Welcome to the first By the Numbers for 2016! Pine Top is running a CIC3* in February for the first time, which also coincidentally happens to be the very first CIC3* run in the U.S. this year.
Today I’m going discuss who I think our top five finishers in the CIC3* will be, a spoiler who could maintain their pattern of upward trajectory and take the whole thing, and horses to keep an eye on for the two Advanced divisions.
For those who need a refresher from last year, these predicted scores were not pulled from thin air, but are a result of the compilation of a very large database in which I now have recorded every single Advanced, CIC/CCI3* and CCI4* run from every single pair who has attempted the level in the United States since 2013, as well as overseas results for U.S. pairs.
This database contains not just bare scores, but also who the cross country and show jumping course designers were, how long the cross country track was, the surfaces the dressage and show jumping were on, the condition of the ground, which dressage test was performed, and the dressage judges and their respective scores.
Currently, I deal simply in past performance averages. If the rider has experience with the course designer for either cross country or show jumping, or has performed the same dressage test before, I use an average of those scores to compile my final score. Otherwise, I simply use the average of their experience at that level. If the horse has no experience at the level, I do not rank them. This method does not account for improvement in the horse’s record, so I often will make an improving record the dark horse, sleeper or spoiler.
For Pine Top, the dressage test will be 2015 FEI 3*-A. The cross country course designer is Derek di Grazia and the show jumping course designer is Chris Barnard. Derek di Grazia is the designer of Rolex, as well as Fair Hill. Chris Barnard also designs the show jumping at The Fork.
1. Kim Severson and Fernhill Fearless: Kim and her 2014 World Equestrian Games partner are back on the competition trail and have a good chance of returning with a bang. “Sparky” competed lightly last year and is coming back into form well, winning at Pine Top Intermediate two weeks ago.
Kim and Fernhill Fearless haven’t yet performed this dressage test, but a dressage average of 50.8 should have them stalking the leaders right off the bat. They’ve never had a rail over a Chris Barnard course. The only two times they attempted a Derek di Grazia course have been at CCIs, where they went double clear. Kim may not aim to go quite so fast this weekend, but even sticking closer to their overall average of 4.8 time penalties will snag them the win with a final score just over 50.
2. Liz Halliday-Sharp and HHS Cooley: Liz and HHS Cooley can never be discounted with all the valuable experience they have from European tracks. When this big gray horse is in the groove, he is as competitive as any in the world.
HHS Cooley favors this test; his average of 44.6 is more than two points better than his overall dressage average. In his two attempts over a Chris Barnard course, he has averaged one rail and 3 time penalties. This horse’s only run over a Derek di Grazia course was at this show last year, where he finished the cross country with only 2.4 time penalties. A final score in the mid-50s will put them easily in second.
3. Doug Payne and Vandiver: A very new partnership last fall, Doug had to be strategic to ensure he obtained his qualifications with this horse. Now we will likely see this pair flex their muscles a bit as they grow comfortable with one another this spring.
Although they haven’t done this test yet, Doug and Vandiver got off to a quick start on the flat, averaging 50.4 in their tests last fall. This will be the first time they test their show jumping prowess over a Chris Barnard course, but they have yet to have a rail in competition at this level. With only 6.8 time penalties over Derek di Grazia’s Fair Hill course, they should be able to make good time this weekend. Look for them in the third position, with a score in the mid-to-high 50s.
4. Sydney Conley Elliott and Cisko A: Sydney built quite a solid resume with this horse in 2015 en route to qualifying for their first four-star. With more experience under their belt now, these two will be looking for a solid run to begin the season.
Cisko A has only executed this test once, scoring a career best 49.6 at the Great Meadow International last summer. They jumped a double clear over the only Chris Barnard course they have attempted at The Fork in 2014. When these two tackled Derek di Grazia’s Fair Hill course last fall, they finished with 9.6 time penalties. A similar effort will land this pair in fourth, with a score in the high 50s.
5. Colleen Rutledge and Covert Rights: Colleen and her rapidly improving homebred could certainly make waves here. A strong second place finish at the Wellington Eventing Showcase last month proves that the upward trajectory of this horse continues from last year.
This pair has only performed this test once, scoring a 50 at Great Meadow last summer, which is on the high side for them. Covert Rights favors Chris Barnard courses, averaging no rails and 3 time penalties when attempting them. Across Derek’s courses, these two average 9.6 time penalties, although their quickest run over his tracks came at last year’s Pine Top. If they match their averages, they will round out the top five with a score in the low 60s.
Colleen Rutledge and Covert Rights: Colleen and Covert Rights are sitting just inside the top five right now, but a closer look at their performance record shows that a win isn’t at all out of the question. In 2015, these two dropped their dressage score by a full three points over their 2014 average. They also increased their speed across the country, knocking more than 16 seconds off their average time over optimum.
Although show jumping continues to be a weak spot for them, a double clear at Burghley may have marked a turning point in this phase, recently reinforced by a double clear over the tricky course at Wellington. Don’t be shocked to see this pair in the pole position by the end of the weekend.
ADVANCED DIVISION A-A
Number of entries: 4
Pairs to watch:
- Jenny Caras and Fernhill Fortitude
- Holly Payne-Caravella and Never OutFoxed
ADVANCED DIVISION A-B
Number of entries: 33
Pairs to watch:
- Emily Beshear and Shame on the Moon
- Matt Brown and Super Socks BCF
- Libby Head and Sir Rockstar
- Kurt Martin and Delux Z
- Ryan Wood and Frankie