We’re in mid-April and the season is full tilt, with three venues offering 4* divisions this weekend. This is the last weekend for Kentucky-bound pairs to nab one final prep run, with less than two weeks until jog day. Eleven horses competing here in Georgia are slated to start in the 5* at Kentucky, with 10 of those competing in the 4*-S division.
This event has been running since 2013 and there has been no single path to the victory here. Winners have won wire to wire, or come from as low as 12th; some have broken into the twenties, while others have failed to even break below 35. Some winners have been on the slower side on cross country, or had a rail … or three rails. However, the last three editions of this event have been won by pairs who left all the rails up in stadium and then put in the fastest round of the day on cross country. If you can do both, you can win this weekend.
With six starts now under his belt, Trendy Fernhill can no longer be counted as a newcomer to the level. From his first start, he’s shown talent under the supervision of Jenny Caras, breaking 70% in his first try at the level. He’s since scored in the twenties in three consecutive A/4*-S starts, with an overall average of 29.6 penalties.
On the other side of the coin is Vermiculus, an experienced campaigner who is headed to Kentucky next month for his sixth 5* start. This will be his first A/4* start of 2021, but Lauren Nicholson has helped this horse get better and better, averaging only 29.7 penalties in five 4* starts over the last two years.
Despite an uncharacteristic two down at Stable View, Trendy Fernhill is thus far clocking in 67% clear rounds at this level. If he and Jenny Caras stick true to form, they will cement their position on the leaderboard headed into the cross country. Sadly, Vermiculus tends to be more impressed with the 5* size fences than the 4*; he hasn’t jumped a clear round at the A/4*-S level since 2018.
This will leave room for Cooley Quicksilver and Fernhill Wishes to climb up the leaderboard in this phase. Liz Halliday-Sharp has clocked in clear rounds in nine of twelve of Cooley Quicksilver’s A/4*-S rounds while Karl Slezak has only had one A/4* rail on Fernhill Wishes since 2018.
None of the horses that will be near the top of the leaderboard will be contending for fastest round of the day, but will more likely be in the realm of 10 to 15 seconds over optimum time. By incurring less than five time penalties, Trendy Fernhill, Cooley Quicksilver, and Fernhill Wishes should all be able to maintain their position on the leaderboard.
Because time can shake up the standings so much at this venue, some of the faster horses will have a crack at a solid finish. Natalia Neneman and Electric Lux are a pair to keep an eye on for a top five finish, with an average speed rating of 10.33 seconds over optimum time. Abigail Niles and Carrick Finest Lad have only had two starts at the Advanced level, but have finished less than 20 seconds over the fastest time of the day each time, which would rocket them up the ranks today as well.
Trendy Fernhill already has one win at this level under his belt, and he’ll be able to make it two this weekend so long as he sticks to form in the stadium round.
Update 4/8 @ 1:00 pm: Jenny Caras has shared that Trendy Fernhill will just be doing the combined test and withdrawing prior to dressage. This leaves the field clear for Cooley Quicksilver to edge out Fernhill Wishes for the win this weekend.
FASTEST CROSS-COUNTRY ROUNDS
Chatt Hills is once again another venue where making the time is extremely difficult; out of 258 pairs to start the cross country, only six have made the time at this venue. One of those pairs, Nilson Moreira da Silva and Magnum’s Martini, is responsible for two of those clear rounds and comes back this weekend to make their final prep prior to the Kentucky 5*.
NEW TO THE LEVEL
Carrick Finest Lad and Abigail Niles are ones to watch; in two starts they’ve been incredibly consistent, scoring less than half a point apart in two dressage tests in the mid-thirties, adding nothing to their score in stadium yet, and clocking in speed ratings less than 20 seconds slower than the fastest rounds of the day.
- Kentucky 5* entry Jak My Style will contend the Advanced division, along with a few others aimed at Kentucky 4*-S.
- Kentucky 5* entries Eroll Gobey, Off the Record and DonDante will stretch their legs in the OI division.
- Kentucky 5* entries Johnny Royale and Lancaster will be in the 3*-S division.
- Copper Beach contends the 3*-S with new rider Cosby Green.
- Former 5* horses: OBOS O’Reilly and Sound Prospect will be in the 2*-S while Cisko A runs in the OI.
Dressage takes place on Friday. Keep your eyes locked here for all of our coverage!