping up to circle a second.

In the only long format held at this venue, 88.9% of the 81 pairs who started completed the course, 66.7% finished clear, and a whopping 19.8% finished inside the time. Admittedly, the field at the World Equestrian Games is the cream of the crop from around the entire world, but even so these completion rates are all significantly higher than the world-wide rates for the 4*-L over the last half decade.

In the entire field, seventeen horses have made the time at least once at the 4/5*-L levels; two horses (Indy 500 and Palm Crescent) have done it on two occasions, another two horses (Harbour Pilot and Landmark’s Monte Carlo) have done it on three, while Z has done it five times.

The optimum time for the course is 10:00, the typical length for a course at this level. A course map is available in the here, with the pairs jumping 43 obstacles in 28 numbered combinations. The word on the street is that the course is struggling to drain all of the heavy rain that fell through Thursday morning; if that is the case, the riders should be prepared for time to be significantly harder to catch than it was at WEG.

One term I’d like to introduce to the readers is what I define as the speed rating, or SR. Speed rating is the number of seconds over either optimum time or, if no pair achieves optimum time on that day, the number of seconds a pair has come in behind the fastest round of the day. This calculation is showing up more and more when defining the overall pace of a horse; it is helpful when looking at time penalties to determine which courses ran fast and which were plagued by time penalties. This rating allows direct comparison of paces of the two types of courses.

CROSS COUNTRY MACHINES

Boyd Martin and Blackfoot Mystery. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

The Thoroughbred blood of Blackfoot Mystery has helped him meet the pace in this three completed 4/5*-L courses under Boyd Martin; he’s put in an average speed rating of only 5 seconds between a run at Fair Hill, Kentucky, and Rio. With a qualification for Tokyo on the line, you might think Boyd would be conservative in his pace but ultimately he’s more likely to go out with a vengeance to prove this horse still has what it takes. As second out today, he’ll almost be in the same position as he was four years ago, when he served as pathfinder for the US team. Coupled with a strong dressage score for the horse, a speedy round will help him edge closer to the leaders.

Tamie Smith and EnVogue. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

EnVogue has a relatively brief record at the A/4* levels, but under Tamie Smith, she has enjoyed setting the fastest time of the day in four of her five cross-country runs. That includes setting the mark of 39 seconds under optimum time in her first 4*-L start at Galway, which was only her second start at the level at the time. Speeds like this often indicate a horse who doesn’t need to change gears much to set-up for a fence, resulting in a smooth round that looks slower than it is. These two will be a good pair to watch to compete for fastest time of the day and should move up as long as the time isn’t too easy to make.

Marilyn Little and RF Scandalous. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

This event looks like it could be Marilyn Little‘s to lose right now, but a lot will depend on today’s course and how hard it is to make the time. This rider will go out on a mission with RF Scandalous who is typically run at a conservative pace at the A/4*-S level. This mare’s weakness is her pace though; her best pace out of her four completed 4/5* long formats has been twelve seconds over the time with an average pace of 18.25 seconds over optimum, and at each of these four courses multiple other riders made the time. Her dressage prowess gives her an edge, so she can absorb up to 5 seconds of time penalties before relying on others to also incur penalties, but if time is difficult to make this pair will drop down a few placings.

Ariel Grald and Leamore Master Plan. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Leamore Master Plan has demonstrated a few new tricks this year, one of which is the capability of breaking the 70% mark on the flat, demonstrated in a very timely manner on Thursday. He and Ariel Grald also demonstrated a new trick at Great Meadow earlier this summer, demonstrating their ability to clock in the fastest round of the day without making much of an effort. The pace has been a bit of Achilles’ heel for this young horse as Ariel took her time to make sure they both were secure for the level; now experience and confidence may pay off and let these two press faster than their average speed rating of 23.33 seconds at completed clear 4/5*-L.

Sara Kozumplik Murphy and Rubens D’Ysieux. Photo by Miranda Akins/Photography In Stride.

It will be the first long format attempt for Sara Kozumplik-Murphy and Rubens d’Ysieux since they’ve returned from their hiatus; history shows their speed rating sitting at 27.2 seconds in five clear runs at 4*-S/L. Their 2019/2020 record also indicates a steadier pace, so look for this pair to be aiming more for a clear round than racing the clock.

Maya Black and Miks Master C. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Maya Black is back at the level again, this time with the promising Miks Master C who displayed the considerable progress he’s made throughout his first year at Advanced to put in a solid score. Still, this pair would need to pick up their pace to make much progress in the ranks; they’ve been averaging 19.6 seconds as a speed rating in five completions, which might hold them steady after dressage but won’t make up much ground.

Woods Baughman and C’est La Vie 135. Photo by Abby Powell.

The young Woods Baughman impressed on Thursday with C’est La Vie 135, and will looking to do so again today. In three clear finishes at the level, these two have a speed rating of 24.33 seconds; however that includes a hefty outlier of the horse’s first Advanced at Millbrook in 2019, when they finished nearly a minute over the optimum time. Although limiting their starts in 2020 to only two, they finished at nearly identical paces in both, only 10 or 11 seconds over optimum. Having said that, the first 4*-L is notable more difficult for first-time riders than the typical starter and Woods will need to be at his best to simply beat the odds; only 29% of first-time riders on first-time horses finish the course clear. Getting close to the time will likely be secondary.

Boyd Martin and On Cue. Photo by Jenni Autry.

On Cue chose an opportune time to put in a personal best in the dressage and as so, earned her way into the conversation of who might be good to watch on cross-country. At face value, she and Boyd Martin have accumulated double digit time penalties in more than half of their 4*-S starts, but a deeper dive indicates a large number of those occurred at events where no one made the optimum. This pair overall has a speed rating of only 12.67 seconds and have twice finished as the fastest pair of the day at the 4*-S out of five runs. In the mare’s only 4*-L start, she clocked in only four seconds over optimum. It’s likely that On Cue will move up the ranks today, as long as the clock is not set to be too easy.

Doug Payne and Starr Witness (USA). Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

This weekend will be a big ask for the Pan Am team horse Starr Witness, who has only three runs at the A/4*-S level. In their two clear completions, they averaged a speed rating of 17.5 (no one made the optimum at either event), including setting the fastest pace of the day in the mare’s first Advanced back in February at Pine Top. While she has completed two of three courses clear, she did have two stops at one fence at this venue at Blue Ridge Mountain two months ago. Doug Payne is likely to have nipped this issue in the bud, but ultimately a completion might be more valuable to this pair than a top placing.  Doug isn’t known for playing it safe though, so look for him set out on this mare with a goal in mind.

Sara Mittleider and La Paz. Photo by Hope Carlin.

West Coast pair La Paz and Sara Mittleider may not be quite in stalking range yet, but they’ll be able to move up far enough the ranks today to be a contender for the top ten tomorrow. It’ll be a good test for this horse to experience a bit of muddy turf, as he’s already proven himself on the dirt tracks of the west. This pair has clocked in the fastest round of the day already once this fall at the inaugural Advanced at the Florida Horse Park; they also finished inside the time at last year Galway Downs 4*-L, culminating in a win. Their speed rating averages at 14.5 seconds for six starts at the 4* level but it remains to be seen if they can match or exceed that when facing more adversarial conditions.

Lynn Symansky and RF Cool Play (USA). Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

After a stellar dressage test yesterday, RF Cool Play has moved himself into contention with Lynn Symansky. This horse has a fairly thin record at the 4* level, despite having completed two 4*-L divisions; he has only competed in two Advanceds, one 4*-S, and one 4*-L. Part of this was due to his focus on the Pan American games last summer, spending most of the year at the I and 3* levels to prepare for the team outing, then being competed very conservatively after the pandemic this year. Regardless, this horse has a squeaky clean cross-country record but a speed rating of 20.4 seconds, something that would need to be surpassed in order to maintain their current placing.

Tamie Smith and Danito. Photo by Hope Carlin.

Tamie Smith doesn’t bring horses east for an also-ran, and in Danito she has a real shot for a top placing. This horse has finished in the top three in 4 of 5 completions at the A/4*-S level, helped along by this horse’s talent in the dressage phase. On first glance, Danito has had a good portion of time penalties on his record, finishing an average of 22.33 seconds over optimum in his three 2020 starts. However on closer inspection, he actually finished within 14 seconds or less of the fastest pace of the day, as no one caught the optimum time in any of the A/4* shows he competed at this year. After a strong dressage test, this pair will be looking to maintain their top placing by finishing close enough to optimum to maintain their advantage.

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Deniro Z. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

As the second place horse, all eyes will be on Deniro Z and Liz Halliday-Sharp as they set out on course. These two have clearly set their sights on Tokyo and have gone out on their 2020 courses with a vengeance, clocking home with the fastest time in their most recent two runs after taking a leisurely pace in June in the horse’s first 2020 start. Their average speed rating at the 4*-S level has been 11.5 seconds, but they haven’t been able to match that success at the 4/5*-L levels yet, with their time penalties ranging from 11 seconds over optimum at Luhmuhlen, through 26 seconds over optimum at Boekelo, up to 86 seconds over optimum at Burghley, all events at which at least one pair made the time. If they want a spot on the Tokyo team, they’ll have to prove they can maintain the quick pace they show at the short format over the length of a long format course. If they can make time today, they should go into the final phase in the lead position; if not, they’ll have to hope they are fast enough to avoid being overtaken by Tsetserleg, Danito, or Starr Witness, all of whom are only 5 seconds behind.

Phillip Dutton and Z. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

It’s easy to think of Z still as the green protégé in the string of Phillip Dutton, but since an appearance as part of the 2018 US WEG team, he’s been the big man on campus. This horse has six completed runs at the 4/5*-L levels, and has been inside in all but one of them….the 2018 WEG appearance at this very venue. While a flag penalty scuttled his hopes for his first big win last fall at Fair Hill, he still finished inside the time, the fifth time he has done so. It should be noted that the only time the horse did not make time, he was the anchor member of a team that already had to contend with two horses with stops; Phillip Dutton had to be prepared to get home with a clean round rather than search for individual success. This pair will likely prove that it was the circumstances rather than the venue that prevented them from finishing inside the optimum time.

Caroline Martin and Islandwood Captain Jack. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Caroline Martin is nowadays a rider with a significant amount of experience at this level, and with Islandwood Captain Jack, she has a horse who steps up to the plate when running the long format. This pair has a speed rating of only 2.67 seconds in three 4*-L completions; in the horse’s first start at the level, he finished only 7 seconds slower than the fastest time of the day, on a day when no one caught the optimum time. In his two subsequent runs at the level, he accumulated a total of only one second over optimum. Although he may not be high in the minds of people after dressage, after a considerably improvement in that phase giving him a little extra boost he’ll be one to watch by the time stadium rolls around.

Lauren Kieffer and Landmark’s Monte Carlo. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

An extremely experienced competitor, Landmark’s Monte Carlo excels in the cross-country phase, particularly at the long format. Although he hasn’t made the time at each of the eight clear 4/5*-L cross-country rounds he’s finished, he and Lauren Nicholson have never been more than five seconds over the optimum time and have three times finished completely inside optimum. Consistency is the name of the game for these two, who will be expected to post a similar pace today. Look for these two to blast up the ranks on the strength of his pace, culminating possibly in a top ten position going into the final day.

Jennie Brannigan and Stella Artois. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Stella Artois holds the highest hopes for Jennie Brannigan‘s string today; in three completions at the 4*-L level, this mare has put in a consistently quick pace, finishing no more than 12 seconds over optimum and getting as close as only one second over optimum. Although they have yet to hit the time at this particular format, they come close enough that Stella Artois ought to be significantly improve her placing today..

Boyd Martin and Tsetserleg (USA). Phtoo by Shannon Brinkman.

Getting down to the final four horses of the day, we next go to Tsetserleg and Boyd Martin, who have had the advantage of running over this course before, albeit over an altered track. In four clear 4/5*-L, Tsetserleg has finished an average of 6.5 seconds over the time; if you discard the outlier of his first 4*-L completion in 2018, when he finished 18 seconds over optimum, he has averaged only 2.67 seconds over optimum. Not only will Boyd be out to remind everyone that this horse is the current reigning USEF 5* national champion (since the 2020 event was abandoned) as well as the reigning individual and team gold medalist from the Pan Am games, but will also be out to set the record straight after a green stop stopped American hearts all over the country at this venue in 2018.

Doug Payne and Vandiver. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Doug Payne too will be setting out with a bone to pick on Vandiver; despite all their success at the 4*-S level, this horse just hasn’t quite been able to replicate it at the long format. To earn a spot on the plane to Tokyo, he first needed to prove that scoring over 70% is a consistent way of life, taking a step towards that yesterday by breaking that barrier for the first time at a 4/5*-L. The next step will be cross country day, where he needs a fast and clear run to live up to his consistency at the 4*-S level. In 2019, this pair picked up the pace at the long formats they did, accumulating only one second over optimum in two 4/5*-L completions; unfortunately they sandwiched those around a horse fall at Burghley in a troublesome combination and followed up by being one of the several victims of a flag penalty at Fair Hill. Bad luck is bad luck, but the Tokyo slots are few and far between, so this pair will be looking to match their effortless pair of A/4*-S runs from 2020, where they first finished only one second off the fastest time here at Tryon and followed it with two seconds off the fastest pace at Stable View.

Buck Davidson and Carlevo. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

One of our final two pairs, Buck Davidson and Carlevo will struggle to match anything close to the pace of the leaders; in five clear 4*-L runs, Carlevo has averaged 33.2 seconds over optimum without any sign of improving on that. While a clear round is unlikely to be a problem for this horse, his pace is liable to take him down the ranks quickly.

Hannah Sue Burnett and Harbour Pilot. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

As the horse with the most longevity at the level, Harbour Pilot has served as a bit of an enigma in this phase. He and Hannah Sue Burnett won the horse’s first outing at this level way back in 2012 on the strength of a round inside the optimum, then replicated the pace in two of their 5* runs since, at Kentucky in 2014 and then at Luhmuhlen in 2017. But as frequently as they’ve had fast and clear rounds, they’ve had issues, with three stops, a frangible pin, and a rider fall on their long format record. They also have clocked in a handful of also-ran clear rounds, ranging from 12 second speed ratings up to 33 seconds. Without any consistency, it’s extremely difficult to tell what this pair will do but one thing is certain; they’ll need a top level performance today if they want to earn a spot on the plane to Tokyo.

PREDICTIONS – DAY THREE

Division Winner: Since it is looking more and more like the time is not going to be the walk in the park that the 2018 WEG was, it seems quite possible that this competition will not end up simply being a dressage and show jumping show. If that’s the case, Phillip Dutton and Z will finally get that accolade missing from this horse’s resume: a win at the 4*-L level. Phillip will have to hope that the time is either extremely difficult or impossible to make, and then ensure he sets a pace in that is at least 6 seconds faster than Tsetserleg and 11 seconds faster than Deniro Z’s pace. The harder the time is tomorrow, the better it will be for Z.

Phase Two Leader: Deniro Z will have the edge after tomorrow if time is doable but not easy to make. Liz Halliday-Sharp will be out on a mission and certainly has the advantage over RF Scandalous; ultimately the question is how much of an edge will she maintain over Tsetserleg, Danito, and Starr Witness.

Making the Optimum Time/Fastest Time of the Day: EnVogue is likely to be the quickest pace, with Z, Landmarks Monte Carlo, and Islandwood Captain Jack all giving her a run for her money.

The Surprise: Mama’s Magic Way and Will Faudree could set a surprisingly pace and paired with their low thirties dressage score (3.8 points better than expected), could be somewhat of a dark horse heading into tomorrow.

MARS Tryon International: WebsiteEntry StatusScheduleOrder of GoRide TimesLive ScoresLive StreamCoverage

By the Numbers: Tryon International 4*-L, Dressage Day Two

Coverage of Tryon International this weekend is brought to you by Strides for Equality Equestrians (SEE). Diversity and inclusion in all equestrian sports are important, and we’ll be bringing you tidbits on what this new organization hopes to accomplish.

It was a soggy start to the week with Tryon getting several inches of rain that carried on yesterday morning and left most of day one competitors riding in overcast conditions. By the end of the day, the sun finally deigned to peek out from behind the clouds. Despite the sogginess, the footing at Tryon is second-to-none and the ring held up extremely well for the competitors who faced wetter conditions today.

The ground conditions on cross-country are apparently a different story, as mentioned by guest commentator Will Faudree on the live stream. It’s extremely wet out there, enough so that the competitors have been prohibited from walking the course today. Tryon has already taken a look at their initial schedule and completely re-worked it in an effort to give the 4*-L the best ground possible. No one will run cross-country today and the first competitors over the turf on Saturday will be the CCI2*-L competitors will be followed by the 4*-L riders. CCI4*-S competitors will now run cross country on Sunday.

DRESSAGE ANALYSIS – DAY ONE

Like Galway Downs, dressage percentiles from each judge have not been made publicly available, so it is not possible to review any judging trends that might be emerging.

Unlike Galway Downs, yesterday proceeded much as expected. Although there were a few surprises individually, overall the field hewed extremely close to expectations. The average of yesterday’s dressage competitors was expected to be 33.55; the average of yesterday’s scoring ended up as a 33.51, only four hundredths of a point off. Meanwhile, 33% of the competitors who went yesterday scored within 1 point of their expected score, including nine pairs who scored within half a point of expectations. Of the pairs who scored more than a point better or worse than expected, they were split fairly evenly. The takeaway from yesterday is that while an occasional competitor may have been rewarded or punished unfairly in the scoring (and that is difficult to evaluate without judge percentiles), the overall judging has been accurate as a whole. If the judging continues on the same path, those at the end of today should end up with no advantage over those who went yesterday, which is the ideal situation.

To no one’s surprise, our leader at the end of the day was RF Scandalous, whose 21.5 is only a tenth of a point different than her average of 2020 A/4* tests. Starr Witness, Rubens d’Ysieux, and Blackfoot Mystery all hewed closely to their expected scores while On Cue, Miks Master C, and Leamore Master Plan all chose an opportune moment to put in tests close to or surpassing their personal bests. First-time 4*-L pair Woods Baughman and C’est La Vie 135 put in an excellent showing, his 29.1 hewing extremely close to his 2020 A/4* average. Tamie Smith and EnVogue unfortunately may have suffered from their very early order of go; despite an accurate test with lovely expression they sit just under 30 instead of the mid-to-low twenties that they were hoping for. Tamie will be back out today though, with another legitimate crack at one of the top placings.

DRESSAGE DIVAS – DAY TWO

Matt Flynn and Wizzerd. Photo by William Carey.

A year ago, Matt Flynn and Wizzerd would not have entered the conversation of top dressage horses, averaging a career 33.9 for the A/4* levels and only breaking the 70% mark once. In 2020 though, they’ve come out swinging, scoring a personal best of 27.3 at this venue in early September and then bettering it again two weeks later with a 26.9 at Stable View to prove it wasn’t a fluke. If they can match their 2020 average of 26.6, they’ll be right up in the conversation at the end of phase one.

Lynn Symansky and RF Cool Play. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

A horse who has been lightly competed at the top level, RF Cool Play could be a wild card this morning. Under Lynn Symansky, this horse contributed to the Pan Am team gold last summer, finishing in silver individually. This limited his A/4* starts in 2019 to only a 4*-L at the Ocala Jockey Club and this year has only had two starts since things resumed this spring, winning both a Prelim and a 3*-S back in August. His 2020 scores have all broken 70%, and have broken 75% twice but this has all happened at the lower levels. At the A/4* level, he has broken that mark only once out of five starts, scoring 25.9 penalties at Morven back in 2018. However, the scores in his other four tests at the level range from a 31.1 to a 32.2, consistent but not quite there.

Tamie Smith and Danito. Photo by MGO Photography.

Tamie Smith and the talented Danito are one of the few pairs to have the cops to be competitive with RF Scandalous; their score of 19.6 penalties in the Advanced at Galway Downs this July is the best career dressage score in the field at this level. They’ve broken 75% in three of the horses five starts at the level, averaging 23.2 penalties overall. One downside is that this horse’s score has been rising slightly in each consecutive start since July; although his worst mark of 26.0 penalties is still an excellent score, it comes in his most recent start.

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Deniro Z. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

As the only pair in the field to win multiple 4*-S divisions this season, Liz Halliday-Sharp and Deniro Z will be on a mission to make it a hat-trick for the year. Their 2020 average of 25.4 penalties is the third-best in the field but this is a pair who put in a personal best 23.6 penalties in the Advanced at Stable View in June after quarantine restrictions were lifted and have ticked up slightly in each subsequent test. They’ve stayed below their career A/4* average of 28.5 but will need to do better than that on this occasion to have a chance for the win.

Stormtrooper is a Clayton Fredericks ride who has really blossomed with not only an extra year at the level but also some time to stay home and work on the fundamentals. This horse went from averaging 35.6 for the level pre-pandemic to scoring a new personal best in three consecutive tests when things started up again, averaging a 29.3 this fall. If he continues the same trend here, he’ll best his current best score of 27.7 for the levels, clocked in at the Advanced at the Florida Horse Park last month.

Phillip Dutton and Z. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Phillip Dutton is no stranger to the top of the leaderboard, and with his WEG horse Z, he will be right there stalking the leaders. This horse, who in 2019 scored extremely consistently in the low thirties but couldn’t quite break into the twenties until his very last start of the season, has clearly spent his time in quarantine doing some homework. In three starts at A/4* during the 2020 season, Z averaged a 27.1 penalties, just over four points better than his 2019 average of 31.2 for the same levels. Although he hasn’t been consistently known as a powerhouse in this phase, he’ll be one to keep an eye on going forward.

Jennie Brannigan and Stella Artois. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Up until 2020, Stella Artois had never managed to get over 70%; although she did manage to knock her average on the flat from a 34.0 prior to 2019 down to a 31.5 for the year of 2019, the 70% mark had eluded her. Jennie Brannigan made sure that changed this year with an absolutely smashing personal best of 25.2 at the oddly-scored Great Meadow 4*-S in August, their first start at the level for the year. Since then, they’ve floated back considerably, scoring a 30.6 and 36.7 in their most recent two starts, but the strong showing in August demonstrates that the potential is there for a show-stopping score.

Boyd Martin and Tsetserleg. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

Boyd Martin‘s mount Tsetserleg might have been known primarily for his success as a 2018 WEG team member, his nail-biting second place finish at the 2019 Kentucky 5*-L, and his double Pan American gold, but this mighty little horse has utilized his jumping phases to build on a solid but not brilliant dressage score. In fact prior to 2020, Tsetserleg’s personal best at the A/4* levels was only a 29.9 scored at the 2018 Red Hill 4*-S and the only occasion on which he had broken into the twenties for the level. Interestingly enough, his two 5* scores of 27.9 at Kentucky in 2019 and 27.1 at this venue for WEG in 2018 were 2+ penalties better than his personal best at the A/4* tests. This is not a very common occurrence, and displays how well Boyd Martin can tighten the screws to get the scores he needs most at the right moment. In his only Advanced start of the year, he smashed those scores with a new personal best for the A/4/5* levels, laying down a 24.3 at Chattahoochee Hills. If Boyd has been able to keep all cylinders firing on Tsetserleg in the intervening weeks, he may not need to climb the ranks very far. Going near the end of the division may also give this horse a tiny extra boost that could make the difference on the final day in a placing or two.

Doug Payne and Vandiver. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Another horse who should be able to capitalize on the late draw, Vandiver has proven his ability to break the 70% barrier by a percentage point or two, but up through 2019 lacked the consistency to do so regularly. With only two starts in 2020, it’s not completely clear if the consistency is resolved but what is clear is that Doug Payne spent some time this summer doing his homework. Instead of just breaking the 70% barrier, Vandiver has now busted past the 75% barrier twice in two starts, including scoring a personal A/4* best of 23.1 here at this venue en route to winning at Blue Ridge Advanced in mid-September.

Buck Davidson and Carlevo. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Carlevo has now been quite the dependable campaigner for Buck Davidson thus far but has ultimately been unable to bring home any huge wins for the rider. Part of his strength is his consistency on the flat; he has scored between 25 and 32 in 90% of his career A/4* starts. On two occasions, once earlier this year at Rocking horse, Carlevo has broken the 75% barrier and on his worst day for the level he still laid down a solid 33.0. Despite those numbers though, his 2020 performance has seen his last three consecutive tests fail to break 70%.

Hannah-Sue Burnett and Harbour Pilot. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Wrapping us up for the weekend is long-time campaigner Harbour Pilot has been campaigning at the Advanced levels for an astonishing nine years now, a feat that should be commended, and won his first attempt at the 4*-L way back in 2012. As a result, Hannah Sue Burnett doesn’t need to bring him out very often to remind him what his job is. Ultimately, Harbour Pilot ended up only having one A/4*-S start for the year, clocking in a 26.8 at Great Meadow in August. The largest question mark for these two is consistency; Harbour Pilot tends to strike in the 26 to 29 penalty range but around 40% of the time doesn’t quite manage to break that 70% barrier. Having said this, Harbour Pilot is the horse who had a joint lead at Burghley in 2019 after the flat, so a leading score is certainly a possibility.

PREDICTIONS – DAY TWO

Dressage Leader: Tamie Smith will have a run at the lead early on with Danito, who is the only horse in the field aside from RF Scandalous to break the 80% barrier in his A/4* career. However, RF Scandalous will hold the line, and we’ll end the day as we started, with Marilyn Little extending her leading dressage streak to nine consecutive A/4* starts.

The Field Above 70%: Yesterday, six pairs were expected to break into the twenties and nine horses managed to his that mark. Based off that, today we’ll see at least another 10-12 horses join the 70% club, while at least two or three pairs will join Marilyn Little and RF Scandalous in breaking 75%.

The Surprise: RF Cool Play and Wizzerd both have the potential to bust out what might seem like an uncharacteristically low score.

MARS Tryon International: WebsiteEntry StatusScheduleOrder of GoRide TimesLive ScoresLive StreamCoverage

By the Numbers: Tryon International 4*-L, Dressage Day One

Coverage of Tryon International this weekend is brought to you by Strides for Equality Equestrians (SEE). Diversity and inclusion in all equestrian sports are important, and we’ll be bringing you tidbits on what this new organization hopes to accomplish.

And suddenly, we are here. One of the few silver linings this year is that with extremely limited options and an Olympic qualifier on the line, we have a record 78 combinations who will come down centerline today to the ground jury of Gretchen Butts (USA), Robert Stevenson (USA), and Helen Brettell (GBR). This is the most horses to start at a 4*-L or a 5*-L in North America in at least a decade, beating the Kentucky 2015 CCI5*-L (then CCI4*) which had 75 starters. The next closes 4*-L was the 2015 Fair Hill CCI4*-L (then CCI3*) which saw 60 pairs present to the ground jury. It’s rare to see such a concentrated field in America due to riders either travelling overseas or picking and choosing among available events here. While there’s a lot to be said for providing options and varying venues to pairs, it’s extremely exciting to get to watch such a competitive field this weekend.

This venue has only been utilized at the 4*-L level for the cross country at the World Equestrian Games in 2018; as such the venue has very little history to evaluate and no records for this particular show to speak of. Having said that, there are five pairs competing this weekend who have previously taken the top spot at a CCI4*-L; we have Hannah Sue Burnett and Harbour Pilot, who took top honors at the Fair Hill 4*-L all the way back in 2012, and Marilyn Little and RF Scandalous, who also won the 4*-L back in 2016. Also appearing are three 4*-L winners from 2019: Fylicia Barr and Galloway Sunrise who took top honors at Jersey Fresh, Jennie Brannigan and Stella Artois who traveled west to win at Rebecca Farm, and Sara Mittleider and La Paz who topped the field at Galway Downs.

DRESSAGE DIVAS – DAY ONE

Marilyn Little and RF Scandalous. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

The heaviest favorite to take the lead after the first phase is Marilyn Little and RF Scandalous, as they’ve led the field after phase one in their last eight consecutive A/4* starts. This pair averaged a very cool 21.6 penalties in three A/4* starts in 2020, with their worst score still breaking 77%. You have to look back to early 2018 for an occasion where they haven’t broken 75% and are only pair in the field to have broken 80% on two occasions. Although there are a couple horses in the field who might catch this pair if this mare has a bad day and they have a good one, they are few and far between.

Doug Payne and Starr Witness. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Pan American team horse Starr Witness and her rider Doug Payne are a pair to keep an eye on in this phase; with only three starts at the level, this is one of the greener horses in the field to contest this division. Starr Witness started the year off with a bang, laying down a 23.8 test in the Advanced at Pine Top before cooling her jets until September. At Blue Ridge horse trials, held a this very venue, she proved that the quality of the test was no fluke, scoring 25.7 penalties. In three tests for the level, her average sits at a 25.6, but one caveat; her score has floated upwards on average by 1.7 points in each subsequent start.

Tamie Smith and Danito. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Of the two horses that Tamie Smith has brought from out west to contest this division, EnVogue is the more experienced of the two….if barely. This mare completed the Galway Downs 4*-L last fall in only her second start, making this her second effort at the level. Although capable of dazzling in the first phase (exhibit one: a 22.7 test in the Advanced at Rebecca Farm this July), she lacks the consistency of her stablemate with a career range of low twenties to low thirties. However, this mare has broken the 70% barrier in five of six tests at the A/4* level and sits at a 26.5 average penalty score for her four starts this year.

Sara Kozumplik Murphy and Rubens D’Ysieux. Photo by Shelby Allen.

One pair whose comeback was certainly made more complicated by the pandemic was Sara Kozumplik-Murphy and Rubens d’Ysieux, who ended 2019 with a return to the A/4* level with a solid completions at the Ocala Jockey Club before turning their sights on 2020. After changing their plans, they’ve managed to get only one start at the level this year. Prior to their hiatus, this pair was regularly breaking the 70% mark, doing so in five of eight starts as a pair and even cracking the 75% barrier in the August of 2018. Since their return to competition, they’ve averaged 32.7 penalties in two starts. If their start at Morven last month has helped knock off the rust that has likely accumulated, then they could be a contender for a spot in the top ten but will otherwise have to be content to rely on the horse’s jumping ability to climb the ranks from further down.

Clayton Fredericks and FE Always In Time. Photo by Abby Powell.

Clayton Fredericks is a busy man with all his ventures (he most recently debuted as the 4*-L course designer for Galway Downs just two weeks ago), but it’s evident that the forced time at home this year was immensely helpful to his mount Always In Time who has dropped his dressage average from 34.2 penalties in 2019 to 29.5 penalties in 2020. Always In Time has lowered his score in each of his three consecutive 2020 A/4* starts, most recently clocking in 28.0 penalties at the inaugural Advanced at the Florida Horse Park.

Boyd Martin and Blackfoot Mystery. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Member of the 2016 Olympic team, Blackfoot Mystery is back to contest only his fourth A/4* and first long format since competing in Brazil. Although we saw him very briefly in 2017 (he contested the fall Advanced at Stable View, finishing fifth), he has been on the sidelines for the level up until this fall. As a horse who can scored anywhere between mid-twenties and mid-thirties, it’s difficult to tell what he might do this weekend with so few prior competitions in the last several years, but a second-best score for the level of 28.0 at Chattahoochee Hills bodes well. He’ll have another barrier to overcome; as second in the ring for the division with Boyd Martin, he’ll have to really lay it down to get the scores he needs to withstand the remainder of the division.

Sydney Elliot and OC Diamantaire. Photo by Abby Powell.

After finishing in the top five at Fair Hill 4*-L last fall, Sydney Conley-Elliott and QC Diamantaire had a quiet year, only making one A/4* start at Stable View. But in doing so, they smashed their previous personal best with a 26.4 on the flat. These two have shown flashes of that brilliance, scoring solidly over 70% on two other occasions out of their eight previous starts, but tend to sit more typically in the 33 to 37 range. All depends on which pair comes out to play this weekend, but they could be a wild card in the first phase.

Woods Baughman and C’est La Vie 135. Photo by Abby Powell.

Woods Baughman and C’est La Vie 135 showed their potential last fall with a win at the Fair Hill 3*-L but like everyone else fell off the radar a bit with an abbreviated scheduled for 2020. Although this horse had two starts at the A/4* level last year prior to his big win at Fair Hill, it wasn’t until this year that the horse really demonstrated what he can do with a 25.8 at Great Meadows 4*-S. In their last three starts, they have scored no worse than a 31.7.

Ariel Grald and Leamore Master Plan. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Leamore Master Plan may be a bit of a wild card this weekend if he continues the same trend he has for every A/4* start in 2020; in five starts at those levels this year, he has lowered his dressage score by at least 1.5 pts in each successive start. His most recent test came at Chattahoochee Hills, where he and Ariel Grald put in a test that scored only 28.6 penalties, marking their first sub-thirties score for the level. While unlikely to compete with the leaders, a similar score would let this horse play to his strengths the rest of the weekend.

Doug Payne and Quantum Leap. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Quantum Leap has a record that very much reads like a horse who gains more confidence on the flat the longer he has been at the level. His initial starts in the winter of 2019 at Advanced results in scores in the forties before he settled into a steady diet of mid-thirties tests for most of the remainder of the year. The first hint that something was clicking was at the Blue Ridge horse trials at the end of the year, breaking the 70% mark at this very venue. After being put on the shelf for the pandemic, Doug Payne brought him out swinging next a full year later at Blue Ridge again, proving it wasn’t a fluke with a personal best of 26.1 penalties then coming back for more with a 26.8 at Stable View 4*-S. Keep an eye on this horse, as he’s a solid prediction for a competitive test that will surprise a lot of people and could even be a wild card to break the 75% mark if circumstances are right. However, a huge disadvantage for this horse is his spot as first down the centerline; he’ll have to really impress the judges to put up a score that withstands the following 80 horses.

PREDICTIONS – OVERALL

Division Winner: There’s quite a lack of data surrounding this show in regards to how influential the optimum time will be; nearly 20% of the horses at WEG (admittedly a field of very high caliber) finished inside the optimum on the only occasion a long format at the top level has been held at this venue. Of course, the ground was quite conducive for speed and a leg of the course near the end was also removed due to the humid conditions. On the other hand, it has been extremely difficult to catch the time in the short formats held here; as noted in yesterday’s By the Numbers, no one has made the time here since the spring of 2018, and only six of 150 cross-country starters have managed to catch it at all in the last four years. Finally, the amount of rain projected for today and tomorrow has likely softened things up and Tryon’s turf can be quirky. If it ends up being holding, we could see a path to the time being extremely difficult to make.

So for the first time ever in By the Numbers, I’m postulating winners for two different scenarios. First, if time is achievable but not easy to make, or even impossible to make, either of which is a typical scenario for a 4*-L worldwide, Phillip Dutton and Z will hold the advantage at the end of the final day. However, if we see a scenario similar to WEG in which a large portion of the field makes time, Marilyn Little and RF Scandalous will be able to hold the line at the top of the leaderboard, even with a couple of time penalties on cross-country day.

The Potential Spoilers: This field is entirely too full of potential spoilers to just name one, and quite frankly even calling them spoilers is a stretch. Tsetserleg, Vandiver, Deniro Z, La Paz, and EnVogue will all be right there contesting for a slot and quite frankly I’m leaving out about ten others who could make this weekend very interesting.

The Future Star: Danito will likely be as competitive as any of the experienced horses this weekend and it wouldn’t be the first time Tamie Smith won a 4*-L on the back of a green-for-the-level horse. This young gun is ready to be at or near the top of the leaderboard now and will be one to keep an eye on for a surprise slot for Tokyo….pending of course the success of his famous stablemate, Mai Baum.

PREDICTIONS – DAY ONE

Dressage Leader: With quite a few heavy hitters going out on day one, there’s a good chance that whoever leads today will lead through tomorrow as well. While there are absolutely some top horses in the mix tomorrow, our biggest favorite for this phase overall is Marilyn Little and RF Scandalous, who compete in the late morning session. It might be a tall order to expect a score to hold up through another 60+ horses, but if any pair can do it, it’s this one.

The Field Above 70%:  With the quality of the field coming out this weekend, there should be a very strong contingent of horses who are ready to break that 70% mark. It is expected that at least 7 horses hit that today, with one or two with the potential to break 75%.

The Surprise: As mentioned above, the horse who has the most potential to exceed expectations is Quantum Leap, who has really shown some huge improvement in his second year at the level. Going first won’t be ideal for showing off that new competency, but it wouldn’t be surprising for us to start the day with a sub-thirty score.

Tryon International: WebsiteEntry StatusScheduleOrder of GoRide TimesLive Scores

By the Numbers: Tryon International 4-S

Coverage of Tryon International this weekend is brought to you by Strides for Equality Equestrians (SEE). Diversity and inclusion in all equestrian sports are important, and we’ll be bringing you tidbits on what this new organization hopes to accomplish.

Although the heavy focus this weekend is on the 4*-L division, a healthy group of both young guns and old favorites have come forth to contest the 4*-S division. This is an interesting offering by Tryon; they have held Advanced divisions in the fall under the name of Blue Ridge Mountain Horse Trials as well as Advanced and 4*-S divisions in the spring after taking over the nomenclature of The Fork. But this will be the first time this style of division is run under the venue name itself. For this venue, regardless of the name, Captain Mark Phillips has done the course design with Chris Barnard on tap for the stadium phase. This will hold true for this weekend as well, for both divisions.

We’ll be bringing you day by day coverage of the 4*-L including jog photos a bit later, but for now we are focused on the 4*-S division, which does dressage and cross-country on Friday, then follows up with stadium on Saturday.

Time has not been easy to catch in the Advanced and 4*-S divisions held at Tryon; in 150 pairs who have left the startbox, only six have caught the optimum. Three pairs made the optimum at The Fork 4*-S in 2017, and then another three pairs in the same division in 2018; none have finished inside the time since.

DRESSAGE

Ellie O’Neal and Zick Zack. Photo by Jenni Autry.

New to the level this year, Zick Zack has proven promising in this phase under Elinor MacPhail O’Neal, who has averaged a smart 30.5 penalties in this phase in four starts and has dropped his score by at least 1 point with every consecutive test. Most recently he broke the 70% barrier for the first time at the Florida Horse Park Advanced, clocking in at 27.3 penalties.

For a consistently good performer, we look to Will Faudree and the experienced Caeleste. Although lightly competed through the years, she has been at this level since 2015 and in the last two years has knocked approximately 3.5 points off her average. From 2015 to 2018, this mare averaged 34.6 penalties in this phase but across three tests in 2019/2020 she has averaged only 31.3 penalties. That includes a personal best of 27.4 just last month, the first time at this level Caeleste has broken the 70% barrier.

Another experienced campaigner to keep an eye on is last year’s Fair Hill 4*-L winner, Paddy the Caddy. Although he and Erin Sylvester most often sit in the 32 to 35 scoring range (doing so in seven of nine A/4/5* starts since 2019), this little Thoroughbred can occasionally pack a real punch. Just earlier this year, he laid down a personal best of 26.5 at the Great Meadow 4*-S, and while that type of test isn’t the norm for Paddy the Caddy, it’s certainly not outside of his capabilities.

CROSS COUNTRY

 

With time likely being tough to make, the cross-country phase could be a real game changer. Those with speed should excel in this phase and use it to move up in leaps and bounds. Unfortunately, some of the greener horses may find this too big a task; it’s likely that we will see horses like Zick Zack tumble down the ranks in this phase.

Elisa Wallace and Simply Priceless at Burghley 2016. Photo by Nico Morgan.

That leaves an opening for horses like Simply Priceless to strike from further down the order. Despite not having started at this level since February of 2019, the experience of this horse cannot be discounted; in fifteen career A/4*-S finishes paired with Elisa Wallace, this horse has finished within 10 seconds of either optimum time or the fastest cross-country time in all but three of them. While they might not quite be the fastest time of the day, they are sure to be close to it and therein lies their advantage.

Caeleste is likely to accumulate enough time penalties to slip by a place or three, with an average speed rating of 22.33 seconds; even edging into double digit time penalties will be enough to keep a foothold within the top five. The interesting horse to watch will be Paddy the Caddy; this horse’s speed has generally been saved for the long format but he can certainly make the time even at the short format if Erin Sylvester wants to. It’s a good bet that Erin will be looking to press the pace this weekend and make a splash; with a 4*-L win from 2019 already serving as their Tokyo qualifier, they will want to stay on the radar for the team with a good showing in this division weekend, having forgone the opportunity to go head to head with a number of other team hopefuls in the 4*-L.

Clip Clop with Joe MeyerVan Gough under Jacob Fletcher, and Bogue Sound ridden by Jessica Phoenix are all experienced pairs that will be able to put the pedal to the metal and stalk into the top ten on the strength of their speed.

SHOW JUMPING

No matter how fast Simply Priceless goes, he won’t be able to outrun the stadium phase. Incurring at least one rail is a near certainty for this horse, having last jumped a clear round at this level back in 2016. A single rail could keep him contesting for a top five slot but more than that will leave the door open for others to capitalize.

Erin Kanara and Paddy the Caddy. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Erin Sylvester and Paddy the Caddy will take advantage of that opening, being 8 for 8 on clear rounds in their A/4/5* starts in 2018 and 2020. They’ve also never had more than one rail in their entire A/4* career, incurring only four rails total in a whopping 26 starts. These two will be able to fully capitalize in this phase.

Another pair ready to capitalize on any mistakes at the top is once again Caeleste and Will Faudree, who also have a very clean record, if significantly less extensive. In eight A/4* starts, they’ve incurred only two rails, jumping clean at all of their 4*-S rounds save one. A clear round is more likely than not with this pair and should send them hunting for a top two position.

Overall, this is not the strongest field of jumpers for the stadium phase; any pair who can hold it to one rail or even pull off a clear round will be able to hugely capitalize on the final day.

PREDICTIONS:

WINNER

Erin Kanara and Paddy The Caddy. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Erin Sylvester and Paddy the Caddy are too experienced to discount and have long since proven their ability to finish on their solid (or better) dressage score. There are a couple of young horses who could give them a run for their money and certainly Caeleste will be right there as well, but these two will be out to make a statement.

NEW TO THE LEVEL

CharmKing should get a serious look by all as a possible wild card this weekend; currently piloted by Lillian Heard, this horse has averaged a 30.5 in two starts, jumped two clear stadium rounds, and finished with only six seconds over optimum time in his only cross-country completion. Although a rider fall does mar his record, he’s got some serious promise for the future and if he can match his previous performances, could pull a rabbit out of a hat this weekend.

Also having early success at the level are Trendy Fernhill and Jenny Caras. With three starts under their belt, they’ve broken 70% on one occasion and narrowly missed it on a second, put in two clear stadium rounds out of three, and finished as the fastest time of the day in the horse’s first try at the level back in February. Although the dressage and stadium phases both regressed slightly in their most recent start at Chattahoochee Hills (where cross-country was ultimately cancelled due to rain), this is certainly a pair to keep an eye on.

OTHER DIVISIONS

  • Atlantic Vital Spark, previously ridden through the 4*-L level by William Fox-Pitt, is paired with new rider Lucienne Elms in the CCI3*-L.
  • Cosby Green will make her FEI debut with the former Buck Davidson ride Copper Beach in the CCI2*-L.
  • Catalina, a former 4* ride of Jennie Brannigan’s, will be in the OP with a Texas-based rider.
  • Spring Easy will be contesting the CCI3*-L with young rider Maddie McElduff.
  • Former Boyd Martin 4* ride Contestor is paired with a new rider in the CCI2*-L.
  • Wise Santano II, who led the field after two phases at the Rio Olympics, will be in the OP with Ronald Zabala.

Keep it locked on EN for all the latest!

Tryon International: WebsiteEntry Status, Schedule, Order of GoRide Times, Live Scores

The Loss of a King: Saying Goodbye to Louis M

Alexa Gartenberg and Louis M. Photo by Abby Powell.

Eventing Nation is extremely sad to report that Louis M, a horse whose FEI career spanned two continents, nine countries, and three young women, has been euthanized due to an acute case of laminitis. The Rheinland Pfalz-Saar gelding was 15 years old. The Gartenberg family has issued the following statement:

“Alexa Gartenberg’s Louis M was humanely euthanized on Wednesday November 4, 2020 due to an acute case of laminitis. His team at New Bolton Center were valiant in their efforts to save him but his case became too severe.”

Louis M began his FEI career in 2011 under German young rider Pia Münker, who competed with him 37 times in Europe from the 2*-S level up through the 4*-S level (previously the CIC1* to CIC3* levels), winning in 15 of his starts with her. Together they contested two European Young Rider championships at Malmö and Jardy before stepping up to the now-4* level together.

Alexa GartenBerg and Louis M. Photo by Abby Powell.

Louis M became well known for his ability to lay down stunning dressage tests, setting records at multiple levels such as being the first horse in the modern eventing era to lay down 20 consecutive sub-40 tests (with the multiplier added, now equivalent to a 26.7) at the FEI level, setting a low score record for the FEI at the time of 20.6 penalties (with a 1.5 multiplier, equivalent today to a 13.7) at the Kreuth 2*-S (previously CIC2*) in 2015 and generally being in the lead after the dressage phase.

In 2016, he was imported to the US by Cornelia Dorr, who gained experience on him and quickly moved up the levels to ultimately contest her first Advanced and CCI3* (now CCI4*-L) on him. Under Cornelia, he won at the 2*-L and 3*-L (previously CCI1* and CCI2*) and contested yet another Young Rider championship.

Cornelia Dorr and Louis M. Photo by Jenni Autry.

For the final chapter in this horse’s illustrious career, he was once more paired with a talented young rider in Alexa Gartenberg, whose prior experience let them quickly be competitive at the 3* level, winning at the FEI level with yet another rider at the Bromont CCI3*-S last summer before going on to lead the dressage at the Fair Hill CCI3*-L last fall. The pair stepped up for Alexa’s first Advanced at Pine Top earlier this year before the pandemic stymied further competition.

Alexa has posted the following message regarding Louis M on her social media:

“I am completely devastated to share that my beloved Louis M had to be euthanized following a critical case of laminitis.

Louis was my best friend, a brilliant professor, and my most generous teacher. Losing him has left my heart completely shattered, but I will always be grateful to have known him, loved him, and had the incredible opportunity to have had him as my partner.

His career and journey involved many special people, and I am very thankful to each of them. He was truly the King of Horses.

Thank you, Louis M, for all that you gave me, and all that you gave to the sport of Eventing. You will never be forgotten and will always be missed.”

Matt and Cecily Brown, Alexa’s coaches at East West Training, also paid the following tribute:

“Louis M. A God among horses. A lover of goldfish, bananas, a good necking session, and his job. An overachiever, and always the smartest one in the room. Have you ever met a horse that never had a bad day? I hadn’t, until I met Louis. He showed up for work every day. He never had to be asked anything twice. He lived to do the right thing, and he loved teaching his girls how to be good.

When you asked Alexa how Louis was after a cross country round, she would get a dreamy look in her eye and say “he’s Louis, he’s perfect”. And that was never an exaggeration.

He was larger than life. He demanded attention with his presence alone. He was Louis, and he was perfect. Thank you for taking care of your girls, Louis. You will be deeply missed.”

Our sincerest condolences go out to Alexa, the Gartenberg family, the team at East West, Cornelia and Pia and all the numerous others whose lives this horse has touched in this trying time.

By the Numbers: Galway Downs 4*-L Show Jumping Day

It’s been quite pleasant to have a chance to watch the USEF Live Stream, provided by RideOnVideo this weekend. After a year of missing out even on live streams for the most part, it’s been a breath of relief for things to feel somewhat ‘normal’ again.

CROSS COUNTRY DAY ANALYSIS

Sometimes when a new course designer steps into a venue for the first time, the course ends up more doable and optimum time ends up more achievable than anyone realizes. Initially, it looked as if that be the case for this weekend, with a 100% completion rate at a North American 4*-L for the first time in at least five years and only two issues showing on the leaderboard.

Over the next few hours, that story changed several times, with penalties added and taken away multiple times, until finally this East Coast based writer called it a night and vowed to see if scores were final in the morning. In the end, the final tally appears to be two stops and five flags scattered amongst five pairs. For those wondering what a 30 represents, it appears to be two flag penalties, while a 35 is a stop and a flag penalty.

In the end, the flag penalty had significant impact on the top placings, removing Phillip Dutton from second and dropping him down the ranks on Fernhill Singapore. This rewarded Tamie Smith and Passepartout for being the only pair to finish inside the time, which unfortunately wasn’t as big an advantage as it usually is; the average finishing time of the field was only 8.73 seconds over optimum time, with is the second fastest average pace set at a North American 4*-L when more than 10 pairs start.

Needless to say, it was not hard to set a personal best pace today for the pairs who set out to do so, softening the advantage that a fast horse should have provided. Ultimately the bigger factor became the plethora of flag penalties ultimately awarded.

Tamie Smith & Passepartout. Photo by Kim Miller.

Long Island T, Luke 140, and Dassett Choice all greatly exceeded their speed expectations, posting personal best paces. Fernhill Singapore also was significantly faster than he has been previously, but unfortunately could not capitalize it as a victim of a flag penalty. Passepartout and Woodford Reserve both met expectations, which were to be among the fastest paces of the field; however they were not given huge advantages by their quick paces as they were joined by so many others.

Looking to the USEF Futures (view the team roster here), each team had a member who incurred a flag penalty (Cooley Quicksilver and 2 A.M.) but a second member of Team Erik had a stop (Jakobi). Unfortunately for Team Erik, the three members of Team Leslie also added only seven seconds of time penalties between them, giving them a respectable two-phase score of 117.9. Team Leslie will likely have trouble catching up today, currently sitting on a score of 166.6.

THE COURSE

Galway Downs will be using Marc Donovan for the course design of the stadium today. Marc Donovan is a commonly used course designer for Galway, although not the only one they have employed at this venue. However, he has designed the course for this division back through 2014, and is well familiar with the changes that the venue has undergone in that time frame.

Although the venue held the stadium on grass for a couple of years, in 2019 they returned to their ring for footing, which is what we will see this year as well. Unsurprisingly, every winner in the last five editions of the 4*-L has added no penalties in this phase, except for one. This year will almost certainly be no exception, with a trio of top jumpers clustered right at the top. In the last five editions, 41% of the pairs have jumped clear, which is a lower clear jumping rate than Fair Hill and Rebecca Farm, but a higher clear jumping rate than Bromont, Jersey Fresh, and Ocala Jockey Club.

This field has several strong jumpers, so we may end up seeing a higher percentage of clears than is typical for this venue. With the overnight withdrawal of Fernhill Fortitude, currently 6 of the 10 remaining horses are expected to jump around with no rails.

SHOW JUMPING SPECIALISTS

Emilee Libby and Jakobi. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Our first likely shot at a clear round will be the second horse in the ring, Emilee Libby and Jakobi. This pair is more likely to put in a clear round than not; they have 6 clear career rounds at A/4* out of nine total rounds, have jumped clear in four of six rounds when cross country was last, and added no jump penalties to their score at both of the previous 4*-L completions. Although an occasional time penalty plagued their steps early in the horse’s Advanced career, they seem to have sorted the pace and have jumped within time limits in their last four outings.

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Cooley Quicksilver. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Cooley Quicksilver began his A/4* career in 2019 with an impressive string of six consecutive clear rounds at the level in venues as varying as Red Hills and The Fork at Tryon over to Wiesbaden and Millstreet. By the end of the year though, things began to change; in his last six rounds he has incurred rails in three of them, including two rails in his only 4*-L completion. He has also incurred 1-2 seconds over allowable time in four of his last six rounds. A rail or even a time penalty would be costly him and Liz Halliday-Sharp, and won’t let them climb the ranks like they ultimately would need to.

Phillip Dutton and Fernhill Singapore. Photo by Abby Powell.

The East Coast pair of Phillip Dutton and the feisty Fernhill Singapore are perhaps our mostly likely pair to see a clear round today; they’ve jumped clear in an eye-opening 13 of 14 career A/4* rounds. Although this horse’s single rail on his record did occur when stadium was last, he has jumped clear on three other occasions for that phase order, including his only 4*-L completion. He is also unlikely to finish outside the time, putting this pair as a good bet to add nothing to their final score.

Erin Kellerhouse and Woodford Reserve. Photo by Kim Miller.

The maiden pair of Woodford Reserve and Erin Kellerhouse will be facing two firsts today; it will be their first time jumping after a 4*-L cross country and it will be the first time jumping at the A/4* level when stadium is the final phase. This pair has previously jumped clear in one 3*-L, but had two rails in the other. Regardless of whether they incur a rail or not, this is certainly a pair to watch for the future.

Rebecca Brown and Dassett Choice. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Immediately after our first set of first timers follows our second set of first-timers, Dassett Choice with Rebecca Brown. In five career A/4*-S rounds, they have jumped clear in three of them. Only their very first start at the level has let them experience jumping stadium as the final phase; they jumped clear but incurred 8 time penalties. Time penalties have continued to impact their final result in the phase, as they have incurred at least four time penalties in three of their five rounds. 

Boyd Martin and Long Island T. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Likely to be jumping out of order is Boyd Martin‘s third-placed horse Long Island T, who has generally been a one or none sort of horse. Only in two rounds out of 14 has he produced more than one rail; however it should be noted that both of those times occurred when stadium was the final phase. Having said that, at the CCI4*-L level the horse has incurred only one rail in two finishes. It could go either way today, but an average of 0.7 rails when stadium is the final phase indicates that a rail is more likely than not.

Kaylawna Smith-Cook and Passepartout. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Putting the pressure on the top will ultimately come down to Tamie Smith and her ability to take a catch ride and produce a clear round. Passepartout is a good partner to have for this phase; he’s jumped clear in every FEI he’s competed in since moving up to the 3* level and produced 2 of 3 clear rounds with Kaylawna Cook before securing a win in his first 4*-S with a clear round under Tamie. The only caveat on his record is that when he did produce two rails under Kaylawna, it happened to be here at Galway in July. It will be a nail biter without much previous history to guide us, but there’s no reason to believe that this pair won’t produce a clear round.

Phillip Dutton and Luke 140. Photo courtesy of Phillip Dutton.

Luke 140 will be another horse that, similar to Woodford Reserve, has not yet completed a 4*-L, nor jumped stadium last at the A/4*-S level. However, this horse has not added a single penalty of any type in the stadium phase in his FEI career as a pair with Boyd Martin, nor has he incurred a single rail or time penalty at this level in four runs, even when Phillip Dutton catch-rode him through the summer. It’s not a guarantee, but seeing any penalties on the board for this horse today will certainly be a surprise.

PREDICTIONS – FINAL

Division Winner: As mentioned yesterday, the horses likely to be at the top were Luke 140 and Passepartout, both of whom are excellent in this phase. Boyd Martin was able to maintain the pace he needed keep his place atop the leaderboard with Luke 140; he now has about 5 seconds of grace in hand over Tamie Smith, but no rails. However, he won’t need it and will hold the lead from start to finish this weekend.

USEF Futures Team Challenge: Precluding a surprise elimination either at the jogs or the stadium phase today, Team Leslie (Passepartout, Dassett Choice, 2 A.M.) will win this going away tomorrow with a score between 120 and 130 penalties. Team Erik (Cooley Quicksilver, Jakobi, and Quidproquo) dug themselves too big a hole to climb out of and will finish with a score in the vicinity of 180.

Galway Downs International Event & H.T.:  [Website] [Entry Status] [Ride Times] [Live Scores]

By the Numbers: Galway Downs 4*-L Cross Country Day

One thing I love about the West Coast events is the time differential; it is lovely to be sitting down to dinner and having a live stream to watch after work hours. Last night was full of surprises, and from the very first ride, the predictions were turned on their end. Today will likely be similar.

DRESSAGE DAY ANALYSIS

Sometimes dressage is the easiest phase to predict, and sometimes it is absolutely the most difficult; yesterday, the atmosphere blew any previous predictions out of the water. Not only does the 27.0 record set by Marilyn Little still stand, we had only one horse barely break the 70% barrier. The venue does an excellent job of producing atmosphere in their rings for this event; there’s something about it that makes it difficult for the horses to produce their best test.

Unfortunately, the dressage percentiles from each judge are not publicly available, which often provides a much more enlightening look into the thought process of the judges; we are working on obtaining them but for this report, we will be unable to take a closer look.

What is clear is that yesterday turned the entire competition on its head. Only two horses, Luke 140 and Fernhill Singapore, bettered their expected score by anything significant. Neither achieved their best score, but instead merely scored better than their average score for the level. The field as a whole scored +2.89 above their expected average, a significant rise across the board.

Often it’s assumed that if the field is scored high, at least it is done across the board and therefore the rankings are still appropriate. However, looking at the scores from yesterday, the four horses expected to break the 70% mark ranged from +3.9 points to +8.6 points above expected … the remainder of the field almost entirely scored within two points either direction of their expected score. Some of this will almost certainly be due to an uncharacteristic tension or behavior in the test, but it is notable enough that it seems that the judging panel was in general reluctant to award scores at the upper end of the scale.

Ultimately, what this means is that the calculus for each competitor is out the window and a new strategies will be formed. There’s nothing better than a good shake-up; we just normally look for the cross country phase to do the shaking up.

Looking to the USEF Futures, both teams suffered a bit from the tough scoring, but Team Erik got hit harder. Team Leslie (Passepartout, Dassett Choice, 2 A.M.) lead the challenge with a team score of 100.1 while Team Erik (Cooley Quicksilver, Jakobi, Quidproquo) trail with a team score of 112.4.

THE COURSE

Photo courtesy of Galway Downs

Galway Downs has been re-inventing itself over the last few years; after several years with Ian Stark as the course designer, the venue convinced the designer of Badminton, Eric Winter, to take a spin in 2017. After a brief hiatus from the division in 2018, Jay Hambly make his design debut at 4*-L in 2019. This year, the venue has brought in Clayton Fredericks, who has been the featured course designer at the Ocala Jockey Club and most recently created the new Advanced course for the Florida Horse Park.

In addition to bringing in fresh eyes to design the course, Galway Downs has also made a major effort to upgrade their course surface, installing turf over much of the course to replace the previously dragged dirt tracks. This should cut down on the number of changes of surface the horses will experience over the track.

In the last five editions of this division, 71.8% of cross-country starters have completed the course, which would translate to three or four non-completions this weekend. Only 57.7% of starters finish the course clear, which would translate to seven clear rounds here. Over the last half decade, 20% of  cross-country starters have made the time, so it’s likely that two of our fastest pairs will add nothing to their dressage scores on day two. However, last year all four horses who finished the course did so clear and inside the time, so look for an upped ante from Clayton to make sure that time plays a factor this weekend.

Over the last five runnings, each winner of the division has either made the time, or has been the fastest time on cross-country day. Although none of the horses in the field have achieved the fastest pace of the day at a 4*-L, Jollybo has done twice put in the fastest round while Long Island T, Woodford Reserve, Stag Party, and Passepartout have all done so once in their A/4* careers. Stunningly, Jollybo and Hawley Bennett-Awad are the only pair in the field to have achieved the optimum time at the level as a partnership.

The optimum time for the course is 10:00, the typical length for a course at this level. Although course photos do not appear to be available online, a course map is available in the program. A brief description of course appears in yesterday’s press release; the primary consensus among competitors appears to be “twisty and turny between long gallop stretches.”

One term I’d like to introduce to the readers is what I define as the speed rating, or SR. Speed rating is the number of seconds over either optimum time or, if no pair achieves optimum time on that day, the number of seconds a pair has come in behind the fastest round of the day. This calculation is showing up more and more when defining the overall pace of a horse; it is helpful when looking at time penalties to determine which courses ran fast and which were plagued by time penalties. This rating allows direct comparison of paces of the two types of courses.

CROSS COUNTRY MACHINES

Overall, this field has fairly strong jump records at the A/4* levels, with every horse expected to jump clear if we were looking at a 4*-S. However, the 4*-L is a whole different ballgame, statistically more difficult level than moving up to 5*-L, for both first time riders when looking at the North American pairs over the last half decade. The clear completion rate for the 4*-L when a rider is attempting it for the first time is only 40%, compared to a 60% clear completion rate overall for the level. That drops to 29% clear completion rate when neither a horse nor a rider has prior experience at either the A/4* levels. A first time horse with a rider who has previously been at the 4*-L level does not have the same difficulties; this category falls in line with the overall rate at 61% jumping clear.

Boyd Martin and Long Island T. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Once again, Boyd Martin and Long Island T will set out as the trailblazers of the day, needing to put in as quick a pace as they can while still feeling out the course. This horse has two completions at this level, both clear across the country, finishing 13 seconds slower than the fastest round at Jersey Fresh 4*-L in 2018, when no one could achieve the optimum, and finishing only 10 seconds over optimum at Fair Hill the same year, when two pairs achieved the optimum. This puts his average speed rating at 11.5 seconds for this level.

However, these two each are going to have to shake off some rust at this level, having only one start as a pair at Advanced in a year; while their jump record as a pair has been solid in this phase (their last issue occurred in the spring of 2018), speed has not been this horse’s forte. Between their sporadic time off and having to be the pair to feel out the course, it’s more likely we’ll see their pace come in somewhere between their 4*-L speed rating of 11.5 seconds and their 2019/2020 pace at 4*-S of 22.5 seconds. Look for a final speed rating more in the range of 15-20 seconds for this pair today.

Rebecca Brown and Fernhill Fortitude. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

A horse to keep an eye on for a surprise speedy round is Fernhill Fortitude, who will be making his ninth career start at the 4*-L level but this time with Rebecca Brown in the irons, a newcomer to the level. These two have only been paired together for one A/4*-S start, finishing with three solid but unremarkable phases at Stable View last month. They’ve got a number of rounds moving up throughout the levels this year though, pairing up at the end of 2019 and making their way steadily through the qualifications. With his previous rider Jenny Caras, Fernhill Fortitude has finished seven clear 4*-L rounds, been the fastest time of the day at one of them, made the optimum time on three other occasions, and been within 3 seconds of optimum on two others. His speed rating for the level is only 3.29 seconds, despite a speed rating of 27 in his only outing of the level with Rebecca.

Phillip Dutton and Fernhill Singapore. Photo by Abby Powell.

Fernhill Singapore was not initially expected to be up with the leaders on cross country pace, but with a second placed dressage test, Phillip Dutton will be setting out with a vengeance. In ten A/4*-S runs, this pairs fastest speed rating is 11 seconds, finishing with 4.4 time penalties at a venue when 11 horses made the time. In their only CCI4*-L completion, they finished 12 seconds over the optimum at Fair Hill last fall, when 8 horses total made the time. It will be a big ask of this horse to get closer than that over a course that is likely to stunt speed, but if anyone can pull out a personal best pace, it is Phillip Dutton.

Hawley Bennett-Awad and Jollybo. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

The most experienced horse in the field is Jollybo, who is the only horse with 5*-L completions on her resume. As a pair with Hawley Bennett-Awad, she has completed three 4*-L, finishing with an average speed rating of only 2.67 seconds. This might be the first pair of the day to make the optimum. In 2016 they finished inside the time at Rebecca Farm 4*-L in their very first 4* start as a pair, then went onto Fair Hill in the fall to incur only 3 seconds worth of time penalties. At Jersey Fresh in 2018, they slogged through a mud pit to finish only 5 seconds off the fastest pace of the day, when no one could catch the optimum.

Erin Kellerhouse and Woodford Reserve. Photo courtesy of MGO Photography.

Next up will be our only pair to face their first 4*-L as both green horse and green rider, Erin Kellerhouse and Woodford Reserve. As mentioned in yesterday’s predictions, there’s no indications that these two won’t buck the odds and be one of the 29% of green pairs who go on to finish with clear rounds. The bigger question is ultimately what speed they’ll be able to maintain in doing so. In four starts at A/4*-S, their worst speed rating is only 12 seconds in their very first Advanced start; overall for the level their speed rating averages at 5.25 seconds. In their only two long format finishes, both at the 3*-L level, they’ve accumulated a total of one second over optimum time. This will be a pair to watch closely for a fast round.

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Cooley Quicksilver. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Futures Team Captain Liz Halliday-Sharp and Cooley Quicksilver will be next up. Historically this horse has not been the fastest pair around, but they have definitely picked up the pace somewhat in 2020. In the horse’s first 4*-L, he finished only 6 seconds over optimum at Boekelo last fall, a marked increase from his 2019 A/4*-S speed rating average of only 22.75 seconds. In 2020, that A/4*-S speed rating average has dropped to 13.75 seconds. Liz will likely set a pace that improves on their A/4*-S pace from 2020, as she tries to close the gap with the leaders after a disappointing dressage test.

Boyd Martin and Luke 140. Photo by Shannon Brinkman for Erin Gilmore Photography.

A horse who has escaped mention thus far is Boyd Martin‘s second ride of the day, Luke 140. This horse has had only four starts at the level this year, with Phillip Dutton taking the reins for two of his four Advanced runs. This horse has been shockingly consistent thus far in his four starts, he has finished between 25 and 27 seconds over optimum time no matter what the other horses have been doing. Prior to the start of competition, the biggest question was whether Boyd would choose to press the horse for the time. That question is almost certainly answered, now that Luke 140 holds the lead with Long Island T further down in the order. He’ll have had the advantage of riding the course once at this point, and it’s likely that he sets out to give Luke 140 more of a competitive pace; in their two starts together as a pair they average only 17 seconds slower than the fastest time of the day.

Tamie Smith & Passepartout, owned by Kaylawna Smith-Cook. Photo by MGO Photography.

Finally, stay tuned for West Coast queen Tamie Smith, who will be our other Futures Team Captain, aboard Passepartout. Under Kaylawna Cook, this horse put in two reliable but steady rounds across the country; when Tamie took the reins they blazed to the lead by putting in the fastest round of the day at Twin Rivers 4*-S. This pair is a true wild card, but Tamie has the home field advantage; while she doesn’t often compete in this division, she is intimately familiar with the Galway venue. Last year, in her first start in this division since 2011, she put in the fastest round of the division last year with EnVogue, blazing home 39 seconds inside the time and 34 seconds faster than the next fastest pair.

PREDICTIONS – DAY TWO

Division Winner: With a vastly different reality after day one, the top placings have been completely shaken up. The three horses currently atop the leaderboard are all extremely good jumpers; between them, they’ve added only two rails in 22 rounds at this level. That means it’s highly likely that this weekend comes down to their time differentials on cross country; whomever emerges on top today will be the favorite to secure the win tomorrow. Phillip Dutton and Boyd Martin may both be sitting on horses who have a historically slower pace than Tamie’s single start on her catch ride, but all three riders are masters of pushing for a personal best pace when the moment matters.

Phase Two Leader: The ability to push for time has become all important with this shake-up in dressage scoring, and Tamie Smith knows this venue. Boyd will be pushing for Luke 140 to stay right up at the top but has only six seconds of cushion over Passepartout. Similarly, Phillip will push Fernhill Singapore but has only two seconds of cushion over the west coast pair. Ultimately, Tamie and Passepartout will pull ahead. Jollybo and Hawley Bennett-Awad will be right there making their case as well, with a more consistent record of getting close to or achieving the time at this level; however this pair will need to overcome a more significant deficit with the Australian pair, who have 14 and 9 seconds of cushion over them.

Making the Optimum Time: Although 20% of the field typically makes the time out of overall starters at this venue, that equates to only two horses in the field. The two most likely to do so are Jollybo and Passepartout, with Woodford Reserve hovering at the edge.

The Surprise: As mentioned above, Fernhill Fortitude could be a surprise today with his prior 4*-L record; Rebecca Brown will be using him to gain experience in her first 4*-L start.

USEF Futures Team Challenge: Despite a disappointing dressage phase, Team Erik will pull solidly ahead with three solid cross-country performances adding only some time penalties to put them on a score somewhere between 130 and 140 penalties. Team Leslie will likely run into some trouble on cross-country, trailing with a score in the 150+ range, still within stalking range but needing some luck to catch up.

Galway Downs: WebsiteEntriesRide TimesLive Scores, Live StreamCoverage

By the Numbers: Galway Downs 4*-L Dressage Day

It feels surreal to say this, but welcome to the first day of competition at the first North American CCI4*-L of 2020. Twelve combinations presented yesterday to the ground jury of Sandy Phillips (GBR), Wayne Quarles (USA), and Valerie Vizcarrondo-Pride (USA). (Fun fact, Valerie will be competing her own Favian in the CCI4*-L at Tryon two weeks from now.) Despite the pandemic limiting the travel options for many in the United States, we still see a pair of Texas-based horses who made the long trailer-drive out west alongside a quartet of East Coast horses who hopped on a plane. Twelve pairs will be the largest field in this division since 2015, when 29 horses made their start.

Between the USEF Futures Team Challenge and a few heavy hitters looking to try and secure the 1-2 punch of wins at Galway and Tryon, we’re in for quite a competitive and exciting weekend out in Temecula. We’ll be bringing you day by day predictions alongside daily analysis of the results. At the bottom of today’s posts, we’ll also provide a few predictions for the overall results as well as for today’s dressage results.

Dating back through 2014, the lowest dressage score has been a 27.0, scored by RF Demeter and Marilyn Little in 2015. Four horses in this field have broken that mark, including Cooley Quicksilver who has broken it twice and Long Island T who has broken it an impressive eight times. Interestingly, only seven horses total have scored sub-thirty in the last five editions of this event (the division was not held in 2018).

The winner of dressage has held the lead only once since 2014; James Alliston and Happenstance led from start to finish in 2017. In the last three editions, the winner was either first or second after dressage. The last year that the winner came from outside the top three was 2014. Only Phillip Dutton comes forward as a previous winner of this event; he and Fernhill Fugitive won the division in 2015. Only two riders will be taking their first crack at the 4*-L, but six out of the 12 horses will be testing their mettle for the first time.

DRESSAGE DIVAS

Boyd Martin and Long Island T. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Long Island T has been a promising talent whose career has unfortunately been plagued a bit by poor timing. A cracking year in 2018 meant a potential 5* start at Kentucky in the spring of 2019, until a minor issue after his final prep run derailed those plans. He was aimed at the American Eventing Championships later that year, scoring a win and aiming for a big result at a fall 4*-L when his rider Boyd Martin suffered his own injury. A bout of self-doubt with a catch ride at Ocala Jockey Club made it evident that this horse was a one-man ride for the time being, which put him on the shelf for most of 2020 when the pandemic gave Boyd an opening to have enough time for a surgery he’d been putting off and a recovery period that lasted longer than expected.

However, these two clocked in a confident round at Morven Park at the beginning of this month in the Advanced, with a clean stadium round and a dressage test that was sub-30. These two have had yearly averages of 29.6 (2017), 27.1 (2018), 25.2 (2019) in the three full years they’ve partnered together. While the 29.1 they clocked in during their only Advanced start of 2020 didn’t quite reach the brilliance of the three tests they executed as a pair in 2019, it should be noted that there’s a good bit of rust that might have needed to be knocked off.

On the downside, Long Island will be the first horse in the ring, so Boyd Martin will need to have him tuned to perfection in order to lay down a test that will survive the challengers yet to come.

Phillip Dutton and Fernhill Singapore. Photo by Abby Powell.

Phillip Dutton has brought Fernhill Singapore all the way out here for a crack at a second win in this division. This is a horse who can break 70% on a good day but toss in a score closer to 60% on a bad day; consistency can be an issue. Earlier this spring he brought his best foot forward and scored a personal best of 27.4 at Great Meadow 4*-S, but reverted back to a score of 34.3, more typical to his overall average of 33.1 over the last two years. He’ll be a bit of a wild card today and at fourth down the centerline, is not helped by the order of go.

Hawley Bennett-Awad and Jollybo. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Typically, Jollybo is not a horse who would get mentioned in the dressage portion of this analysis, but there’s some evidence that she and Hawley Bennett-Awad did quite a bit of homework while on lockdown. This pair began the year with their first run at Advanced since Kentucky, breaking 70% for the first time at the level in three years. Then everything locked down. Rather than running the experienced mare at the level this fall to prepare for this division, Hawley chose instead to build her confidence on the flat by clocking in a 26.1 first at Copper Meadows in the Prelim, then a 26.3 at the Intermediate at Woodside. A big question mark will be if that homework will pay off with a significantly harder test in a ring with considerably more atmosphere.

Erin Kellerhouse and Woodford Reserve. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Making both of their first attempts at the 4*-L level, Woodford Reserve and Erin Kellerhouse have given no reason to indicate that they can’t be just as competitive as the more experienced pairs this weekend. While they’ve been limited to only four runs at the level thanks to the schedule, they’ve made each of them count and finished no worse than 3rd in any of their starts. Their worst score at the level is 29.6 and in their four starts they’ve averaged only 28.5 penalties, with all of their tests within two points of one another. Consistency paired with strong scores makes this a combination to keep a close eye on moving forward.

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Cooley Quicksilver. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Liz Halliday-Sharp is always a rider to be reckoned with, and this fall she’s been nothing less than brilliant as she racked up wins at all three East Coast 4*-S, along with a smattering of wins at the 2*-S, 2*-L, and 3*-L levels. In short, she is on fire, and this weekend’s mount Cooley Quicksilver has been flying somewhat under the radar despite being Liz’s ride as the traveling alternate for the Pan Ams games. In four starts at the A and 4*-S levels this year, he has scored 27 or below on three occasions, with his 2020 average sitting at 27.6. This is more than a 5 point improvement from 2019, when his A/4* average sat at 33.3, and while his final 4*-S start prior to this event might indicate a touch of regression after he failed to break 70%, a 29.4 in the 3*-S at Midsouth indicates that things should be coming back on track.

Kaylawna Smith Cook & Passepartout. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Depending her home turf this weekend is Tamie Smith, whose best chances at a win this weekend lie with her catch ride Passepartout, normally piloted by Tamie’s daughter Kaylawna Cook. With Kaylawna out on maternity leave, Tamie has already piloted Passepartout to a win in the horse’s first 4*-S; now she’ll try to make it two for two at the horse’s first 4*-L. This pair has two dressage tests together, breaking the 70% mark on their first start together but then regressing a bit at Woodside to the tune of 32.3. However prior to Tamie taking the reins, the horse had broken the 70% mark in each of his three starts with Kaylawna, even breaking 75% earlier this summer at Galway Downs. Overall, this horse sits on a career average of 28.8 for the level and Tamie will be riding with the advantage of being next to last down the centerline on home turf.

Rebecca Brown with Dassett Choice. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

The final horse of the day to enter the ring will be Dassett Choice, ridden by Rebecca Brown. This weekend will be the first 4*-L attempt for Rebecca Brown but this won’t be her first trip down centerline at this level; she’ll be competing the former Jenny Caras ride Fernhill Fortitude earlier in the day in his ninth 4*-L start. So Rebecca bookends the show a bit with one of the most experienced 4*-L horse in the country with a horse also making his first attempt at the level.

Regardless, Dassett Choice is the horse to keep an eye on for the first phase; this horse has broken 70% in three of his five A/4* tests, with a personal best of 27.3. Although he scored a less-than characteristic score of 34.7 at the Ocala JC 4*-S last fall, his typical range is from 69% to 73%. Being the last horse of the day might give him the boost to compete for the top slot if things have broken right.

PREDICTIONS – OVERALL

Division Winner: It’s ultimately going to be a battle royale between Liz Halliday-Sharp and Boyd Martin with Cooley Quicksilver and Long Island T respectively, coming down to the wire where even one or two time penalties might make the difference. In the end, I believe that Cooley Quicksilver will ultimately walk away with the win; Liz Halliday-Sharp has been absolutely on fire this fall and her riding is firing on all cylinders lately. Dressage day will absolutely key to that though, as Liz must execute a test that shows the horse is back on point after a minor regression; if he can equal his scores of the summer, he’ll be able to stay close enough to Long Island T after the first phase to put the pressure on him with the cross-country pace.

The Potential Spoiler: It’s difficult to get a good gauge on the performance of Tamie Smith and Passepartout as a pair with only one full start under their belt as a pair at this level, but this horse’s performances with Kaylawna Cook indicates that the win at Twin Rivers was no fluke. Despite being green to the level as both horse and rider, Kaylawna and Passepartout put in three impressive dressage tests, jumped clear in two of their three stadium rounds, and had two solid clear rounds across the country in two runs. At Twin Rivers 4*-S, Tamie was able to take advantage of his dressage and stadium strengths, then utilized her experience to push the pace on horse on the cross-country, producing the fastest round of the day. A similar performance this weekend would have this pair right up with the aforementioned pairs in contention for the win.

The Future Star: First time horses and riders to the 4*-L level often have a tough time of it; in a study I performed last spring of North American 4*-L riders, pairs tackling the level for the first time when neither the horse or the rider had previous experience at Advanced finished with clear cross-country rounds only 29% of the time; that’s compared to a 60% clear round completion for all starters. However, Erin Kellerhouse and Woodford Reserve have given every indication that they will be one of those who do finish clear; they have never had a stop, flag, frangible penalty, or any other difficulties on the cross-country in their career. Their record at this level indicates they could go for a win at their usual pace, with strong capabilities in both the dressage and stadium phases, but the biggest question for this pair on this weekend will be time….will they press the pace in their first attempt at the level or play it a bit safer?

PREDICTIONS – DAY ONE

Dressage Leader: Despite being first down the centerline, Long Island T with Boyd Martin has the talent and flash to hold the top position throughout the entire division. The biggest question will be how much of a cushion he will be able to create in front of the rest of the field; being first may narrow the advantage he has in this phase

The Field Above 70%: A number of horses in the field have the capability of breaking the 70% mark, but ultimately I think we’ll see only a third of the field (4 pairs) break into the twenties. Don’t expect the rest of the field to be strung out terribly far behind though; only two horses in the field have ever even scored in the forties, and they each only have done it once.

The Surprise: It’s likely that Jollybo will be the surprise of day one, with her recent record indicating that she and Hawley Bennett-Awad have been doing their homework at home since their last 5* start at Kentucky in 2019. As mentioned above, all signs point to the possibility of this pair breaking the 70% mark at a 4*-L for the first time in their career; their previous best score for this division level was a 34.2 at the Jersey Fresh CCI4*-L in 2018.

USEF Futures Team Challenge: These two teams will be neck and neck after dressage, with just over a point between them. Based off of expected averaged, Team Leslie, consisting of 4* pairs Tamie Smith/Passepartout, Rebecca Brown/Dassett Choice, and with Charlotte Babbit/2 A.M. participating as the 3* pair, will squeak into the lead with a predicted score of 93.5. Team Erik, with 4* pairs Liz Halliday-Sharp/Cooley Quicksilver, Emilee Libby/Jakobi, and 3* pair Sophie Click/Quidproquo will be hot on their heels, with an expected score of 94.7.

Galway Downs International Event & H.T.:  [Website] [Entry Status] [Ride Times] [Live Scores] [Live Stream] [EN’s Coverage]

By the Numbers: Chattahoochee Hills Advanced

Chattahoochee Hills will be the final run on the fall schedule for those prepping for the Tryon 4*-L. While quite a few riders have opted to head to the only 4*-L of the year off of a longer gap, nearly 30 starters will use this weekend as the final springboard to North Carolina.

Hugh Lochore again designs the cross country, with Chris Barnard on tap for show jumping design.

Although time is king at Chatt Hills, we did see two pairs make the time at the August edition of this division, one of whom beat the clock even with a stop. It’s quite the battle but still possible to make time; ultimately the question is who will try. Nilson Moreira da Silva has made the time twice here with his ride Magnum’s Martini, including most lately in August, and Jacob Fletcher with Van Gough won the 4*-S last year off the back of a round inside the optimum time.

DRESSAGE

Marilyn Little and RF Scandalous. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

One of the most predictable things in this sport is the ability of RF Scandalous and Marilyn Little to lead the field after the first phase. These two have led from day one in their last seven consecutive starts at the A/4/5* levels, and have broken the 75% mark in their most recent six starts for those levels. It will take a little luck for any other pair in the field to catch them. In their two 2020 starts thus far, they average a whopping 20.9 penalties. The only thing working against them is their fairly early draw; in a field of almost 30, they will be sixth into the ring.

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Deniro Z will certainly do their best to take advantage of any weaknesses; these two have stepped up their game in this phase this year, dropped from an A/4* average of 28.8 in 2019 to an average of 24.7 in three starts this year. It will be tough to catch RF Scandalous on day one … but not impossible for Deniro Z.

A lot of eyes will be on Pan Ams individual and team gold medalist Tsetserleg as he makes his first start at the level since his second place finish at Kentucky in 2019. Between a quick tour at the lower levels to help secure an Olympic slot for Team USA, a minor pandemic, and waiting for his rider Boyd Martin to finish up his own rehab, the expectations will be heavy on this horse this weekend. After a long hiatus, there’s a lot of question marks surrounding how this horse might perform; his statistics show he won’t quite catch the aforementioned pairs, with a personal best of 29.9 at the A/4* level. It should also be noted that the horse’s best scores have both been at the 5*-L level, indicating that Boyd Martin know exactly how to get this horse to peak at the right time, which would be for Tryon in three weeks time.

CROSS COUNTRY

The biggest weakness RF Scandalous has is her speed; she’s incurred double-digit time penalties in all but one of her five clean A/4*-S runs dating back through 2018. While sometimes she can still maintain a top placing even with those time penalties, she won’t be able to build up enough of a gap this weekend against a stronger set of competitors.

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Deniro Z. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

This leaves the door open for Deniro Z, who has made the time in his last two consecutive outings to secure wins at both, but overall averages a speed rating of 11.9 seconds over optimum time or the fastest cross country round when looking at clean A/4*-S rounds for the last two years. Boyd Martin and Tsetserleg have a very similar speed rating of 12.2 seconds for the A/4*-S level. Ultimately, the biggest question of the weekend is, will either of these riders choose to go for the time with the bigger goal only a few weeks away? If so, Deniro Z should be able to edge out RF Scandalous for the top spot headed into the final phase with Tsetserleg hot on their heels. If not, there will be an opportunity for others who have an eye to being competitive this weekend.

Pairs who have traditionally had the pace paired with a solid enough dressage score to eat at the lead of the top trio include Lancaster under Waylon RobertsBlackfoot Mystery with Boyd Martin, and La Paz with Sara Mittleider. 

SHOW JUMPING

RF Scandalous and Deniro Z are both extremely strong in the final phase; RF Scandalous has jumped clear in nine of her 12 rounds at this level and hasn’t incurred a rail at A/4/5* since August of 2018. Meanwhile Deniro Z has jumped clean in nine of his last 10 rounds at this level. Both are likely to leave everything up in this phase but Deniro Z has incurred time penalties in three of his last four rounds. While not a lot of penalties have been incurred, it might be enough to make the difference between winning and losing this weekend.

Boyd Martin’s pair of rides, both coming off a long hiatus from this level, are a bit less predictable. Their overall records trend towards each having a rail. Tsetserleg may be more of a toss-up, having jumped clear in 50% of his eight A/4*/5* rounds when stadium was the final phase while incurring rails in five of 11 A/4*-S rounds. However Blackfoot Mystery is more likely to incur at least one rail, despite a recent clean round under Phillip Dutton at Great Meadow. He has never jumped a clear round at this level when stadium was the final phase, under either Boyd Martin or previous rider Kelly Prather.

Sara Mittleider and La Paz. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Lancaster is also likely to slip down the ranks with the high possibility of a rail or two, leaving an opportunity for La Paz to climb up solidly into the top five. La Paz and Sara Mittleider have only incurred one rail in six round at the A/4* levels, which will put them in good standing for the final placings.

PREDICTIONS:

WINNER

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Deniro Z. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Liz Halliday-Sharp is on the hottest of streaks, having won each of the three east coast 4*-S held this fall, two of them with her mount for this weekend. While it might be a nail biter, Liz and Deniro Z are plenty capable of pulling off the win if choose to keep up their blazing winning ways.

FASTEST CROSS-COUNTRY ROUNDS

Nilson Moreira da Silva and Magnum’s Martini (BRA).

Lancaster technically has the fastest speed rating in the field; however as previously mentioned this venue has not been one where Waylon Roberts has chosen to press the pace. The quickest round of the day is more likely to go to the speedy Magnum’s Martini with Nilson Moreira da Silva, who put in the fastest clear round at this venue in August and has also been the fastest round at this venue on three other occasions. This pair likes this venue, and more importantly, are very familiar with it.

NEW TO THE LEVEL

Jenny Caras and Trendy Fernhill. Photo by Shelby Allen.

We need to seriously discuss Trendy Fernhill, who has now had two Advanced starts under Jenny Caras. In two starts, they’ve averaged a 29.8 on the flat, a pace only 8.5 seconds slower than the fastest of the day, and had no added rails or time faults in stadium. With results like that, they could be right up in the top three at the end of the day, but two starts is too early to make a definitive call. Regardless, this is a pair to keep an eye on moving forward.

OTHER DIVISIONS

  • Old favorites I’m Sew Ready and Pancho Villa will be out and about at the Training and Prelim levels, with Morgan Batton and Eric Sampson respectively.
  • Atlantic Vital Spark, previously ridden through the 4*-L level by William Fox-Pitt, is paired with new rider Lucienne Elms in the OI.

Dressage takes place on Saturday, with show jumping immediately followed by cross country on Sunday. Keep it locked on EN for all the latest!

Chattahoochee Hills International: WebsiteEntry StatusRide Times

By the Numbers: Woodside CCI4*-S

The Advanced season out on the West Coast has been steadily marching on, and this weekend Woodside will hold the final prep run before the CCI4*-L at Galway. The 4*-S division is well fleshed-out, with the usual suspects competing with a few talented fresh faces.

Ian Stark will be providing the course design for cross country and Chris Barnard will share double duty with Ocala’s fall horse trials for the stadium design.

Woodside’s optimum time is doable, with generally about 10% of cross-country starters obtaining time since 2014. The winners of the 4*-S at this venue have been in first or second after dressage in four of the last five editions. Last year’s winners, Helen Bouscaren and Ebay, return to defend their title, along with the 2015 winning pair Lauren Billys and Castle Larchfield Purdy. Previous winning riders James Alliston and Amber Levine also come forth on new mounts to try and contest this division. Interestingly, this is one of the few West Coast events that Tamie Smith has not won in the past half-decade; she brings four competitive mounts this weekend to try and break that streak.

DRESSAGE

Tamie Smith and Danito. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Danito has been on quite the streak under Tamie Smith this year; he’s broken the 75% mark in three of his four A/4* starts in 2020 and missed it on the fourth occasion by only a hair. He’ll be tough to beat in the first phase this weekend. However, his stablemate EnVogue might give him a run for his money; this mare is equally flashy on the flat and bested her stablemate on phase one in her last start at Rebecca Farm, laying down a score of 22.7 penalties.

The precocious Woodford Reserve has been extremely consistent after making his debut at the level in February of this year. He and Erin Kellerhouse have broken 70% in each of their three starts. A similar test here will put the pressure on Tamie in the jumping phases.

SHOW JUMPING

Stadium has not been Danito‘s strongest phase; he’s had a rail or two in three of five rounds at this level. However, he’s been improving in each round this year, jumping clean recently at Twin Rivers 4*-S, and even a rail this weekend would likely see him hold the top position.

Erin Kellerhouse and Woodford Reserve. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Unfortunately EnVogue has very consistently had two rails in four of her five outings at the A/4* level; a couple of rails here will likely drop her down the ranks after this phase. This will leave room for Woodford Reserve to sneak closer to the top of the leaderboard; this horse has not had a rail in three rounds at the level, but has had a few time penalties in two of those rounds. The time penalties would likely give Danito a rail in hand.

CROSS COUNTRY

Danito and Woodford Reserve will be within a couple points of one another; the size of that gap will likely dictate who wins this division. Of the two horses, Woodford Reserve is faster on average by a couple of seconds. He has been within 12 seconds of the fastest pace of the day in each of his three runs at this level, and actually clocked in the fastest pace at Galway Downs in July. Danito has yet to be the fastest pace of the day but has been within 14 seconds of the fastest pace on each of his three clear runs for the level.

Tamie Smith and En Vogue. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Meanwhile, EnVogue will rocket back up the ranks on the final day thanks to her turn of foot. In her three runs at this level, she has set the fastest pace in two of them and was only seven seconds off the pace in the third. Lauren Billys and Castle Larchfield Purdy should also make an appearance in the top five, averaging only thirteen seconds over the fastest pace.

PREDICTIONS:

WINNER

Tamie Smith and Danito. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

After being neck and neck for three days, Danito will eke out a win using the cushion of his dressage score to allow himself a little breathing room up through cross-country.

NEW TO EACH OTHER

Tamie Smith & Passepartout, owned by Kaylawna Smith-Cook. Photo by MGO Photography.

Of course it would be remiss not to discuss the new partnership of Tamie Smith and Passepartout. Tamie has taken the reins while her daughter Kaylawna Cook is out on maternity, and they started off with a bang at Twin Rivers 4*-S, winning in their first time at the level as a pair. After putting in a sub-thirty score, they proceeded to add nothing in the stadium and then blaze around the cross-country with the fastest time of the day, only 8 seconds over optimum time. If they can match that in their second outing at this level, Tamie will challenge her own regular rides for the win.

OTHER NOTABLE ENTRIES

  • James Alliston is bringing out the diminutive but mighty mare Pandora to compete in the Open Prelim.
  • Hawley Bennett-Awad will run Jollybo in the Open Intermediate.

Dressage begins on Thursday, with stadium following on Friday. Saturday concludes the division with cross country.

Woodside Fall CCI & H.T.: [Website] [Entry Status] [Ride Times] [EN’s Coverage]

By the Numbers: Morven Advanced B

As mentioned in yesterday’s By the Numbers for the A division, we sadly won’t have the new 4*-L here at Morven Park this weekend. With that being said, this venue has put some incredible work into their facility over the past few years, with new dressage and stadium rings with top of the line footing. Of course we are hoping that this weekend will serve as a little bit of a test run of some of the fences that might appear on the 4*-L in the future, so keep your eyes locked to Eventing Nation for a course walk later today.

Again, Tremaine Cooper has been the course designer for cross country here for a number of years and makes a reappearance this year as the show jumping course designer as well.

It should be noted again, Morven’s cross country is extremely tough to make the time; only three pairs out of 84 starters have done so since 2015. Only one of those, Kim Severson and Cooley Cross Border, managed to also finish on their dressage score. Although none of the horses here have previously won, three winning riders return this year with multiple rides: Jennie Brannigan, Buck Davidson and Caroline Martin will all aim to become repeat winners with multiple rides across the two divisions.

DRESSAGE

Sara Kozumplik Murphy and Rubens D’Ysieux. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

Rubens d’Ysieux makes his first start at the A/4* level for this year with Sara Kozumplik-Murphy. These two have had some ill-luck the past couple of years but have been able to put in solid scored that exceed 70% in half of their starts together. That includes a stellar 23.4 at Millbrook in the summer of 2018. If they’ve been doing their homework during quarantine, they’ll be tough to catch. Jennie Brannigan and Stella Artois might make a run of it though; while this mare very consistently has scored between 30 and 32 in her starts over that last two years, she caught everyone’s attention at Great Meadow by flirting with 75%, ultimately landing a score of 25.2 penalties.

Meanwhile, Lillian Heard has the ride on CharmKing while his regular rider (Holly Payne-Caravella) is out on maternity leave. This horse has been strong in this phase in two starts, with an average of 30.5 in two 4*-S tests. The other young gun to keep an eye on will be Luke 140, who is re-united with Boyd Martin after a short stint with Phillip Dutton. In the horse’s first and only start at this level with Boyd, the pair came close to breaking 70% and in the horse’s most recent start at Great Meadow, Phillip Dutton did pull out a score in the high twenties.

SHOW JUMPING

Rubens d’Ysieux is also about as close as it gets to a guaranteed clear round; since being paired with Sara, he’s had one rail in nine rounds at the level, two of which were at the long format. These two have never had a penalty in this phase at an A/4*-S. Also likely to jump clear is Stella Artois, who has jumped clean in five of her last six starts, three of which were 4*-L.

In two rounds at the level, CharmKing has put in two clear rounds and Luke 140 is three for three. While there’s no guarantee with horses this new to the level, there’s no evidence that either of them will have a rail this weekend.

Will Coleman and Dondante. Photo by Abby Powell.

Looking further down for some change in rankings, Will Coleman will be in familiar territory stalking the leaders with a horse solid in the jumping phases; DonDante has incurred only one rail in this six rounds at this level. Caroline Martin and Ariel Grald are both on one-or-none horses that are more likely to jump clear than not; both Danger Mouse and Leamore Master Plan have had long streaks of jumping clear at this level.

CROSS COUNTRY

Like the other division, the competitors in this division largely consist of those who tend to take the short format at a bit of a slower pace. Over a course like Morven, that will make cross-country hugely influential. Sara Kozumplik-Murphy will have her work cut out for her; thanks to the shutdown, she and Rubens d’Ysieux have only been able to get out once at this level since their accident at Millbrook in 2018, putting in a clear but steady round at Ocala Jockey Club last fall. A pace similar that will leave the door wide open for those ranked lower.

Both Stella Artois and Luke 140 are more likely to edge into double digits in terms of time penalties; Luke 140 has been exactly 25 or 26 seconds over optimum time with both of his pilots in three completions, while Stella Artois has averaged 22 seconds over optimum in her three starts at this level over the last two years. Even with this amount of time, both should still be in the hunt for a win, unless a wildcard like CharmKing can match the pace of his one completion at this level.

Daniel Clasing and MW Gangster’s Game. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

One pair to keep a sharp eye out for is Daniel Clasing and MW Gangster’s Game, who pick and choose where to push the pace, but has finished within ten seconds of the fastest pace or optimum time in three of their last six completed runs. This is definitely a pair who can press the pace if they choose to, and choosing to do so this weekend would let them contest for the top of the leaderboard.

Will Coleman tends to stick to a pace approximately 16 seconds slower than the fastest cross country pace with DonDante, which would be enough to continue their upward creep in the ranks into the top five, but not likely quick enough for the win. We could see Mama’s Magic Way make a big leap into the top five as well, as Will Faudree has been averaging only 13 seconds behind the fastest cross country pace.

PREDICTIONS:

WINNER

Jennie Brannigan and Stella Artois. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Time penalties will make a huge difference in this division, but in the end it’s likely to be Stella Artois and Jennie Brannigan who take the edge and refuse to relinquish it.

LONGEST CLEAR JUMPING STREAK

Sara Kozumplik Murphy and Rubens D’Ysieux. Photo by Justin Black/Millstreet Horse Photography.

There are simply not that many horses who have had the record in stadium that Rubens d’Ysieux has had under Sara Murphy-Kozumplik. Although their current streak is only four consecutive rounds, their career shows only one rail on their A/4* record as a pair.

NEW TO THE LEVEL

Skyeler Voss and Argyle. Photo courtesy of Skyeler Voss.

Skyeler Voss brings Argyle out to contest his second Advanced after a second place finish in the horse’s debut at the level at Five Points. They certainly made a statement on cross country day, storming around inside the time. That makes this pair the first to make the time at Five Points out of 44 cross-country starters in the last five editions of that event, dating back to 2014 (Five Points did not host an Advanced in 2017 or 2019).

Dressage and show jumping will be held Friday, while cross country will begin on Saturday.

Morven Park Fall H.T.: [Website] [Entry Status/Ride Times] [Show Photographer] [Volunteer] [EN’s Coverage]

By the Numbers: Morven Park Advanced A

While we sadly won’t have the new 4*-L here at Morven Park to look forward to, we do have a stacked field coming forward for the Advanced this weekend. Although the field has been split into two divisions, we’ll still get to see quite a few prominent head-to-head match-ups in the lead-up to our only two 4*-L of the year at Tryon and Galway. Today we will preview the A division while tomorrow morning we will look towards the B.

Tremaine Cooper has been the course designer for cross country here for a number of years and makes a reappearance this year as the show jumping course designer as well.

Morven has historically been a course where it is extremely tough to make the time; only three pairs out of 84 starters have done so since 2015. Only one of those, Kim Severson and Cooley Cross Border, managed to also finish on their dressage score. Although none of the horses here have previously won, three winning riders return this year with multiple rides: Jennie Brannigan, Buck Davidson and Caroline Martin will all aim to become repeat winners with multiple rides across the two divisions.

DRESSAGE

Buck Davidson and Carlevo. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

In the A division, Long Island T under Boyd Martin is the clear standout, with an average of 25.2 over their three outings together in 2019. This will be the horse’s first start of 2020 at this level. Carlevo and Buck Davidson could potentially catch them on a good day; their two year average for the level sits at 28 penalties. But their two most recent scores have just missed the 70% mark, so they will need to return to the form they displayed at Blenheim last fall.

Allison Springer has occasionally broken the 70% mark with Business Ben, but most often sits in the low 30s. In fact, this pair has scored exactly 31.1 in each of their three 2020 A/4* outings, which takes the cake for consistency. Finally, Sharon White and Cooley On Show make an appearance. They’ve won their only two outings this year at this level, taking the win at the only 4*-S in North America just before the world shut down and adding another win at Five Points early last month. At Five Points, they cracked into the 20s in dressage for the first time since 2018, but they very consistently score in the low 30s overall.

SHOW JUMPING

Sharon White and Cooley On Show. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Interestingly enough, Long Island T is a horse who has better show jumping results when stadium falls to the final phase, with clear rounds more than 50% of the time and jumping clear in his last three outings with Boyd when the cross country is first. This horse has more recently struggled slightly in this phase when stadium is first, incurring a rail or two in his most recent two outings with the phases in this order. A rail at Morven this weekend would leave the window open for another to take the lead.

Carlevo has jumped clear in seven of his nine rounds at the A/4*-S level in the last two years, incurring only one rail and one time penalty up … until his most recent outing. He added three rails and two time penalties in his latest round, a shocking departure from his usual form. Sometimes we just have a bad day in the office, and it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see Buck return this horse to his typical rail-free form.

Cooley On Show has been on top form in this phase for a while; he and Sharon haven’t had a rail since March of 2018. That is seven consecutive clear rounds at the A/4/5* levels, both long and short format. Expect this pair to narrow the gap with the dressage leaders.

Unfortunately, Business Ben has struggled with tension in this phase and while a clear round is within his capabilities, he more commonly incurs one to three rails. That will leave the window open for Will Coleman to sneak up the ranks with Tight Lines, who has jumped seven consecutive clear rounds at this level dating back to 2017, and TKS Cooley, who has thus far been rail-free in four rounds at this level in this career.

CROSS COUNTRY

Buck Davidson and Jak My Style. Photo by Shelby Allen.

There are no true speedsters in this field, at least not for the short format. While horses like Tight Lines and Cooley On Show have more than proven themselves capable of hitting the optimum at a long format, their riders tend to reserve that speed and take a slower pace at the A/4*-S levels. So over a course like Morven Park, where time is difficult to catch at the best of times, this field is likely to all incur some significant time penalties.

Carlevo and Long Island T have a typical average pace nearly identical to one another, both coming in around 20 seconds slower than either optimum time, or the fastest horse of the day if optimum time isn’t obtained. This would keep them neck and neck with one another if the first two phases have gone as expected, but would open the door for a faster horse to overtake them.

That horse could very well be Cooley On Show, who as previously mentioned, is coming off two consecutive wins at this level. Despite reserving most of his speed for the long formats, Sharon still brings this horse in at an average pace that is swifter than the majority of the field. It will be down to the wire, and those extra few seconds might make a difference between winning or settling for a spot in the top three.

Two pairs to keep an eye on in this phase as well are FE Lifestyle under Jennie Brannigan, who in four complete runs at the level have stayed within 16 seconds of either optimum time or the fastest time of the day, and Buck Davidson with Jak My Style, who have averaged a slightly more sedate pace over their last two runs but who have also achieved top placings a few times thanks to their turn of foot.

PREDICTIONS:

WINNER

Sharon White and Cooley On Show. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Sharon White and Cooley On Show have been quietly chipping away with wins at shows off the beaten path. This will be the first time in a while they see a match up against some of the bigger names in the country, and while it isn’t the fully stacked division that the 4*-S divisions on the east coast have seen this fall, it will still be a very competitive contest at the top. This pair will use the pace of Morven Park to their advantage and paired with a strong stadium record, make their way to the top.

FASTEST CROSS COUNTRY ROUND

Ema Klugman and Bendigo. Photo by Valerie Durbon Photography.

Ema Klugman and Bendigo have really made themselves a force to be reckoned with based on their jumping prowess over the last two years. These two have had six clear runs at this level in 2019/2020, and have been within five seconds of the fastest cross country time in five of them, including putting in the fastest pace at this venue in their division last year. They’ve made the optimum in their two 2020 starts at this level as well.

LONGEST CLEAR JUMPING STREAK

Will Coleman and Tight Lines. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Tight Lines has jumped clear rounds in his last consecutive rounds at the A/4*-S levels. He also hasn’t had a time penalty in any of those rounds, leaving him with a penalty-free record in this phase.

BIGGEST MOVER

Ema Klugman and Bendigo. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Bendigo has been the absolute master of flying up the ranks in this 2020 fall season. He has finished on his dressage score in both of his 4*-S starts this season, something replicated only by Deniro Z, who won those same starts. Two weeks ago, he was the biggest mover of the 4*-S division, moving up a whopping 38 places out of 53 starters. Back in August, he moved up even more, jumping 41 places out of 68 starters. Obviously he won’t be able to move up that many spots in a division with 21 starters, but we are still likely to see him and Ema Klugman make a huge leap between the first and last phases.

OTHER DIVISIONS

  • Old friends such as Obos O’Reilly, Captain Jack, Fly Me Courageous
  • Kurt Martin is bringing out his five star ride Delux Z to contest an Intermediate division.
  • Steady Eddie is making his first start since the shutdown in the Intermediate with Mike Pendleton.
  • Boyd Martin will get his first start of the fall aboard WEG mount and Pan Ams gold medalist, Tsetserleg, also in the Intermediate.

Dressage and show jumping will be held Friday, while cross country will begin on Saturday.

Morven Park Fall H.T.: [Website] [Entry Status/Ride Times] [Show Photographer] [Volunteer] [EN’s Coverage]

By the Numbers: Stable View Oktoberfest CCI4*-S

Up next in our fall schedule is the final CCI4*-S on the east coast, held at Stable View. These folks have got their coronavirus protocols down to a science, with numerous documents online and plans for everything. Although this is only their third year hosting a 4*, this year will mark the fifth year the show has run. At 42 starters this will officially be the biggest field yet for the venue, which has made huge investments in improvement each year.

Captain Mark Phillips has been the course designed here since their inception. East coast favorite Chris Barnard will make his way to South Carolina to design the show jumping course.

Every prior Advanced or 4* division here (including the Advanced run this summer) has been won by either Boyd Martin, Phillip Dutton or Buck Davidson. That streak will officially be over this year, as none of these three have entries in the 4* division. All but one winner was either the fastest round of the day or made the time on cross country.

DRESSAGE

Doug Payne and Starr Witness. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Doug Payne‘s Pan American team horse Starr Witness recently re-iterated that yes, she is in fact talented on the flat. Although this mare has only two starts at this level, both have come in the sub-26 range. Only a few other pairs in the field even have the ability to catch her, but there are a couple.

One of those horses is Fernhill By Night, who broke the 75% mark at The Fork at Tryon in the spring of 2019. Although he has more recently been hovering in the 70% range, this horse is certainly one who has a record of scoring sub-25 multiple times in the past. His rider, Liz Halliday-Sharp, is on a hot streak herself, having won the only two 4*-S on this side of the country that have been held in the fall season thus far.

The experienced Covert Rights also comes forth for this division under Colleen Rutledge. Although their personal best of 22.2 is certainly eye catching, they more recently have averaged at a mark just over 70%. In their last six outings, they’ve scored sub-30 in five of them, floating slightly above only at Fair Hill last fall with a 30.7.

We can’t leave this conversation without mentioning another of Doug Payne’s rides, the experienced Vandiver. His recent score of 23.1 at Blue Ridge horse trials blasted his previous personal best out of the water by more than 4 points. It could be a case of Doug versus Doug at the end of the first phase.

SHOW JUMPING

Liz Halliday Sharp and Fernhill By Night. Photo by Shelby Allen.

There’s a serious set of good jumpers here this weekend. Nearly a third (27%) of the horses are expected to jump clear, with another 43% expected to have only one rail.

Fernhill By Night has really perfected his jumping technique as he’s gotten older, jumping clear in 11 of his last 13 rounds where show jumping was held prior to cross country. This dates back to the middle of 2017 and includes venues all over the U.S. and Europe. But Starr Witness is no slouch either, jumping clear in two for two of her rounds at this level. In fact, you have to go back to Starr Witness’ very first FEI in 2018 to find a rail on her international record … but it was at this very venue, in the CCI3*-S (then CIC2*).

Vandiver has the possibility of taking a rail, but mostly likely will jump clear; this horse had an excellent record of jumping clear at the short format level until he hit an odd patch at the beginning of 2019 where he pulled a single rail at three consecutive shows. That pattern was fixed by Kentucky that spring, and in four rounds that the 4/5* level, he hasn’t had a rail since.

Show jumping can be a difficult phase for Covert Rights, although a clear round at Fair Hill last fall, followed by a clear round recently at his first 2020 start at Great Meadow hopefully shows those demons have been laid to rest. A couple of rails for this pair would send them tumbling down the ranks after phase two in a field of good jumpers.

Meanwhile, Texas-based Dassett Choice under Rebecca Brown will be ready to capitalize on any mistakes the dressage leaders make. This horse jumped clear in three of his four rounds at this level so far.

The final horse to keep an eye on is Celien under Hallie Coon. She has fairly consistently been a one-or-none horse in the last two years and a clear round would put this pair right up in stalking range of the leaders.

A few horses will use the jumping phases to start creeping up the leaderboard; Quantum Leap (yet another Doug Payne ride) and Caeleste (under Will Faudree) are two of those to watch.

CROSS COUNTRY

Doug Payne and Vandiver. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Starr Witness is green enough that it’s still difficult to tell what she’ll do at this level; although she went clear at her first Advanced at Pine Top earlier this year, she put in two green stops at a bank out of water in the middle of a combination at Blue Ridge. Doug Payne is likely to have sorted any issues between now and then but with a very important FEI qualifier needed, a clean round will likely be priority number one.

Instead, Vandiver will likely lead the way for the Payne group of horses, with Doug well able to push the pace easily on his experienced campaigner. These two might not be the very fastest pace in the field, but they’ll be within a few seconds of them.

Meanwhile Fernhill By Night is one that Liz Halliday-Sharp picks and chooses as to when to go for time; after a disappointing dressage score in his last outing, Liz chose not to press him. As a rider on a hot streak, it’s a good bet that she’ll choose to go for the time this weekend, now that the horse has had a chance to stretch his legs. While they are likely to add a few seconds onto their score, it should be enough to contest for the top position.

There are a good number of fast horses in this field who also have the chops in the dressage and show jumping phases; Covert Rights is one that we’ll see fly up the ranks again even if he’s incurred a rail or two. He and Colleen Rutledge have a good chance of setting the fastest pace of the day, so it’ll be to their advantage if the optimum proves hard to catch. If they can manage a good day in the stadium, they’ll be right there contesting for the win on the final day as well.

Dassett Choice will slip out of the top five based on time penalties — this pair will be looking for a qualifying round in order to head to the CCI4*-L at Galway, so will looking for a clear round above all. Meanwhile Celien and Waylon Roberts with Lancaster could both take a crack at the top five based on their cross country pace, asl long as their stadium rounds have gone their way.

PREDICTIONS:

WINNER

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Fernhill By Night. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography courtesy of TIEC.

Doug and Liz are both coming off recent wins, and it will ultimately come down to these two. Liz Halliday-Sharp has locked up two consecutive 4* though, against hugely competitive fields, and with Fernhill By Night having a dressage time near the end of they day (instead of first thing as he contended with at Great Meadow), this horse will ultimately edge out the win by the skin of his teeth.

FASTEST CROSS-COUNTRY ROUNDS

Colleen Rutledge and Covert Rights. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Covert Rights is the fastest horse in the field at this level over the past two years. In six runs, they’ve made the time three times, been within five seconds of the optimum (or the fastest pace when optimum wasn’t obtained) another two times, and only on this horse’s return to level after a 12-month hiatus did they have close to ten seconds over the fastest pace … also on an occasion when optimum was not obtained.

LONGEST CLEAR JUMPING STREAK

Annie Goodwin and Fedarman B. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Ann Goodwin and Fedarman B are sitting tight with clear rounds in all six of their attempts at the level. The striking white-faced horse has added a few time penalties but hasn’t hit a single rail yet.

NEW TO THE LEVEL

Zachary Brandt and Direct Advance. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

This spot would would ordinarily have been filled by Starr Witness, but it would have been neglectful to not mention her as a true contender. Instead, this section highlights Direct Advance, who made his first Advanced start with Zach Brandt at Chattahoochee Hills last month. A steady cross country pace kept them out of the ribbons there, but adding a clear round over a course that rode quite tough to a dressage score in the low 30s and a clear show jumping round is something worth keeping an eye on.

BIGGEST MOVER

Joe Meyer and Clip Clop. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Joe Meyer and Clip Clop are likely to make the biggest moves of the weekend, utilizing a swift cross country pace and a likely one rail show jumping round to climb the ladder in leaps and bounds.

OTHER DIVISIONS

  • You’ll see a familiar face in Fernhill Fortitude with a new pilot. Rebecca Brown now has the ride on this experienced campaigner.
  • Former Tim and Jonelle Price ride (yes, both of them) Kindred Spirit II is entered in the CCI3*-S.
  • Starr Witness isn’t the only Pan Ams veteran out and about this weekend; Boyd Martin’s 2015 Pan American horse Pancho Villa will compete in the Open Training.

Dressage will begin on Thursday while show jumping for the 4*-S is to be held on Friday. On Saturday, the division will finish up with cross country.

Stable View International: WebsiteEntry StatusRide TimesLive Scores

By the Numbers: Twin Rivers 4*-S

Beautiful Twin Rivers Ranch. Photo courtesy of Twin Rivers Ranch.

Out West we have our first FEI of the year, fittingly at Twin Rivers which was all set to host their inaugural 4*-L when things shut down. Shortly after that, everything shut down tight and while we won’t see the long track yet, we’re excited to preview what Twin has setup for the short!

Every winner of the FEI division over the last half decade has been in either first or second position after the flat, with the majority taking the win from beginning to end. It has been uncommon for anyone to make the time at this venue though, with only one pair doing it from 167 cross-country starters since 2015.

Since this event generally runs twice a year, we have a healthy number of previous winners here but only Andrea Baxter and Indy 500 return as a pair to contest for another win. Last year’s winning rider Tamie Smith composes a third of the field all by herself, with four horses ready to start while winning pair Lauren Billys and Castle Larchfield Purdy have chosen to contest the Advanced division instead.

DRESSAGE

Tamie Smith & Danito. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

 

The talented Danito has made quite a splash in the first phase after only four starts at the level. Under Tamie Smith, he made his first start with an auspicious 30.9 at last year’s event then came into 2020 rocking and rolling, with an average 2020 score of 21.7.

Erin Kellerhouse and her ride Woodford Reserve are another pair less experienced at the level, but in two starts they’ve put in two sub-thirty scores.

SHOW JUMPING

Emilee Libby and Jakobi. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Danito is precociously talented in the first phase but has a bit to learn in the stadium. He’s had one or two rails in three of his four outings, but the good news is that even with one rail he and Tamie should still be able to maintain their grip on the top spot following the second phase. With two clear rounds but neither inside the time, Woodford Reserve and Erin could certainly tighten the gap prior to cross-country.

Meanwhile, Emilee Libby and Jakobi will leverage a likely clear round as a way to edge upwards into the top three. With clear rounds in five of their seven starts at the 4* level, both long and short, these two should have a good level of confidence heading into the ring.

 

CROSS COUNTRY

Tamie Smith and Fleeceworks Royal. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

 

If you think we’ll see a lot of leaderboard movement this weekend, think again. Tamie is one of the fastest riders in the west and while Danito might not have the fastest time this weekend, he’ll be right up there with one of the faster paces. Erin will be chasing the clock with Woodford Reserve to catch a quick enough time to pass this pair and the difference might end up as just one or two seconds on the clock.

Emilee Libby is returning to the level for the first time after maternity leave while Tamie Smith‘s ride Fleeceworks Royal is back after a hiatus. These two pairs could battle it out for the third position and much will depend on their decisions on pace after extended time off. Meanwhile Andrea Baxter and Indy 500 have been extremely quiet and plugging away on the flat this year; with a quick turn of foot this power pair should easily finish in the top five and could pick off a couple more placings if their pace is right.

PREDICTIONS:

WINNER

Tamie Smith and Danito. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

It could be a nail-biter from wire to wire but in the end, Tamie Smith is likely to take the top honors aboard Danito.

FASTEST CROSS COUNTRY ROUNDS

Madison Tempkin and Dr Hart. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

Madison Tempkin and Dr. Hart have has a bit of a learning curve at this level but when they jump clear rounds, they do it quickly. If clear, this pair is likely to also pick up the fastest round of the day.

NOTABLE NEWBIES

Charlotte Babbitt & 2 A.M.. Photo by Kim Miller.

Charlotte Babbitt and 2 A.M. sparkled in their debut at the level at Copper Meadows, bringing home a win with a solid dressage and cross-country and a lovely clear stadium round. A similar performance this weekend could put them in the conversation for a top three position.

Twin Rivers International: WebsiteEntry Status/Ride Times/Live ScoresLive Stream 

By the Numbers: Chattahoochee Hills Advanced

While we may have lost the AECs, we nevertheless have quite the run of weekly Advanced and 4*-S divisions coming up across the country. With a more condensed schedule comes deeper fields in general. This year, Chatt Hills has attracted 30 starters (as of publication), which is a record number of starters for the venue’s Advanced division in the last half decade. In fact, the August edition of this division usually boasts of fewer than 10 pairs.

Hugh Lochore is the perennial course designer at this venue, and this year is no exception. Chris Barnard is hot off his work designing the stadium at Great Meadow, so we can see how this field holds up against his course design.

Chatt Hills is a course where the time on cross country day makes all the difference; only four pairs have made time in the last five years here, and all were at the spring event. Having said that, two of those pairs are competing this weekend; both Nilson Moreira da Silva with Magnum’s Martini and Jacob Fletcher with Van Gough have experience in catching that time here. Jacob Fletcher is the only rider to have done it twice, having done it also on board Atlantic Domino.

DRESSAGE

Rebecca Brown with Dassett Choice. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

Although green for the level with only three starts under their belt, Rebecca Brown and Dassett Choice have a good shot at leading the field after the first phase. In their two Advanced starts (one of which was at this venue a year ago), this pair scored over 70% both times.

Jon Holling has been quietly putting in the work with Dushi Terma, who now has two starts under his belt at the level. These two quietly laid down two scores in the low 30s earlier this year to average 32.6 in this phase.

Lancaster is one of the more experienced horses in the field at this point, and under Waylon Roberts has been putting in solid scores that range from 30 to 35 in the past two years. A score around their two year average of 32.4 would put them right up near the top after day one.

Only around 18% of the field is expected to put in scores over 65%, but this is not an event that will be won on a couple of points on the flat.

SHOW JUMPING

Rebecca Brown and Dassett Choice. Photo by Lisa Madren.

The field at hand does not consist of the most careful jumpers based in North America; many of those took a crack at Great Meadow last week. A full 50% of the field is expected to have a rail, with another 25% of the field expected to have more than one. Three horses are making their first start for the level while another pair will contest the level for the first time as a pair; none of these have known stadium records for the Advanced height.

Dassett Choice and Rebecca Brown should be able to maintain a top placing based off their sparse record; two clear rounds out of three for the level with a single rail in the third round indicate a good possibility of jumping clear.

Horses like Lancaster, Dushi Terma,Voltaire de Tre (Leslie Law), Van Gough (Jacob Fletcher) and FE Mississippi (Dana Cooke) should be able to take advantage even at just one rail apiece and move up the ranks to within striking distance.

CROSS COUNTRY

Waylon Roberts and Lancaster. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

With time being so critical, Rebecca Brown and Dassett Choice will almost certainly accumulate enough time penalties on cross country day to leave the door open for a quick pair to take over the lead, if only just. After winning at this venue last summer, these two did face significant trouble on their first 4*-S course at Ocala Jockey Club in November, but bounced back into form at Rocking Horse before the break.

However, that door will be cracked and experienced pair Waylon Roberts and Lancaster will be looking to take full advantage. These two have the fastest speed rating in the field over the last two years, averaging only 8.2 seconds over either the fastest time or within the optimum time. Solid performances will have put them within striking range of the leaders on the final day. Dushi Terma and Jon Holling could maintain a top position as well if they can match their average pace at prior events in relation to the speedsters.

Voltaire de Tre and Leslie Law, as well as Joe Meyer with Johnny Royale, will be looking to capitalize on the final day as well, without stretching themselves too far. An average pace for either of these pairs would put them within 20 seconds of the fastest times, good enough to pop up into the top five.

Van Gough and Jacob Fletcher cannot be forgotten either; although they typically are 30 seconds and more behind the speedsters, this pair has an affinity for this venue and experience making the time. They could be wild card if they go for broke and even matching their typical pace would likely yield a top five placing.

PREDICTIONS:

WINNER

Waylon Roberts and Lancaster. Photo by Abby Powell.

So much depends on who decides it’s their day to go for a faster pace and who is using this for a prep event for the next one, but the opportunity to best a field this big doesn’t always come along. It will be close, but Waylon Roberts and Lancaster can use their experience to edge out a win without over-extending themselves.

FASTEST CROSS-COUNTRY ROUNDS

Nilson Moreira da Silva and Magnum’s Martini (BRA).

We’ve already discussed Lancaster, but Nilson Moreira da Silva is known for his speed and paired with Magnum’s Martini, has made optimum or achieved the fastest time in four of their outings together at this level. That includes one of the four clean runs inside the time here, although that run did occur in 2015.

NEW TO THE LEVEL

Cornelia Dorr and Daytona Beach 8. Photo by Abby Powell.

Cornelia Dorr brings forward the mare Daytona Beach 8, a former ride of 2014 World Champion Sandra Auffarth. This horse started her first 4*-S in 2018 at Luhmuhlen, but withdrew after dressage. With a strong jumping record and flashes of promise in the flat in their time as a partnership, Cornelia and Daytona Beach 8 could be a bit of a wild card this weekend.

BIGGEST MOVER

Joe Meyer and Johnny Royale. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Dressage may not be his forte, but a single rail in the jumping phase and one of the faster rounds on cross country would propel Johnny Royale with Joe Meyer from the bottom third of the field after dressage way up as high as the top five.

OTHER DIVISIONS

  • Top five Fair Hill 4*-L finisher QC Diamantaire is contesting a Prelim division to start off his 2020 season.
  • Jacob Fletcher doesn’t just have his 2019 Chatt Hills 4*-S winner here, he’s also brought out his 2018 Chatt Hill 4*-S winner (and 2015 AEC Advanced Champion) Atlantic Domino out to play in the Preliminary.
  • Keep an eye on Leslie Law‘s ride Tout de Suite in the Prelim as well; Leslie won back to back 4*-S on this horse in his first two starts at the level back in 2015. Leslie is back in the irons after a prolonged hiatus, but this is a pair to keep an eye on.
  • Five-star favorite Clip Clop is stretching his legs in the 3*-S under Joe Meyer.
  • E25 rider Megan Sykes is back in the irons after an accident last winter. She and Classic’s Mojah will be testing out the competition scene on the east coast in the Intermediate division.
  • Kurt Martin‘s ride Delux Z will be competing in the Intermediate after taking 2019 off from competition.

Dressage and show jumping take place on Friday, cross country on Saturday. Shelby Allen will be our boots on the ground, so keep it locked on EN for all the latest!

Chattahoochee Hills International: WebsiteEntry StatusRide TimesLive Scores

By the Numbers: Great Meadow 4*-S

It’s been a crazy five months since our last By the Numbers, which shockingly enough was for the opening 4*-S of the North American season. Shortly after that, everything shut down tight and while we’ve had the odd Advanced run here and there, this weekend marks the first 4*-S in North America since Red Hills. It’s been a wild ride, folks, but we’re tentatively back in business … for now.

Great Meadow is now entering its sixth year, long enough to have hammered out the nitty gritty and really focus on bringing a premier event to the East Coast. This year will mark the second time David O’Connor comes forward as the cross country course designer after putting a strong mark on the course last year. Chris Barnard will also be marking his second year doing the show jumping, and as a perennial favorite for eastern venues, many pairs will be familiar with his courses. Show jumping will be held prior to cross country.

Photo courtesy of Great Meadow.

Of the five previous winners at this venue, three were in the lead following dressage. Interestingly enough, the other two winners were both in sixth place after the first phase. Four of the five winners jumped a clear round, and the fifth horse made up for it by finishing as the fastest time of the day on cross country.

Will Coleman and Off the Record are the only previously winning pair in the 4*-S field this week (they won in 2018), but Jennie Brannigan, who won the event twice on Cambalda, brings forth four competitive horses.

DRESSAGE

Marilyn Little and RF Scandalous. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

It’s hard to argue against looking to Marilyn Little and RF Scandalous to lead the way after the first phase. They own the best 4* average in the field and have broken the 75% mark in their last five consecutive A/4/5* outings. This pair has broken 80% in two of their last three A/4* starts. Are they beatable? Yes, especially with some of the other dressage powerhouses in the field. But they’ll need to have a bad day while someone else has a good one.

Liz Halliday-Sharp and her stalwart Fernhill By Night who could step up to the plate and have a very good day. This pair is fairly well-known for their consistency in the first phase, with a whopping 68% of their 45 career A/4* tests breaking the 70% mark. Breaking the 75% mark has come on fewer occasions, with six sub-25 scores on their long record, and one of those is sub-20. It’s impossible not to think these two will be giving strong challenge to the lightly competed RF Scandalous.

Meanwhile we can’t forget the indomitable Kim Severson and her partner Cooley Cross Border, who is back in business after a hiatus. It’s been a hot second, but last time we were watching them strut their stuff, they’d broken the 70% mark in eight consecutive A/4* starts. That includes a flirtation with the teens in early 2018, laying down a 20.8 at Carolina for a then-NA record at the 4* level. Guess who broke that record a few months later? (Yes, it was RF Scandalous.)

Quite honestly this field has been so condensed thanks to the cancellation of just about everything else that it’s impossible to talk about every horse who has a chance for a top five slot after the dressage phase. Liz Halliday-Sharp is full of ammunition with her experienced ride Deniro Z who fired off a quick 23.6 in the Advanced at Stable View two months ago and also brings forth the precocious Flash Cooley who has already broken 70% in just two starts.

You can’t leave Buck Davidson out of the conversation with either Carlevo or Copper Beach. Carlevo has been more on fire than his stablemate, breaking 70% in all but two of his sixteen A/4* starts since 2018. Copper Beach can occasionally catch fire and lay down a test in the vicinity of 73-75% but is equally likely to just miss the 70% mark.

Harbour Pilot and Hannah Sue Burnett regularly lead the field after day one when this pair is on a roll, and while they haven’t competed this year, a 26.9 in their last top level start at Burghley last fall might indicate all cylinders are firing. Another fan-favorite pair is Colleen Rutledge and her own Covert Rights, who can regularly eclipse the 70% mark during one of their hot streaks and who on their very best day clocked in a 22.2 on a hot August day in Michigan back in 2017. Meanwhile Phillip Dutton and Lauren Nicholson have brought Z and Vermiculus out to play, both of whom can be right up with the top players on a particularly good day.

The biggest wild card factor would be the time slots, with Fernhill By Night, Copper Beach, and Harbour Pilot all slotted into the first session on Thursday morning with RF Scandalous and Covert Rights going back to back in the second Thursday morning session. Cooley Cross Border and Vermiculus have more neutral Friday morning slots while Z and Carlevo sneak into early afternoon sessions. Deniro Z might end up with the edge as the very last ride of the day on Friday.

On Thursday, the only way to follow the actions is through live scoring but make sure to tune in Friday to the live stream to catch at least a few of the top rides.

SHOW JUMPING

Buck Davidson and Carlevo. Photo by Shelby Allen.

If you’re looking for a huge shake-up on show jumping day, keep looking. Most aforementioned horses happen to be pretty good jumpers as well. It’s unlikely we’ll see too many changes from the top five, with RF Scandalous, Carlevo, Fernhill By Night, Cooley Cross Border, and Deniro Z are all more likely to jump a clear round than not. Of these horses, Liz’s pair are the two most likely of the bunch to take a rail, but even so they both have a clear rate of at least 75% over the last two years at this level.

Slightly further down the leaderboard is where things could get more interesting. Harbour Pilot hasn’t jumped a clean round at the A/4*S level since 2017, and while his last two outings produced only one rail, he has had three rails in three of his last seven outings overall. Covert Rights did jump a clear round at this venue last time but overall struggles to leave all the sticks up in this phase. The adorable Vermiculus has had two rails down in each of his three outings at this level in 2019 and 2020. These three horses will likely drop in the rankings after incurring penalties in this phase.

Meanwhile pairs who had been sitting just outside the top 10 like Phillip Dutton and ZEmily Beshear and Olney Uncle Sam, and Liz Halliday-Sharp with yet another mount Cooley Quicksilver will capitalize on strong jumping phases to inch up the leaderboard into the top 10.

Another set of horses to watch will be Will Coleman and Off the RecordErin Kanara (nee Sylvester) and Paddy the CaddyPhillip Dutton and Fernhill Singapore, and Will Faudree and Pfun. These pairs are all tend to score solidly in the low 30s on day one, which in a field this deep will be enough to push them down further than they’d normally be. But all of these horses have extremely solid jumping records paired with a strong turn-of-foot for the final day.

Others that might crop up but stay just outside the top 10 could include Hannah Sue Burnett on her other ride Lukeswell, and Jennie Brannigan on Stella Artois.

CROSS COUNTRY

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Deniro Z. Photo by Shelby Allen.

On Sunday, we should finally see a little movement amongst the top five. One weakness for Marilyn Little and RF Scandalous is the mare’s pace across the country; this horse has never made the time or been fastest across the country. An average pace that is just over 18 seconds slower than the fastest would open the door for another pair to snatch a victory.

Fernhill By Night may not seem like the fastest horse just by looking at him, but Liz Halliday-Sharp is pretty forthcoming about her intent to compete him only when and where he can win. That means their pace has sharpened up since 2019, finishing an average of 8.33 seconds over optimum or of the fastest pace of the day if optimum wasn’t achieved. A pace like that could enable these two to give the leaders a serious run for their money.

Cooley Cross Border is making his first start at the level since 2018, so while he and Kim Severson could match their previous pace and maintain a possible top three placing, it’s more likely we will see them take their time today and drop down a few places.

Carlevo and Deniro Z are both horses who could slip down the leaderboard a bit if they stick to their average pace, leaving an opening to compete for a top five spot. Phillip Dutton and Z and Emily Beshear and Olney Uncle Sam are two pairs who will take advantage of that opening.

Meanwhile, a horse who could benefit immensely from a fast pace is previous GM winner Off the Record, who will be steadily climbing the leaderboard all weekend with Will Coleman and should sneak into the top 10 even if time proves doable. If the time proves tough to make, look for this pair to contest for a top rank.

Will Faudree with Pfun and Tim Bourke with Quality Time will both be making advances up the leaderboard based on their horses’ show jumping skills and cross country speed, but unless they have a particularly good day in dressage or the time on cross country is particularly difficult to make (or both), they’ll end up sitting just outside the top 10 looking in.

PREDICTIONS:

WINNER

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Fernhill By Night. Photo by Jenni Autry.

It’ll be a nail-biter but in the end the time penalties on cross country will neutralize any day one advantage and Liz Halliday-Sharp and Fernhill By Night will do what they set out to do: win.

FASTEST CROSS COUNTRY ROUNDS

Whitney Mahloch and Military Mind. Photo by Shelby Allen.

It’s easy to look for perennial speedsters like Colleen Rutledge and Covert Rights or Will Coleman and Off the Record for this superlative, but actually Whitney Mahloch and her Thoroughbred Military Mind are most likely to set the pace for the day, so long as they clock in a clear round. In nine clear starts at this level, this pair has put in the fastest time at seven of them, which is quite mind-boggling compared to the record of most others.

NOTABLE NEWBIES

Will Faudree and Mama’s Magic Way. Photo by Abby Powell.

There are a pair of newbies to keep your eye on this weekend. Will Faudree is bringing out the delightfully-named Mama’s Magic Way for the horse’s second start after moving up to the Advanced level at Pine Top this winter. This pair put in a 29.8 on the flat, jumped a clear show jumping round, and finished only 11 seconds slower than the fastest time of the day on cross country. Meanwhile, Phillip Dutton spent the spring helping out his buddy Boyd Martin, who had just moved Luke 140 up to Advanced at Pine Top. Phillip improved on Boyd’s finish at Pine Top by only half a point, but it was enough to take home the win at the Advanced at Horse Park of New Jersey in June.

EXTENDING CLEAR JUMPING STREAKS

Erin Sylvester and Paddy the Caddy. Photo by Abby Powell.

Erin Kanara (nee Sylvester) seems like she can do no wrong in the show jumping phase with her experienced Thoroughbred Paddy the Caddy. These two haven’t had a rail since the fall of 2018, including jumping clear at two 4*-L and one 5*L. That’s seven consecutive clears at A/4/5* level, something few can duplicate.

Coming close to duplicating though is Kate Brown and the gray Victor Z, who have a perfect show jumping round thus far at the A/4* level. Although they haven’t yet put a long format round on their record, they’ve jumped clear (with no time penalties!) in all seven of their A/4* starts.

BIGGEST MOVER

Ema Klugman and Bendigo. Photo by Valerie Durbon Photography.

Ema Klugman and Bendigo won’t catch your eye on the leaderboard after day one, but will likely garner a second look after very strong show jumping. While they can vary from a fast pace to a slower one, even a solid round would bump them from near the bottom on day one up to solidly inside the top half of the field by the final day.

OTHER DIVISIONS

  • The biggest news of the day is that Blackfoot Mystery will be returning to the 4* level for the first time since competing here in his final prep for the 2016 Olympics at Rio. Also interesting is that Phillip Dutton will be in the irons instead of Boyd Martin, which means you should keep an eye out for this pair to spoil everything.
  • Previous double 4* winner here at GMI (2015 and 2017) Cambalda is also competing … in the CCI2*-S. He’s currently paired up with rider Maddie McElduff, so keep an eye out if he can become the first horse to win three times at this venue.
  • Lynn Symansky is bringing out Pan American team horse RF Cool Play to dabble in the CCI3*-S.

Dressage starts today and you’ll be able to catch all the action starting tomorrow on the live stream. Unfortunately the live stream will not cover the pairs who go today, but keep an eye on EN as we bring you all the action!

Great Meadow International: WebsiteEntry StatusRide TimesLive Scores, Live Stream (Starting Friday)

A Season of Change: Could COVID-19 Help Build a Better North American Eventing Calendar?

It has been less than a week since the eventing seasons of riders came to a screeching halt, and we have no true idea of how long this social distancing will last. Between the fact that many of us are goal-driven and all of us are bored, I know that I am not alone in already wondering what the season might look like once normal times return.

Let’s face it; the schedule of 2020 as we knew and planned for is going to change significantly. There’s so much we don’t know, and won’t know for weeks, about how much impact this will be to events and riders all over the world.

However, for fun, let’s pretend that at least in North America, we see things return to business as usual, as much as it can be, by the end of May. Lots of the events have already cancelled outright but other events have stated their desire to postpone, perhaps seek another date later in the season with the approval of USEF and FEI.

What if that happens?

There are undoubtedly challenges that will occur; the footing can be touch and go depending on if we have a monsoon summer or a drought summer. Lots of summer dates are already held by smaller venues and organizers, who might not be best pleased to find a full-blown destination event dropping right on their weekend. And realistically, this is a purely hypothetical exercise.

Ultimately, it may be more realistic to see the events who end up running adding the divisions they are capable of running; Bromont could add a 4*-S to their June event and a 4*-L to their August event and both would likely be well attended. HP of NJ has two different HT dates…might we see them add their Jersey Fresh divisions to one of them? Stable View and Chatt Hills both have summer dates as well, and adding FEI divisions to them isn’t a huge stretch of the imagination.

Essex once ran 3*-L divisions, back in the ’90s? Could events and riders help them do one this year? Area I was the place to be for Olympic-bound riders in the summer back in the day; could any of their legendary venues function again, at least for a year?

The system was broken this spring, not by human hands. If we have to rebuild it, why not rebuild it better?

Wouldn’t it be interesting to see what we can accomplish if we break the rules, become more flexible, more willing to share in the success of the sport, more willing to transform the misfortunes of the spring venues into something long-lasting and better?

Wouldn’t it be interesting to see North America’s calendar transform into something that more resembles that of Western Europe?

This is the shape of Western Europe’s 4/5* calendar, not including Advanced divisions:

This is the shape of the calendar for the eastern portion of the U.S. for the same year, which would have comparable driving distances to competitions. It does include Advanced runs.

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As you can see, the North American calendar is divided into two distinctly different seasons, with a significant break from competitions in the summer, while the Western Europe model has more of a rolling competition schedule that starts later and provides more opportunities for riders to target the CCI-L events at the best timing for their horses.

Our season basically forces any who want to try for a spring CCI-L to spend the winter in the south. While that is sometimes a blessing (Polar Vortex of 2014, I’m talking to you), it can also exclude many from the spring season due to finances or time constraints. The talented young rider who is in public school and can’t get out of attendance requirements. The young professionals who can’t afford to leave a barn full of clients for two months without the lesson income. The working amateur who has a full time job that doesn’t offer working remotely.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t have a winter season, but it would be nice to see a system like the Europeans, that allows you to put your horse on the shelf all winter if you need or want to and not be excluded from every fun destination event. Something more inclusive, even if smaller divisions are offered, to recognize that finances and trailering time are both huge barriers to success at the upper levels for varying demographics.

Could the postponement and changes from COVID result in seeing a 2020 NA calendar that ultimately brings us closer to the Europeans? You cannot discount the challenges of rescheduling, but the reality is that the dates are there for events to fill the gap in the middle of the summer, climate depending.

Will we see a resurgence in the more compact calendar schedule? If we do, will it last beyond this year?

Or will we rebuild exactly the same as before, satisfied with our two-season system? Or will we rebuild it better?

Wednesday News & Notes

Funny thing happened to me last month, Greta and I drove 960 miles one way to South Carolina for the weekend to event…

Posted by Tedd Goth on Tuesday, March 3, 2020

It can be difficult, even heartbreaking, to drive a long distance to compete and have to withdraw before the really good stuff. That said, it should be carefully considered as a responsibility not only to our horse but to ourselves. If it’s not right, it’s not right.

National Holiday: Ash Wednesday

U.S. Weekend Preview:

Ocala Winter II H.T. [Website] [Entry Status] [Ride Times] [Live Scores]

Copper Meadows H.T. [Website] [Entry Status/Ride Times/Live Scores]

Pine Top Spring H.T. [Website] [Entry Status] [Ride Times] [Live Scores]

MeadowCreek Park H.T. [Website] [Entry Status] [Ride Times] [Live Scores]

Your Wednesday News & Notes

It’s incredible to think that one of the earliest YEH classes has now hit the age of 20. The ’05 edition of YEH five year olds featured Ballylaffin Bracken, who would go on to compete at many 5* events, along with several future Intermediate horses. [Horse Heroes]

Our sport of eventing will be on the silver screen soon as Hope’s Legacy comes to theaters. Partially filmed at Full Moon Farm in Maryland, Hope’s Legacy is a sequel to A Christmas Ranch, and follows the main character on her forays into eventing. [Eventing to the Silver Screen]

Several five-star horses were spotted knocking the winter dust off in the Open Intermediate sections at Great Britain’s Oasby Horse Trials last Friday, March 6. Among them: Last year’s Badminton winners Piggy French and Vanir Kamira, as well as Oliver Townend and Cooley Master Class, who has won Kentucky twice and was a team silver medallist at last year’s European Championships. [A Badminton winner, a world champion and two more medallists: 11 top horses enjoying a run at Oasby]

Wednesday Social Media:

There's nothing your secretary appreciates more than an entry sent in early!Loudoun Hunt Pony ClubMorven Park…

Posted by United States Eventing Association, Inc. (USEA) on Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Featured Video: It’s fun to follow “EN’s Got Talent” alumni as they make their way in the world! Bossinova, a Hanoverian gelding (Bonifatius X Dawina, by Der Lord) bred in Scotland and imported by Andrew McConnon, is one that caught our eye back in 2018. Andrew competed “Hugo” very successfully through the two-star and Intermediate levels, winning at Carolina International in 2019 and placing second at Hagyard Midsouth in 2018. Now the horse is continuing his winning ways with 15-year-old Bruce Hill, who acquired the horse last year. Most recently, they won the JR/YR Preliminary division at Twin Rivers Winter H.T. last weekend on their dressage score of 28.5.

By the Numbers: Red Hills CCI4*-S

The stage is set for Red Hills! Photo by Shems Hamilton/Red Hills.

Red Hills marks the official 4* start to the North American calendar every year, featuring a star-studded line-up and a notoriously tight cross-country track. 2020 marks the fifth year that the course will be designed by Mike Etherington-Smith, who has surely but slowly put his stamp on the course. East coast favorite Chris Barnard designs the show jumping, which will return this year to the final phase for both the Advanced and CCI4*-S divisions.

The general rule at this event is that time is king at Red Hills, and it is true that getting close to the time here will make or break your chances. However, the dressage has historically played a huge part as well; every winner save one of both the Advanced and CCI4*-S divisions since 2015 have been in the top two after dressage. Only Lauren Kieffer and Veronica have bucked this trend … they were third after dressage in the 2016 Advanced before taking the win.

Despite that, this year may be the year the streak is broken; the top contenders are all tightly clustered together and much will ultimately depend on how difficult the time actually is to make.

Jessica Phoenix and Pavarotti. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

DRESSAGE

Look for Jessica Phoenix and Pavarotti to lead the way after dressage. This pair is the only pair in the field to clock in an expected score over 70%. They’ve scored over 70% in seven of eight outings at this level over the last two years and while they don’t tend to flirt with the low twenties, they do have an extremely consistent record between 27 and 30 penalties.

QC Diamantaire moved up to the level in 2018 and really started showing promise on the flat last year under rider Sydney Elliott. Although he lacks consistency in scoring range, he broke the 70% mark twice in 2019 and kept his average for the year at a promising 31.3 penalties.

Jessica Phoenix will be back in the top five with Bentley’s Best as well, a horse who has an extensive A/4* career but was focused on Pan Am selection last year. This pair shows strong consistency, scoring between 29.3 and 33.8 in two thirds of their career starts at the level.

A full 35% of the field could put in expected scores over 65%, but spectators should make time to watch the flashy Hallie Coon and Celien and the reliable Karl Slezak and Fernhill Wishes.

Hallie Coon and Celien. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

CROSS COUNTRY

Despite leading dressage, Jessica Phoenix and Pavarotti are fairly likely to accumulate a moderate number of time penalties, enough to drop them out of the top five. Another pair likely to drop from the top five down a few places is Karl Slezak and Fernhill Wishes, who are more likely to put in a steadier round.

Meanwhile, two pairs that are likely to score well inside the top 10 on the flat will be propelled to the top two positions. Both Hallie Coon with Celien and Sharon White with Cooley On Show will be hot on the heels of the leaders after day one with scores expected of less than 34 penalties each. These two pairs won’t have the fastest runs of the day but a minimum of time penalties combined with solid day one scores will put them into a head to head battle for first on the final day.

Meanwhile, Sydney Conley-Elliott and QC Diamantaire has the ability to maintain a top placing; last year this pair picked up the pace in their last two outings, finishing within 15 seconds of optimum at Stable View 4*-S and Fair Hill 4*-L. This was the first time this young horse had been asked for speed, and he rose to the occasion nicely.

With dressage averages at sub-35, look for Brandon McMechan with Oscar’s Wild and Leslie Law with Voltaire de Tre on cross-country day to rocket up the ranks to inside the top five. Pairs like Caroline Martin and Islandwood Captain Jack and Charlotte Collier with Clifford M will use their pace to creep up into the top ten as well after being mid-pack after the flat.

Sharon White and Cooley On Show. Photo by Jenni Autry.

SHOW JUMPING

Some of the better jumpers will be able to make some progress on the final day, with about 20% of the field expected to jump clear. Caroline Martin and Islandwood Captain Jack should make their way up into the top ten with a clear round; this horse hasn’t had a single rail in nine rounds at the A/4*-S level.

Both Hallie Coon with Celien and Sharon White with Cooley On Show will continue to duke it out for the top spot; less than a rail will likely separate this pair after cross-country. These two are almost evenly matched in this phase, with Cooley On Show jumping clear in 69% of his rounds at this level while Celien jumped clear in four of her six outings at this level last year.

PREDICTIONS:

WINNER

It’s a bit of a coin toss between the top two pairs but ultimately I think the dust will settle with Sharon White and Cooley On Show taking home the win. While both good jumpers, Celien has consistently pulled a rail when cross-country is the last phase, including both of her rails in 2019. A clear round will clinch the top spot for fan favorite Cooley On Show.

Sharon White and Cooley On Show. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

FASTEST CROSS-COUNTRY ROUNDS

Nilson Moreira da Silva and Magnum’s Martini have the best speed rating in the field, finishing as either the fastest time of the day or within fifteen seconds of optimum in each of their last four outings at this level. If anyone makes the time this weekend, it will be them.

Nilson Moreira da Silva and Magnum’s Martini (BRA). Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

NEW TO THE LEVEL

Keep an eye out for Maya Black and Miks Master C, who finished fifth at Pine Top in the horse’s first Advanced start last month. Matching their scores across the board there consistently put them inside the top ten in my calculations. While it’s difficult to compare the two venues off one run, their dressage score of over 65%, cross-country pace that would put them in single digit penalties, and clear round in the stadium would propel them to a solid finish.

Maya Black and Miks Master C. Photo by Abby Powell.

EXTENDING CLEAR JUMPING STREAKS

Only two horses in the field have never had a rail in their A/4*-S career, aside from the newcomer Miks Master C. Islandwood Captain Jack, ridden by Caroline Martin, has jumped clear in five A/4*-S starts and added another three clears in three 4*-L starts. Sydney Solomon and Early Review CBF have jumped clear in their four A/4*-S starts.

Caroline Martin and Islandwood Captain Jack. Photo by Jenni Autry.

BIGGEST MOVER

Sydney Solomon and Early Review CBF won’t catch your eye on the leaderboard after day one, but a solid record across the country and their excellent stadium record should help catapult them to a spot inside the top half of the field by Sunday.

OTHER DIVISIONS

  • Hannah Sue Burnett is making her comeback one step at a time after injuring her pelvis in the fall. She and the 2017 Red Hills CCI4*-S winner Harbour Pilot will be testing the waters in the CCI3*-S division.
  • Marilyn Little will bring RF Scandalous forward to contest the Advanced, likely looking for a solid cross country round to re-establish confidence and communication after a few hiccups in their win at the Wellington Eventing Showcase.
  • Will Coleman has been quietly bringing back the talented Off the Record after his 3rd place finish at Tattersalls CCI4*-L last May and will also be contesting the Advanced division with him this weekend.
  • The winner of last year’s CCI3*-L in Ocala, Flash Cooley, will be making his first Advanced start under Liz Halliday-Sharp.
  • Lauren Nicholson (nee Kieffer) has her trio of 5* horses competing; Landmark’s Monte Carlo and Vermiculus will contest the 3*-S while Paramount Importance competes in the Intermediate.
  • Kurt Martin‘s ride Delux Z will be competing in the Intermediate after taking 2019 off from competition.

Dressage takes place on Friday. Shelby Allen will be EN’s boots on the ground, bringing us all the action!

Red Hills International: WebsiteEntry Status, Ride TimesLive Scores

A Plea For Transparency

Clockwise from top left: Nicole Villers-Amatt, Melanie Tallent, Ashley Stout, Katharine Morel, Philippa Humphreys, Jeffie Chapin.

I didn’t know Katharine Morel. She was based in western Canada. I live in the eastern United States. She wintered in Florida while my horse is based out of Aiken. Our paths were unlikely to cross anytime soon.

And now they never will.

I didn’t know Katharine Morel but demographically, I am Katharine Morel.

Katharine Morel was 33 when she died yesterday.

She was born almost exactly a month earlier than I was. Katharine Morel just moved her Thoroughbred up to Intermediate this season. I’m moving my horse up to Intermediate later this year if things go to plan.

I am also Jeffie Chapin, who died at the age of 32 last summer warming up for her Prelim cross country round. I am Philippa Humphreys, who died at age 33 at Jersey Fresh in 2016.

I am all of these women.

I didn’t know Ashley Stout but I have known many young women like her, talented and precocious beyond their years and aiming for the stars. I didn’t know Melanie Tallent or Nicole Villers-Amatt but I know many women like both of them, competent riders for the levels they are at, trying to juggle life and riding.

I know all of these women. I have been or will be all of these women.

And I am terrified.

It is not the riding itself that scares me. I will continue to head out on cross country with a clear mind and full heart. My biggest fear as I head out of the start box is that of failure, of a stop at most. I am nervous, not scared, and I don’t believe that this death will change that feeling anymore than any of the previous deaths have, not at the actual moment of competition.

In the days and weeks between the events, I am terrified. I don’t know why these women have died. Tragic accident is the official story, and so often is all the information that we as the public receive. But every accident occurs due to the decisions leading up to it. Short term decisions, like choice of pace and balance, medium term decisions like choice of level or year-long goals, and long term decisions like horse suitability and choice of trainer. Every decision leading back, not just by the rider, but also by those surrounding them, is a potential factor leading up to the fatal moment.

I didn’t know Katharine Morel, or Jeffie Chapin, or Philippa Humphreys and more importantly, I don’t know why they died.

I’m not asking out of morbid curiosity. I don’t want to know the details of the fall itself, I don’t need the medical records or rotation angles. I’m asking for a dispassionate, non-judgmental safety investigation with a publicly released report. I’m asking for trained safety experts to investigate and for recommendations for improving safety in the sport. I’m asking for dispassionate conclusions, more nuanced than ‘sometimes riders miss’. I want trained investigators to talk to family, friends, and trainers about decisions that were made, where the rider’s mind was at, what her plan was for the cross-country round. I want top level riders and trainers to look at any video, not just of the accident but also any available from previous shows, and provide dispassionate critique on factors leading to the fall. I want these reports regardless of whether the fatality occurred in competition or at home, training for the sport.

I’m asking because I want to make sure that the decisions I am making now are not leading to a fatal moment.

I don’t want to judge anyone involved. But I don’t want to be told it’s none of my business, or that it is disrespectful to circulate this information. I’m not blaming anyone. It was an accident. But something or multiple things went wrong.

I need to know what they were.

We have lost five women in in eight months in cross-country related accidents in North America alone. I don’t know anything about their accidents except that they died at ‘fence 8’ or ‘in warmup’. I don’t know if investigations were done in any of them. If they were, nothing has ever been released.

In 2001, Dale Earnhardt Sr. died publicly and tragically on the last lap of the Dayton 500. Although 27 others had died in NASCAR races over the prior fifty years, Earnhardt’s death became a catalyst for change due to the publicity it received. Both police and NASCAR undertook safety investigations, which were released to the public in full. NASCAR underwent a serious safety overhaul, both in terms of equipment and policy.

No one has died in NASCAR racing since.

USEF, USEA, can you hear us? Are you investigating? Are you looking into these deaths behind closed doors? Is our sport learning anything from these deaths? And if we are, will you please let us also learn?

I know nothing about what led to the deaths of these women. I cannot learn from their tragedies and cannot take measures to ensure that I do not share their fate for the same reasons. I do not know if there is a common thread or if each died due to different factors.

I might be making the same mistakes. I might die because of them.

Please let me learn, so that I might not become one of these women.

Wednesday News & Notes

That feeling when you find out you have the honor and the opportunity to do the test ride Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event Never been more pumped to do dressage in my life!#roguewonsyndicate

Posted by Meg Kep on Thursday, February 20, 2020

Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event entries opened yesterday, Meg Kep is officially doing the 5* test ride, and brand new this year, EEI is hosting an Advanced CT alongside of the 5* to give our U.S. based horses another opportunity to get in the electric atmosphere of the Rolex Stadium. Are we pumped or are we pumped?

National Holiday: Ash Wednesday

U.S. Weekend Preview:

Twin River Winter H.T. [Website] [Entry Status/Ride Times/Live Scores]

Rocking Horse III H.T. [Website] [Entry Status] [Ride Times] [Live Scores]

Chattahoochee Hills H.T. [Website] [Entry Status] [Ride Times] [Live Scores]

Sporting Days Farm March H.T. [Website] [Entry Status] [Ride Times] [Live Scores]

Your Wednesday News & Notes

Despite being a notoriously difficult horse to stay on, Jimmie Schramm fell in love with the quirky Bellamy. After traveling all over the country and competing at the top of the sport, Jimmie was lucky enough to be able to transition Bellamy down to the lower levels. He spent a year competing under our very own Eventing Nation alumni Jenni Autry before fully retiring. [Horse Heroes]

Bids have opened for the 2021/22 NAJYC eventing venues. Rebecca Farm has been a legendary host for the last three years and will host again in 2020, but bids have officially opened to see where it moves to next. [NAYC Venues Bids Open]

Cooley On Show has been part of Sharon White’s barn for a good while now. Despite having a laid-back, ‘quarterback’ type personality, Cooley On Show has an emotionless killer side that pops out when his space is invaded. [Behind the Stall Door]

Wednesday Social Media:

It's time to send in your entries!Fair Hill InternationalThe Maryland Horse Trials @ Loch Moy FarmTwin Rivers Ranch,…

Posted by United States Eventing Association, Inc. (USEA) on Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Wednesday News & Notes

Madison ❤️

Posted by Mclain Ward on Monday, February 17, 2020

Maybe not a future eventer here but I’m thinking this little girl might have stars and stripes in her future with McClain Ward as a papa. Apparently the equestrians know how to time their babies….just before the spring season of an Olympic year!

National Holiday: National Puzzle Day

U.S. Weekend Preview:

Pine Top Farm Adanced H.T. [Website] [Entry Status] [Ride Times] [Live Scores]

Three Lakes Winter II H.T. [Website] [Entry Status] [Ride Times] [Live Scores]

Full Gallop February II [Website] [Entry Status] [Ride Times] [Live Scores]

Your Wednesday News & Notes

Tim Bourke is one of those riders who is mesmerizing to watch across the country. No matter the horse, he makes it look effortless and without looking fast he clocks in the fastest ride of the day. He’s teamed up with the USEA to offer his tips for introducing young horses to cross country. [Top 10 Tips]

The Irish are everywhere while their season hasn’t yet started up. Padraig McCarthy, reigning WEG individual and team silver medalist, was over here on U.S. soil recently giving a clinic in South Carolina. Check out this clinic report from Athena Demas. [Know Your Track and Canter]

Apparently authoritarian leaders have a penchant for photoshoots on horseback. Vladimir Putin of Russia may have posed shirtless on a horse, but Kim Jong Un has his own affinity for equines. This last autumn, he imported 12 ‘purebred’ horses (all greys) for the cost of $75k into North Korea, so he could go on a snowy ride with his entourage. [North Korea Imports Horses From Russia]

Wednesday Social Media:

Make things easy for your secretary by sending your entries in early!The Fork Farm and Stables at Tryon International…

Posted by United States Eventing Association, Inc. (USEA) on Tuesday, February 18, 2020