As mentioned in yesterday’s By the Numbers for the A division, we sadly won’t have the new 4*-L here at Morven Park this weekend. With that being said, this venue has put some incredible work into their facility over the past few years, with new dressage and stadium rings with top of the line footing. Of course we are hoping that this weekend will serve as a little bit of a test run of some of the fences that might appear on the 4*-L in the future, so keep your eyes locked to Eventing Nation for a course walk later today.
Again, Tremaine Cooper has been the course designer for cross country here for a number of years and makes a reappearance this year as the show jumping course designer as well.
It should be noted again, Morven’s cross country is extremely tough to make the time; only three pairs out of 84 starters have done so since 2015. Only one of those, Kim Severson and Cooley Cross Border, managed to also finish on their dressage score. Although none of the horses here have previously won, three winning riders return this year with multiple rides: Jennie Brannigan, Buck Davidson and Caroline Martin will all aim to become repeat winners with multiple rides across the two divisions.
Rubens d’Ysieux makes his first start at the A/4* level for this year with Sara Kozumplik-Murphy. These two have had some ill-luck the past couple of years but have been able to put in solid scored that exceed 70% in half of their starts together. That includes a stellar 23.4 at Millbrook in the summer of 2018. If they’ve been doing their homework during quarantine, they’ll be tough to catch. Jennie Brannigan and Stella Artois might make a run of it though; while this mare very consistently has scored between 30 and 32 in her starts over that last two years, she caught everyone’s attention at Great Meadow by flirting with 75%, ultimately landing a score of 25.2 penalties.
Meanwhile, Lillian Heard has the ride on CharmKing while his regular rider (Holly Payne-Caravella) is out on maternity leave. This horse has been strong in this phase in two starts, with an average of 30.5 in two 4*-S tests. The other young gun to keep an eye on will be Luke 140, who is re-united with Boyd Martin after a short stint with Phillip Dutton. In the horse’s first and only start at this level with Boyd, the pair came close to breaking 70% and in the horse’s most recent start at Great Meadow, Phillip Dutton did pull out a score in the high twenties.
Rubens d’Ysieux is also about as close as it gets to a guaranteed clear round; since being paired with Sara, he’s had one rail in nine rounds at the level, two of which were at the long format. These two have never had a penalty in this phase at an A/4*-S. Also likely to jump clear is Stella Artois, who has jumped clean in five of her last six starts, three of which were 4*-L.
In two rounds at the level, CharmKing has put in two clear rounds and Luke 140 is three for three. While there’s no guarantee with horses this new to the level, there’s no evidence that either of them will have a rail this weekend.
Looking further down for some change in rankings, Will Coleman will be in familiar territory stalking the leaders with a horse solid in the jumping phases; DonDante has incurred only one rail in this six rounds at this level. Caroline Martin and Ariel Grald are both on one-or-none horses that are more likely to jump clear than not; both Danger Mouse and Leamore Master Plan have had long streaks of jumping clear at this level.
Like the other division, the competitors in this division largely consist of those who tend to take the short format at a bit of a slower pace. Over a course like Morven, that will make cross-country hugely influential. Sara Kozumplik-Murphy will have her work cut out for her; thanks to the shutdown, she and Rubens d’Ysieux have only been able to get out once at this level since their accident at Millbrook in 2018, putting in a clear but steady round at Ocala Jockey Club last fall. A pace similar that will leave the door wide open for those ranked lower.
Both Stella Artois and Luke 140 are more likely to edge into double digits in terms of time penalties; Luke 140 has been exactly 25 or 26 seconds over optimum time with both of his pilots in three completions, while Stella Artois has averaged 22 seconds over optimum in her three starts at this level over the last two years. Even with this amount of time, both should still be in the hunt for a win, unless a wildcard like CharmKing can match the pace of his one completion at this level.
One pair to keep a sharp eye out for is Daniel Clasing and MW Gangster’s Game, who pick and choose where to push the pace, but has finished within ten seconds of the fastest pace or optimum time in three of their last six completed runs. This is definitely a pair who can press the pace if they choose to, and choosing to do so this weekend would let them contest for the top of the leaderboard.
Will Coleman tends to stick to a pace approximately 16 seconds slower than the fastest cross country pace with DonDante, which would be enough to continue their upward creep in the ranks into the top five, but not likely quick enough for the win. We could see Mama’s Magic Way make a big leap into the top five as well, as Will Faudree has been averaging only 13 seconds behind the fastest cross country pace.
Time penalties will make a huge difference in this division, but in the end it’s likely to be Stella Artois and Jennie Brannigan who take the edge and refuse to relinquish it.
LONGEST CLEAR JUMPING STREAK
There are simply not that many horses who have had the record in stadium that Rubens d’Ysieux has had under Sara Murphy-Kozumplik. Although their current streak is only four consecutive rounds, their career shows only one rail on their A/4* record as a pair.
NEW TO THE LEVEL
Skyeler Voss brings Argyle out to contest his second Advanced after a second place finish in the horse’s debut at the level at Five Points. They certainly made a statement on cross country day, storming around inside the time. That makes this pair the first to make the time at Five Points out of 44 cross-country starters in the last five editions of that event, dating back to 2014 (Five Points did not host an Advanced in 2017 or 2019).
Dressage and show jumping will be held Friday, while cross country will begin on Saturday.