The Nutrena American Eventing Championships are upon us finally, and the riders have converged from both sides of the nation to Tyler, Texas. The best of the west meets the top of the east in a clash that will decide the Adequan USEA Gold Cup Final Advanced Champion!
We have some heavy hitters from each coast. Matt Brown and Super Socks BCF have won three straight shows beating out 39 other pairs combined, while Laine has won two big divisions out east, dominating 68 total pairs. Will one of them take the division, or will another pair sneak in for the win?
For the Advanced, the dressage test will be 2014 USEF A-B. Capt. Mark Phillips is the course designer for cross country and Richard Jeffrey returns from last year to make sure the stadium course makes a difference.
1. Laine Ashker and Anthony Patch: Sorry West Coasters, but I think that this show is Laine’s to lose. Laine and her experienced campaigner are just too consistent lately, and it doesn’t hurt that they won this division last year. They know what to expect, they’ve been here before, and they are cool as a cucumber under pressure.
Laine and Anthony Patch are the only pair in the field who average in the 20s for dressage. They do slightly better on this particular dressage test than their average and will score around 28.9 to lead the division after the flat. Last year’s AEC course is the only time they’ve attempted a Capt. Mark Phillips course, and they brought it home clear with only 5.6 time penalties.
Finally, they are one of only two horses in the field to average double clear show jumping rounds overall, and their double clear last year at the AECs over Richard Jeffrey’s design was no exception. They ought to bring home the blue with the only score in the 30s.
2. Matt Brown and Super Socks BCF: This is Super Socks BCF’s first year at Advanced, and he’s certainly come out with a bang. They’ve come into their own this summer, taking three straight, but haven’t had to face as many contenders as Laine.
Matt and Super Socks BCF average a solid 33 on this test, but their dressage average has been dropping at almost every outing. Last time out, they laid down a 29.7 on this test, which won’t be quite enough to catch Laine but will certainly put them right in the hunt.
They haven’t yet attempted either a Capt. Mark Phillips course or a Richard Jeffrey course, so they could end up with a bit of a surprise here. However, this pair is very consistent cross country thus far, with no stops on their record and only 6.8 time penalties. They average a one-rail round, which should keep them easily in second place with a score in the low 40s.
3. Becky Holder and Can’t Fire Me: Becky and Can’t Fire Me have only run around cross country at this level once this year at the Carolina Horse Park, but Becky and this horse are certainly experienced enough to pull an upset here this weekend.
This pair hasn’t yet performed this dressage test in 2013 or 2014, but they are well known for their prowess on the flat. They’ll likely be in the top three with an average of 32.1 at this level. Can’t Fire Me is fairly quick cross country, with an average of 9.2 time penalties, although he has no recent experience over a Capt. Mark Phillips course.
Two rails in the show jumping will put their final score in the high 40s for third, if they hold to their average over their first attempt over a Richard Jeffrey’s course.
4. Ellen Doughty-Hume and Sir Oberon: Ellen and Sir Oberon are another pair who haven’t had a run at this level since earlier this year, this time at Red Hills CIC3*. Despite that, I think this pair will stay fairly true to normal form.
Ellen and Sir Oberon average a 34.3 for this particular test. They attacked the Capt. Mark Phillips course last year, bringing home a clear round with only 8 time penalties. A couple of rails over the Richard Jeffrey course is a bit higher than their one rail average, but would put them on a score barely over 50. Look for them to be breathing down Becky’s neck.
5. Jon Holling and Zatopek B: Jon and Zatopek B had a little trouble during the middle of the year, but recently had a clear round at Poplar, so hopefully Jon has sorted out those issues.
This pair averages a 37.1 on this dressage test. Last year at the AECs during their only attempt at a Capt. Mark Phillips course, they had a clear round with 12.4 time penalties. They matched their typical average over the Richard Jeffrey course with one rail. Look for them to round out the top five with a score in the low 50s.
THE DARK HORSE
Buck Davidson and Petite Flower: Buck is only bringing one entry for this division to the AECs this year, with most of the rest of his contingent running at Plantation Field last weekend. Petite Flower isn’t the most consistent of his rides, but when she’s on, she can win.
Petite Flower averages a 32.9 for this test, which could allow her to slip into the top three after the flat. She also is the only other jumper in the field to average a double clear show jumping round, with only two rails total on her record in 2013 and 2014.
However, her cross country record in 2014 has been a bit rough, with only one clear completion at Rocking Horse Winter II. If Buck can regain her previous form from when she won Galway Downs CCI3* last year, she could very well play the spoiler.
Avery Klunick and In It To Win It: It’s tough to pick a sleeper in a championship field, as everyone here had to qualify to make it into the division, and the majority are quite experienced. Avery and In It To Win It have been running around this level since Rebecca Farms 2013, so they certainly aren’t green, but they have been showing improvements in two of three phases lately.
This pair’s strength is in the two jumping phases, and they seem to be getting better as time goes on. The only stop on their record appeared at last years AECs, and with solid experience since then, I doubt we’ll see it again. Their time penalties have decreased almost each time out and were most recently in the single digits at the Richland CIC3*.
Show jumping is either a positive or a negative for this pair, but they are showing signs of conquering that phase as well. In their two most recent non-CCI outings, they were double clear, including at Richland where double clears were few and far between. If they can stick to that form and continue to decrease their time penalties on cross country, they could become formidable by finishing on their dressage score.