Plantation Field is my absolute favorite event of the year and it has nothing to do with the fact that it is literally a five minute drive from my barn. Well, maybe a little. But it’s mostly because the organizers go absolutely all out to make this event great for riders, owners and spectators. The arenas are amazing, the course designers are top notch, and the parties are themed. This year’s theme is “Down Under in the Aussie Outback,” which means Boyd and his accent will probably be center stage. They might even get Phillip to talk.
Plantation Field made the decision this year to almost exclusively run FEI, with an Advanced as the lone horse trials division, in order to allow everyone to do dressage in the main arena. The event filled early, with a hefty wait list forming before closing date. While the Advanced division is largely dwarfed by the three-star division, there are still some solid competitors entered.
The dressage test will be 2014 USEF A-B. The cross country course designer is Mike Etherington-Smith, who will be designing for the second year here and most recently created the Great Meadow CIC3* course. The show jumping course designer is Marc Donovan, who continues to build up his frequent flyer miles after doing Five Points, Richland and Millbrook in the last six weeks.
1. Lillian Heard and Share Option: Lillian has built herself quite a string this year, with four horses spread out over the Advanced and three-star divisions. Share Option is by far the most experienced of the lot, and a win here should set him up nicely for his trip over to Pau later this fall.
Share Option has been steadily getting better and better on the flat this year, and while his average on this test is a 37.2, he could score a good bit lower than that. This horse has yet to have a rail this year and is very likely to jump double clear over Marc Donovan’s stadium course.
A swift run across the country with only 2.4 time penalties over Mike Etherington-Smith’s course will leave Lillian in first at the end of the weekend. They should finish on a final score just under 40.
2. Sally Cousins and Tsunami III: Sally and Tsunami III are old friends and everyone knows that Tsunami is a jumping machine. One of the swiftest pairs on the circuit, Sally will use Tsunami’s turn of foot to land near the top at the end of the weekend.
While this mare is not always the most patient on the flat, she seems to favor this particular dressage test, averaging a 34.3. An average of one rail and 1 time penalty will drop them down slightly on the second day when they attempt Marc Donovan’s stadium. However, while these two haven’t run a Mike E-S course recently, they average only 3.6 time penalties across the country overall. Look for Sally and Tsunami III in second, with a score in the low 40s.
3. Boyd Martin and Steady Eddie: I’ve liked this horse of Boyd’s for quite a while, but he hasn’t quite lived up to his potential yet. An imported Australian Thoroughbred, Steady Eddie has all the components to be a top horse and could be quite competitive this weekend if Boyd helps him put all three phases together.
Steady Eddie can be quite good on the flat, but does tend to score a touch higher on this particular test, with an average of 36.3. While he can sometimes be a one rail horse, Steady Eddie seems to favor Marc Donovan courses, generally jumping double clear over his designs. Boyd brought this horse home at last year’s Plantation with 13.2 time penalties across Mike’s cross country course. If they equal that, this pair should place solidly in third, with a score just under 50.
4. Lillian Heard and LCC Barnaby: Lillian moved LCC Barnaby up to Advanced earlier this year at Carolina, and by this point the horse has become the second most experienced horse in her string. With two clean CIC3* under his belt already, Lillian will be looking for a solid run for this horse ahead of Fair Hill.
LCC Barnaby averages a 35.2 on the USEF B test, putting him near the top after the first phase. This horse does tend to have one rail down over Marc Donovan’s courses. This will be the horse’s first time across a Mike E-S course, so look for Lillian to bring him home close to his overall average of 15.6 time penalties. These two should place fourth with a score in the mid-50s.
5. Eliza Farren and Bantry Bays Dublin: This pair is fairly experienced, having been running at this level since early 2013. After taking most of the spring off, Eliza has brought out this horse for a good fall season.
Bantry Bays Dublin doesn’t have much patience on the flat, averaging a 42.5 on this particular test. An average of two rails and 1 time penalty over Marc’s stadium courses will inch him up a little on the second day. However, a swift run matching their 11.2 time penalties over last year’s Plantation course will sneak this pair into the top five, with a final score in the low 60s.
THE DARK HORSE
Buck Davidson and Wiley Post: Buck has most of his horses entered in the three-star this weekend, with the sole exception being Wiley Post. Good on the flat, Wiley Post can struggle a bit in the stadium. Still, that won’t keep him out of the top five unless Buck takes this horse around Plantation as slow as he did last year, when he accumulated more than 30 time penalties. If Buck sticks closer to the horse’s typical cross country pace, they should easily crack the top five.
Boyd Martin and SBF Cortez: SBF Cortez recently moved up to Advanced at Five Points, producing solid first-time efforts in each phase. In particular, the horse jumped a clear round over a difficult stadium course. Boyd will probably knock a few points off his dressage score this weekend, and perhaps will attempt a swifter pace across the country. However, even if he just replicates the Five Points efforts, SBF Cortez could slip into the top five.