In only its third year, Carolina International has quickly become a must-attend show on the spring schedule. These organizers have proven that they can put on a world class event while responding to rider feedback, which is helping them swell their numbers every year. For 2016, almost 80 horses will contest the three-star, making Carolina one of the few North American events that can boast similar numbers to British competitions.
Today I’m going discuss who I think our top 10 finishers in the large CIC3* field will be, a dark horse who will likely make a strong comeback despite what the numbers say, a spoiler who has been under the radar but potentially could win the whole thing, and a sleeper who may or may not be in the top here, but has the potential to develop into world class.
This show is likely to be a test of inches, with my top 10 predicted to be within nine points of each other. There are plenty of contenders not listed below who could come out of the woodwork and contend for the top position this weekend, particularly with a brand new cross country course designer.
For the CIC3*, the dressage test will be 2015 FEI 3*-B. Ian Stark will design the cross country course for the first time this year, while Marc Donovan continues to design the show jumping courses.
1. Buck Davidson and Ballynoe Castle RM: Reggie has already been making his mark this winter, running an Intermediate, the Wellington Eventing Showcase and Rocking Horse Advanced within a month’s time. This horse has won every event that he has completed since The Fork CIC3* last year … when he placed second. Since Reggie characteristically runs clear at Carolina, I don’t expect the streak to stop now.
Ballynoe Castle RM favors this particular test, averaging a 43.9 in four attempts. A double clear average over Marc Donovan show jumping courses will keep him high in the ranks. Surprisingly, this horse has only run once over an Ian Stark course in the past three years, accumulating 4.8 time penalties at Richland last summer while Buck was nursing a few broken ribs. Look for these two in the pole position come Saturday afternoon, with a score in the mid-to-high 40s.
2. Liz Halliday-Sharp and HHS Cooley: Liz and HHS Cooley have accumulated quite a collection of red ribbons during their time in the States, with second place finishes at Pine Top Advanced and Red Hills CIC3* in 2015 and already another at Pine Top CIC3* this spring. Look for them to add another one to their collection this weekend.
HHS Cooley is another who excels at this particular test, with his average of 45.3 nearly two points better than his overall average. This horse also jumps better than average over Marc Donovan courses, clocking in a double clear over his course at Galway Downs in 2013. With a final score just over 50 these two will take home second place.
3. Allie Knowles and Sound Prospect: Allie and Sound Prospect fly under the radar all too often, despite a clear capability of scoring in the 40s on the flat, running a quick and clean cross country, and jumping double clear show jumping rounds. With a really quality spring season, these two will continue to establish themselves as a leading combination in the U.S.
This pair averages 51.0 on this test, which will put them in stalking range of the leaders after the first phase. Marc Donovan courses are one of their specialties, as they’ve jumped four of five courses of his with no rails. Although they typically average a few penalty points across the country, they’ve proven to be particularly speedy when Ian Stark is the designer, running an average double clear. Look for Allie and Sound Prospect up in third place, with a score only a fraction behind HHS Cooley.
4. Phillip Dutton and Mr. Candyman: Mr. Candyman is one of Phillip’s developing horses, and despite qualifying for his first four-star already, this horse will continue gaining three-star experience this spring instead of going to Rolex. Strong right off the bat in dressage, he is still developing speed and carefulness.
“Elmo” performed this test a couple times last fall, averaging a 49.3 on two attempts. He has also jumped three of four Marc Donovan rounds with no rails, but could accumulate a couple time penalties. In his only attempt at an Ian Stark course, this horse ran double clear at Galway Downs last fall. If he replicates his effort, he should finish fourth, less than half a point behind Sound Prospect.
5. Kurt Martin and DeLux Z: Kurt and DeLux Z are another pair that are flying a bit under the radar, despite a win at their first CCI3* last summer at Rebecca Farm. These two have a chance to do particularly well here, with strong experience with both course designers.
This horse averages a 52.9 on this particular test, which is right in line with his overall average. Although Kurt and “Lux” have split their two Marc Donovan courses with one rail and one clear, overall these two tend to show jump double clear. A double clear over their only Ian Stark course last summer clinched them a win, and a similar run here would bump them up into the top five, on a final score in the low 50s.
6. Selena O’Hanlon and Foxwood High: This pair is another who has improved leaps and bounds in the past 12 months, particularly in the dressage. Their new prowess on the flat will serve them well this weekend, positioning them for another crack at Rolex.
Selena and Foxwood High average a 47.1 on this test, nearly seven points better than their overall average. They do historically average one rail and one time penalty over Marc Donovan’s courses, but a quicker than average pace of 3.2 penalties over Ian Stark’s courses will bump them up again. This pair should end up in sixth, with a score less than a point behind DeLux Z.
7. Sinead Halpin and Manoir de Carneville: Sinead and Tate are competing in their first FEI event together since the World Equestrian Games in 2014. A rough start to their season at Rocking Horse Advanced de-railed them a bit, but a third place finish in the Intermediate at Rocking Horse Winter III showed that things seem to be back on track.
Sinead and Tate haven’t performed this dressage test yet, but a solid average of 45.5 at this level should have them near the top of the leaderboard after the first phase. They do average one rail over Marc Donovan courses, which will drop them down a little. An average of 6.0 time penalties over Ian Stark’s course will keep them up inside the top 10. A final score in the mid-50s should see these two in seventh.
8. Laine Ashker and Anthony Patch: Laine and her longtime partner Anthony Patch are back for another go at Rolex and are making Carolina their final prep run before the big game. These two can really pull it out in all three phases and will be looking for a good run to feel confident heading to Kentucky.
Anthony Patch averages a stellar 44.3 on this test, only slightly better than his typical overall average. This pair does average a rail over Marc Donovan courses, slipping them down the ranks after show jumping. A slightly slower average pace of 7.6 time penalties over Ian Stark courses will cause them to slip a little further. Laine and Anthony Patch will take eighth place with a score less than half a point behind Manoir de Carneville.
9. Matt Brown and Super Socks BCF: Matt and Super Socks BCF have the potential to be in the top 10 this weekend, but only if they run. Matt has been particularly careful about the footing this spring, withdrawing from both Pine Top and Red Hills amid concerns about the ground.
Super Socks BCF has an affinity for this test, with his average of 47.3 almost three points better than his overall average. A tendency to have a rail and one time penalty over Marc Donovan courses will maintain their placing. These two tend to run quickly over Ian Stark courses, averaging only 3.6 time penalties. A final score less than half a point behind Anthony Patch will sew up ninth place for this pair.
10. Buck Davidson and Copper Beach: Buck Davidson has two sets of Advanced horses: the green and the experienced. With four CCI3* under his belt, two of which were overseas, Copper Beach has now crossed into the experienced side of Buck’s stable.
Copper Beach averages a 49.6 on this test, higher than his typical average. A double clear round over Marc Donovan’s course will bump him up. This horse averages 6.8 time penalties over Ian Stark’s courses, which will help him round out the top 10 with a score in the mid-50s.
THE DARK HORSE
Boyd Martin and Master Frisky: Boyd is bringing Master Frisky out again to compete at his first FEI start since Rolex last year, and it was at this event last year where Master Frisky showed he was a force to be reckoned with.
This horse’s dressage and show jumping averages show he’ll be right in the mix after the first two phases. With no history over Ian Stark courses, the math goes with his overall time penalty score, which is almost 10 additional penalties. However, Boyd made time on this course last year, and his overall 2015 time penalty average was only 2.0 penalties. If Boyd continues to push the pace, this horse will likely crack the top five.
Caroline Martin and Center Stage: Center Stage hasn’t competed at this level since Fair Hill last fall, and with a target date of Bramham CCI3*-U25 in June, it’s not surprising that Caroline waited to start his spring season until now.
This horse looks to be extremely promising for Caroline, with strong dressage and show jumping phases. Although he has thus far accumulated an average of 25 seconds over optimum time, he also made the time over the only Ian Stark course he has run at Richland Park CIC3*. If he can match that pace as well as his average on this test and his standard double clear show jumping round, he has the potential to take the whole show.
Kylie Lyman and Da Vinci Code: Da Vinci Code only moved up to Advanced at Pine Top in February, but he did it with a bang, winning a division of 32 horses on a dressage score in the low 30s, a double clear show jumping round, and a cross country round that clocked in only 13 seconds over the optimum in a division where no one made the time. If they can put in a similar effort this weekend, they should find themselves solidly amongst the top 10.
Number of pairs: 25
Pairs to watch:
- Buck Davidson and Petite Flower
- Lillian Heard and LCC Barnaby
- Lauren Keiffer and Landmark’s Monte Carlo
- Boyd Martin and Crackerjack
- Boyd Martin and Welcome Shadow
- Ryan Wood and McLovin