As predicted, the cross country tracks shuffled the standings across all divisions today at the MARS Bromont International Horse Trials here in Quebec, Canada.
First off — we have a new leader of the marquee CCI4*-L division, Jennie Brannigan and 12-year-old Thoroughbred Twilightslastgleam (National Anthem — Royal Child, by Northern Baby), who turned in the fastest round of the day in this division.
With the wet ground and constantly changing terrain, Jennie was particularly happy to sat aboard a blood horse over this course. No riders were able to catch the optimum time of 10 minutes 5 seconds, but this pair came the closest as they crossed the finish flags just three seconds over. The addition of only 1.6 time penalties lifts them into the lead from their eighth place position after dressage. They’ll enter the show jumping arena tomorrow on a score of 34.3.
Jennie was especially thrilled to have such a great day aboard a horse that she’s ridden throughout it’s life and up the levels. She’s had the ride on “Comic”, a homebred of owners Tim and Nina Gardner, since he was four years old after he was deemed too dangerous for the racetrack. Now age 12, the gelding has battled physical ailments throughout his career. A hot leg and concerns about possible brewing injury kept him them from contesting the FEI World Young Horse Championships at Mondial du Lion in Le Lion d’Angers in France after having received the Holekamp/Turner YEH Grant, and then Lyme Disease diagnosis dampened his return to form.
“For a while, to be honest, we weren’t sure if he was going to be a five-star horse because he really gives it all and he felt a little bit maxed out just because I think of his physical issues,” said Jennie. “But this spring was the first time he’s ever tested negative for Lyme and I think he’s in really good form.”
“This is his third four-star long now and he just keeps getting better and better. The Gardners love him. I love him. Erik [Duvander] has really believed in him and has helped me so much with him. I ran him at Tryon, I ran him at Rebecca, and now I’ve ran him here and we’re thinking more and more of him,” Jennie continued. “I’ve always thought the world of him, I just think he’s had physical problems. We specifically brought him [to Bromont], because if they can jump around this, that’s a good sign. Besides Morven [Park] I don’t really know of anything else on the continent that’s like this [terrain].”
“I could have gone faster. But, you know, you want to bring him home safe. And yeah, it’s pretty devastating to come back and hear about Allie’s horse. She’s a very good friend of ours.”
Dressage leaders Liz Halliday-Sharp and Cooley Moonshine garnered 11.2 time penalties and will move on to show jumping tomorrow with a score of 37.0 —- not quite leaving a rail in hand for Jennie.
In his first 4*-L, the 10-year-old Cooley Moonshine (Cobra – Kilpatrick Duchess, Kings Master), owned by The Monster Partnership showed up in every way that Liz hoped.
“Honestly, I think I could have gone faster by a little bit,” she told us. “But I just thought, I don’t know what horse I’m going to have with how bad the ground was in the morning. But he really was still pulling me all the way up to about nine and a half minutes, which is pretty cool.”
Liz taps this horse to be, hopefully, a future “real deal” 5* horse. “He’s kind of a freak of a horse, anyway — he’s strong and a little bit crazy, which is probably what you need!”
Home country favorites Jessica Phoenix and Wabbit (Line of Departure – No Kissing, by Great Gladiator), owned by Jim Phillips, jumped up the leaderboard from 13th position overnight to third place, thanks to the second-fastest round of the day. They addd 4.8 time penalties and will be within less than a rail of second tomorrow.
The CCI4*-S, meanwhile, saw a lions share of the trouble today, seeing just five of 12 starters finish the track that shared multiple questions with its Long counterpart.
Overnight leaders Sara Kozumplik took a tumble from Rubens d’Ysieux — the result, Sara wrote later on, of trying to add an additional stride and prompting Rubens to slide down onto his hocks to pat the ground. “Hindsight is 20/20 but I should have just kept going in four,” she wrote.
In fact, just one of the original top five after dressage finished, leaving Valerie Pride and Favian (French Kiss – Risiko, by Relevant) to sit atop the board with 19.2 time penalties collected. In total, five pairs opted to retire after trouble and two parted ways. No injuries to horses or riders have been reported at the time of publication.
Valerie jokes that the front half of the season has been “warm-up” for the fall. Come August, she’s planning to fly to England with Favian to base with William Fox-Pitt, do a little judging to get the skinny on just why the heck the Brits are so good, and prepare for the prestigious Blenheim CCI4*-L in mid-September (the same week as eventing at World Championships, incidentally).
“This was maybe the universe’s way of telling me that I need to buy some different studs and get ready,” Valerie said this afternoon. “I think Favian just really showed our partnership. You warm up on footing. And you don’t really have an idea until you’re going down to the first jump, and then you realize what the conditions are. And he just he felt great. He dug in so deep.”
Asked about the trouble for many riders, Valerie noted that this would have been a vastly different question than Kentucky, where the going was fast. The testing conditions got the best of multiple riders, but the preparation from the grounds crew and organizer Sue Ockendon was commended by many for its horses-first motivation. “To move those chevrons at our last water [the crew moved the C element prior to the start of competition] you can’t use a machine for that, it was so wet. So thank you to literally every man and woman who picked that thing up and moved it so that our horses could have better grounds. That does not go unnoticed.”
Ultimately, this run gives Valerie a fresh boost of confidence as her early August departure races closer. “I love him. He owes me nothing. But he’s such a cross country horse. And I’m really glad that he had kind of a moment to shine because there was no wavering, it was just go and get it done. And I’m sure it’s going to be hard to show jump tomorrow after the effort that they put in today, but that’s why you come here, to test those skills and figure out what you need to work on at home.”
Dom Schramm brought Bolytair B here this weekend to work on rideability. He’s making a bid to make the Australian squad for the World Championships, so figuring out the very confident Bolytair B has put him to task. “I definitely had a lot better throttle control,” Dom commented. “The steering wasn’t quite as good as I would have liked, but at least we’re taking steps. That’s what matters.”
One of the more influential questions today came early, at the first combination for both the 4*-L and 4*-S. The question consisted of an oxer to a curving brush, and Dom noted that the early galloping combined with the deep footing might have caused some horses to feel different on landing from the oxer.
“It’s a real big combination,” he explained. “They basically went galloping, and then they were in deep going and then it was big. So I think a few people that kind of jumped in there, and maybe the horse has felt a bit different. And then all of a sudden, we’re thinking maybe five or four. And it got a little sketchy.”
Four pairs in the 4*-S and two in the 4*-L had trouble at fence 5; fence 12 on the 4*-S (a related line of brush chevrons coming out of the water) also caused trouble for two pairs in the division.
Liz Halliday-Sharp will keep the CCI3*-L lead, though her rides will swap places in the standings as Cooley HHS Calmaria (Cyrano 145 – Chester Lass) steps up from third after dressage with one of two clear rounds inside the time.
“I was thrilled with her round,” Liz said of the nine-year-old mare owned by The Calmaria Partnership. “She’s such a princess, but I absolutely love that mare. She’s quirky as hell, she’s strong as hell, but she’s hardy as well.”
Lis was particularly impressed with the mare after coming from Virginia Horse Trials two weeks ago where she said she got a bit tired over the ground, but today she put the pieces together.
“She was like, I’ll figure this out,” she explained. “She just pulled me through it. And she was like, I got this. It was amazing. I was just really proud of her and I’m excited for her future.”
Dressage leader Shanroe Cooley (Dallas VDL – Shanroe Sapphire), owned by Ocala Horse Properties, dropped into third with some time, but this was never to be the end goal for the seven-year-old, who is next headed to Le Lion in the fall as the big end of year goal. “I wouldn’t say the horse had time for lack of the gallop,” Liz explained. “It was more I got a little behind time early on and didn’t quite make it up. And then I wanted to make sure I gave him a really good ride because our main goal for him is [Le Lion d’Angers]. And that’s the big picture. Not you know, blasting around in the mud inside the time here. I was trying to sort of hold that in mind and just give him a really good round.
Ariel Grald moved from fifth into second with Annie Eldridge’s eight-year-old Holsteiner mare Isla de Coco (Cascadello I – U-Lotti, by Limbus), adding one second of time for a two-day score of 30.8. This is the second 3*-L for the mare, who’s been the picture of consistency throughout her international career to date: she’s finished outside the top three only once in six starts at this level.
Boyd Martin picked up a few time to drop from second into third on Miss Lulu Herself (Stolzenfels – Noisette, by Nobre xx), who is owned by a longtime supporter and friend, Bonnie Stedt. This was the nine-year-old mare’s first Long format at this level.
Liz Halliday-Sharp and newly-acquired Miks Master C (owned by Ocala Horse Properties and Debby Palmer) will take a tie in for the lead with Phillip Dutton and Denim (owned by Ann Lapides, Caroline Moran, and Neil Sites) into tomorrow in the CCI2*-L. Liz added one second of time while Phillip delivered a clear inside the time to be on an equal score of 24.7.
Information was to be the name of the game for Liz and Miks Master C, who was formerly piloted through the 4* level by Maya Black. “It was perfect for both of us just be able to get to know each other a little bit,” she said. “He loves his job, my goodness. He was so excited to be on cross country.”
Liz noted the gallop on the 10-year-old Swedish Warmblood gelding by Mighty Magic was one of his best assets. “He just needs to learn to, you know, keep himself in a slightly more upward frame and just be a little straighter to things,” she said.
Denim is a horse originally produced by Merel Blom and spotted with Phillip in mind by longtime friend Carol Gee of Fernhill Sport Horses. “Carol saw the horse and thought he was the perfect event type: sixty percent Thoroughbred, a good brain, and he moves and jumps,” Phillip explained. As a six-year-old in 2021, Denim competed at the FEI World Young Horse Breeding Championships in Le Lion d’Angers with Merel, finishing 35th.
“This is his fourth event that I’ve done with him,” Phillip said. Denim came over to the U.S. in January and had a light start with Phillip, competing in National events prior to this weekend. “He’s a big time galloper and handles the conditions well. He’s a gutsy little horse and he wants to go. He still has a lot to learn and he’s still green, but we’re pretty exited about his future.”
Looking to the U252*-L, 20-year-old first time attendee and Vermont resident, Ayden Schain on Fernhill Hole Shot (Entertainer – Coriander Z, by Coriall Z) remains in first place. Just 1.2 times penalties keep the pair 3.1 or not quite a single rail ahead going in to show jumping.
The horses for all divisions will be trotted for the veterinary delegate and ground jury tomorrow at 8 a.m., and show jumping will begin at 10 a.m. with the 2*-L divisions, working up to the 4*-L in the afternoon.
Stay tuned for the final report to come tomorrow from Bromont and as always, thanks for following along.