Not only will we see individual rankings this weekend, but for the first time in a very long time, we are getting a true team competition on U.S. soil. Only three countries participated this year, which is the bare minimum to hold a Nation’s Cup, but the timing was problematic for attendance from Europe with Rio looming on the horizon. However, Britain sent over enough horses to make a full team, which allows our Nations Cup leg to move forward.
Phillip Dutton and Fernhill Fugitive: Fernhill Fugitive, a 2005 Irish Sport Horse gelding owned by Tom Tierney and Annie Jones, began his FEI career in 2011 with Danielle Dichting Busbee, who competed him at a one-star before Phillip picked up the ride. He’s been at True Prospect ever since, moving up to the three-star level in 2013. Phillip and “Jack” have finished 20 Advanced, three-star, and four-star competitions together, and represented the U.S. on the Pan American team last summer. They most recently placed 13th in the horse’s second four-star completion.
This horse has been chipping away steadily at his score on the flat, which now ranges from a 41.7 to a 59.0 at this level, with a current average of 49.4. With only a couple blips on his extensive record, he can be relied upon to go clear across the country. His times have varied from making optimum to being almost a minute over the time, but his pace has been close to optimum for the past year. This horse had never had more than two rails at this level until Rolex this spring (where he accumulated five), but most often jumps double-clear rounds as of late.
Lauren Kieffer and Meadowbrook’s Scarlett: A 2007 Thoroughbred cross mare owned by Marie Le Menestrel who just moved up to Advanced last year and has already represented the U.S. at the Pan American Games, Meadowbrook’s Scarlett is part of the future for Lauren Kieffer. Her first FEI event was a two-star in 2014 and this horse has never looked back, taking the east coast by storm in 2015. Meadowbrook’s Scarlett is very strong in both jumping phases, and is no slouch on the flat either with potential to drop those scores even further.
Meadowbrook’s Scarlett has scored as low as 42.0 and as high as 51.3, with her average hovering at 47.4. This mare has never had a cross country jump penalty and generally sits close to or under the time, only once having more than 10 seconds of time in her short career. Additionally, she’s a careful jumper and has never had more than one rail, more often jumping clear.
Boyd Martin and Welcome Shadow: Welcome Shadow has been a welcome surprise to Boyd’s string lately, developing into a top class horse much more quickly than expected. Welcome Shadow, a 2005 Thoroughbred cross mare, began her FEI career at the two-star level in 2014 with Boyd, attempting her first three-star in late 2015. She has since completed five three-star events with Boyd, culminating in a second place at the Jersey Fresh CCI3* in May.
This mare has proven she can already hang with the big guns on the flat, ranging from 46.1 to 55.5 in the first phase. A recent blip at Fair Hill in April mars her otherwise perfect cross country jump record. Although she was 53 seconds slow at the same event, she’s also proven she can make the time by going double clear at Jersey Fresh. Another mare who has never had more than one rail down, she does have one down more often than not.
Clark Montgomery and Loughan Glen: The only horse who is listed for the Rio team as well as Great Meadow, this 2003 Irish Sport Horse gelding is a force to be reckoned with. Glen began his FEI career in 2010 with Clark at the Poplar Place CIC2*. These two stepped up to the three-star level the following year and made a first pass at Rolex in 2012 before relocating to Great Britain that summer. This pair has represented the U.S. on Nation’s Cup teams at both Boekelo and Aachen before and had an unforgettable, dominant 2015 season.
Since 2013 Loughan Glen has ranged from dressage scores of 33.3 to 47.1, with a solid average at 38.4. While he hasn’t always been consistent across the country, he hasn’t had a problem in this phase since the very beginning of 2015. This pair is always less than 30 seconds over when running clear and have made the optimum multiple times. Although this horse once had four rails and once had two, the rest of his rounds since 2013 have been one or none.
Team Analysis: With four Rio team members riding three direct reserve horses and one team horse, this will be a tough group to beat. With a plethora of choices, there’s no doubt that the team was composed of horses who needed or preferred to have a quick run across the country as the best preparation for Rio, so don’t expect to see any of these four horses taking their time out there. With Loughan Glen likely to dominate in the first phase, an average performance from just two more team members could be enough.
Colleen Loach and Qorry Blue D’Argouges: This pair is the least experienced of Canada’s team, with no four-star experience under either of their belts. Qorry Blue D’Argouges, a 2003 gelding owned by Peter Barry, began his career in Europe in 2010 with Spanish rider Lionel Gonzalez Duverdun who competed him up through the two-star level. In early 2013, Peter Barry imported him and rode him twice before handing over the reins to Colleen later that summer. Qorry Blue D’Argouges took Colleen to her first team experience at the Pan American Games last summer before stepping up to the three-star level this year. The pair finished inside the top 10 at their first CCI3* at Jersey Fresh this spring before taking second at the Bromont CIC3*.
In his short career, Qorry Blue D’Argouges has scored very consistently from a 50.1 to a 51.6 at his FEI shows, although he managed to drop to the FEI equivalent of a 42.3 at his first Advanced at Pine Top. The only stop on his record came at his first attempt at the level, and he has since run clear. Similarly, he has gotten faster and faster, beginning his Advanced career with 103 seconds over the time and recently finishing only five seconds over at Jersey Fresh. This horse has had no more than two rails in his career at this level, and most recently jumped his first double clear at Bromont.
Selena O’Hanlon and Foxwood High: Foxwood High is by far the most experienced horse on the Canadian team, the only horse with four-star experience. The 2003 gelding began his career with Selena in 2011, and has already represented Canada twice, first at the Pan American Games in Guadalajara and then at the World Equestrian Games in France. He began his three-star career at the tail end of 2012 and most recently finished seventh at the Bromont CIC3*.
Foxwood High began his three-star career with his highest flat score, a 70.8, but it’s dropped drastically in the past 12 months, dipping all the way down to a 41.3. They average overall at a 52.6 currently. Fairly consistent across the country, these two haven’t had a blip since Rolex in 2015. They are often close to or under the time, with their largest time penalties coming at a rain soaked WEG, 99 seconds over optimum. Although this pair dropped four rails at WEG, they have otherwise never had more than two rails, including quite a few double clear rounds.
Jessica Phoenix and Bentley’s Best: Bentley’s Best, a 2007 gelding, began his FEI career with Jessica at the Ocala CCI1* in 2014, and competed at his first three-star in his third ever FEI start. That was last fall at Plantation and they have since contested eight three-star events. Most recently, this gelding finished third in the Jersey Fresh CCI3* on his dressage score, the first time he was asked to make the time.
This horse is naturally gifted on the flat, averaging a 47.5 but having a range of 43.7 to 52.9. In his newness to the level, Bentley’s Best has struggled a bit on cross country, racking up stops here and there along with a frangible penalty at Plantation last fall. Generally this horse has ranged from 31 to 45 seconds over optimum in all of his runs, but he recently finished an astounding 36 seconds under time at Jersey Fresh. A careful horse, Bentley’s Best is a one-or-none show jumper thus far.
Waylon Roberts and Kelecyn Cognac: Kelecyn Cognac is a 2003 gelding previously competed by Kevin McNab at the three-star level before making the jump to American soil. Kelecyn Cognac began his FEI career in Australia in 2010 before Kevin McNab relocated to England, where he made the jump up to three-star in 2013 at Cappoquin. Imported to the U.S. after 2013, Waylon picked up the reins that fall and made the move back up in 2015. Most recently the pair finished in the top ten at the Bromont CCI3*.
With Waylon in the irons, Kelecyn Cognac has scored mostly in the 50s, ranging from a 49.6 to a 60.4 on the flat. They’ve been very consistent across the country, with only the stray stop here or there. Waylon has proven a couple times that these two can make optimum time, but has also had a couple rounds that ranged into a minute over time. Stadium has been a struggle for this pair, with only one double clear round on their resume, and can range from one to three rails a round.
Team Analysis: Canada certainly has the potential to keep all four horses under 50 this weekend, which would be a tough team to beat. However, they may be handicapped with at least two and possibly more of these horses headed next to the Olympics, and needing to do what is the best preparation for the horse instead of perhaps making the time for team purposes. Kelecyn Cognac and Foxwood High will both provide solid final scores, while Bentley’s Best and Qorry Blue D’Argouges may accumulate enough penalties to keep the team from the win.
Jodie Amos and Wise Crack: Wise Crack is by far the most experienced horse on the British team, having started 30 FEI events, all with Jodie in the irons. Wise Crack began his FEI career in 2011 and quickly stepped up to the three-star level for the first time in 2012 at Blenheim CIC3*. Since then, Jodie and Wise Crack have completed 15 three-stars and also finished Burghley in 2015. This year, Wise Acre has competed both at Burnham Market and at Hopetoun, each with a stop on cross country.
Wise Crack generally scores in the 40s on the flat, averaging 46.5 with a range from 42.4 to 54.2. Although overall he generally hadn’t had any trouble on cross country after a couple initial hiccups, he has incurred one stop in each of his last four cross country runs at the three and four-star levels. His pace has varied widely throughout his career, from having one round inside the time to being over 100 seconds over. When he goes clear, his time varies from within optimum to 54 seconds over. Wise Crack is usually a one rail horse, although his overall record shows anything from none to five, but he has yet to have a rail in 2016.
Rosalind Canter and Zenshara: Rosalind has competed Zenshera, a 2004 gelding, throughout his entire FEI career beginning at the one star level in 2011. In 2013 Zenshera stepped up to the three-star level for the first time at Barbury Castle, and has completed eight of his nine FEI events since, with only a withdrawal at Bramham CIC3* in 2014 marring his perfect completion record. After a year off in 2015, Rosalind brought him back out this year at Belton, placing 27th in a huge field before recently finishing fourth at Hopetoun.
This pair’s dressage scores range from 41.7 to 48.0, with an average score of 45.2. Zenshera has never had a cross country jump penalty on an FEI course, but has only once run inside the time. Their times generally vary from within 10 seconds of optimum to nearly 45 seconds over. While these two have put in a few double clear rounds, they’ve had one to three rails more often than not, and their average sits at one rail.
Justine Dutton and Huck Finn: Huck Finn is a 2001 gelding who has also been with his rider for the entirety of his FEI career. These two debuted at the two-star level in 2014 before making the move up to Advanced later that summer. After taking some time off, Justine entered Huck Finn in his first three-star last fall at Plantation Field and they now have four three star completion under their belt. They most recently completed the CCI3* at Jersey Fresh together.
Huck Finn has dressage scores ranging from 59.0 to 66.5, with an average of 61.3. They generally run clear across the country, but have occasionally picked up a single stop. When running clear their pace ranges from 23 seconds to 54 seconds over optimum time. Huck Finn can sometimes have a rail or two, but has most recently jumped his last two shows double clear.
Ben Way and Willow’s Tipster: Unlike all of his teammates, Ben Way is on a horse relatively new to him. Willow’s Tipster, a 2004 gelding, has had several riders throughout his six-year FEI career, beginning with Matthew Heath for his first one-star before Piggy French took a turn, followed shortly by Matthew Wright. Finally, Ben McClumpha took the reins and under him, Willow’s Tipster made his three-star debut at Blenheim CIC3* in 2013. Those two bounced between the levels for a few years, starting four three-stars and finishing two, before Ben Way got the ride this spring. This will only be Way’s second three-star with the horse, after completing a couple two stars this spring followed by a move-up at Bramham CIC3*.
This horse has ranged in scores on the flat from 53.3 to 61.0, which came most recently at Bramham with Ben Way up for their first joint three-star attempt. Under his previous rider, this horse had always accumulated a stop on cross country, but Ben Way most recently gave him his first clear round. Similarly, he previously had accumulated 58 and 104 seconds over optimum, but Way guided him to a quick finish only four seconds over. Willow’s Tipster does appear to be quite careful, a one-or-none horse over the colored poles.
Team Analysis: Britain has sent across some strong horses on the flat and supplemented their team with strong horses or riders across the country, but ultimately their strongest pairs are headed to Rio or Aachen. Zenshera could certainly make a big splash while Huck Finnwill likely put in a solid finish. The wild cards are Wise Crack, who could make or break a team win with a renewal of confidence on the cross country portion, and Willow’s Tipster, who will benefit from a strong cross country ride from Ben Way.
WHO WILL WIN?
It’s not a surprise that the U.S. will probably take the win, having the advantage of quite a few more pairs to choose from than Canada and Great Britain. Canada will be handicapped by the fact that some of their team members will be using this as a prep for Rio, meaning they’ll need to choose the big picture over team success this weekend. Great Britain has the advantage in that all four team members are likely here to win, not to preserve their horses for a run next month. Still, the Americans have put three incredibly strong, habitually fast cross-country horses on their team along with a knock-out punch in Loughan Glen.
Final prediction? America, with a score between 125 and 140, will win. Great Britain will follow with a score in the 145-155 range and Canada will perform closer to their average than their best.