Update 4/9 @ 11:15 am: Phillip Dutton and Sea of Clouds are a late scratch. This article has been updated to reflect current entries.
Fair Hill is the final prep event taking place this weekend, and while a few Kentucky-bound horses are competing in the 4*-S division, the majority of those headed for the Bluegrass State have opted for the Advanced division instead. As this venue will be the final international run at this venue prior to the inaugural Maryland 5* this fall, this offers many an opportunity to test the waters in the new venue.
Historically, no one has made the time at this venue for the Advanced or short format, which means this venue has provided for a lot of movement up the leaderboard over the years. The leader after dressage hasn’t won this division since 2015 and the ultimate winner has come from as low as eighth after dressage.
MW Gangster’s Game and Daniel Clasing could be possible competitors for the pole position, showing flashes of promise and flirting with scores in the twenties. They scored a personal best of 27.0 at Great Meadow last summer and while that was a significant improvement over their prior performance, they showed it wasn’t a fluke laying down two consecutive tests below 32.
The other pair to likely appear near the top of the leaderboard is Fylicia Barr and Galloway Sunrise, who have yet to break into the twenties but have been extremely consistent, scoring between 30 and 35 in ten of thirteen A/4* outings dating back through 2019.
MW Gangster’s Game and Galloway Sunrise both unfortunately did have considerable trouble in this phase in their latest outings. For MW Gangster’s Game, a return to form would put him more likely to incurring only a single rail or even having a clear round; prior to Carolina, he had been a one-or-none horse at every venue dating back to the spring of 2019. Galloway Sunrise on the other hand is more likely to incur at least two rails, with only three clears in 15 rounds at the A/4*S levels.
One pair likely to capitalize on the weakness of the field in this phase is Arielle Aharoni and Dutch Times, who have been a one-or-none pair for the entirety of their A/4* career. They’ve jumped clear in more than 50% of their stadium rounds and could capitalize if the rest of the field struggles.
Fylicia Barr and Galloway Sunrise are a pair who could contend for the fastest time on cross country day; they can certainly put the pedal to the metal and put in a blazingly fast round. They’ve twice put in the fastest round in their 2020/2021 seasons, particularly when they can be competitive by utilizing it.
MW Gangster’s Game and Honor Me (ridden by Lisa Marie Fergusson) are also pairs who should end up with cross country penalties in only the single digits.
Update 4/9 @ 11:15 am: The scratch of Sea of Clouds leaves the way clear for Daniel Clasing and MW Gangster’s Game to pick up the win.
NEW TO EACH OTHER (SORT OF)
One pair to keep an eye on is Holly Payne-Caravella and CharmKing, who are paired together at this level for the first time after Holly returns from maternity leave. Lillian Heard piloted this horse to some excellent results last year after stepping into the irons for Holly, and in his first return to the ring with his main rider, CharmKing and Holly won a competitive Open Intermediate division at Carolina.
- The Advanced division sports more 5*-bound. FE Lifestyle, Stella Artois, Bendigo, and Unmarked Bills will all be headed next to Kentucky.
- The aptly-named Super Socks BCF returns to the Advanced level for the first time this year; he and Matt Brown were previous winners of the 4*-S back in 2015.
- 4* horse Olney Uncle Sam is now paired with Daniel Clasing and will be contesting the 3* this weekend.
- Dressage guru Silva Martin appears on the entry list, but don’t get too excited; she is only slated to do dressage on Boyd’s Kentucky horses.
- Erika Nesler will be competing Right Above It in the Training division in his first return to competition since 2019.
- Pan American horse RF Cool Play will contest the Intermediate in preparation for the Kentucky 4*-S.
Dressage takes place on Friday. Keep your eyes locked here for all of our coverage!