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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 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.
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.
- 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: Website, Entry Status, Ride Times, Live Scores