With 53 horses entered in the CIC3* at Plantation Field, I certainly had my work cut out for me in deciding a top five. So I didn’t; I picked a top ten instead, along with a Sleeper, Spoiler and Dark Horse. The field is incredibly competitive, and there are about four or five others who could have appeared in this list, but at the end of the day, these 10 pairs have the best numbers.
There are two WEG horses entered, Trading Aces under Boyd Martin and Ballynoe Castle RM under Buck Davidson. While Plantation is generally an event at which the riders ride to win in terms of time on cross country, it’s hard to say exactly what these two riders will do. The rest of the field will likely be sharpening the edge for their respective fall CCIs and putting the pedal to the metal.
For the CIC3*, the dressage test is 2009 FEI 3*-B. The course designer for cross country is Mike Etherington-Smith for the first time this year, and the show jumping course designer is Marc Donovan. None of the horses in North America have experience over Mike Etherington-Smith courses in the past two years.
1. Boyd Martin and Trading Aces: I’m not 100 percent on this, simply because Trading Aces just returned from WEG. However, Oscar retired around two-thirds of the way in, so ended up running a course that was similar in length to a typical Advanced or CIC3* course, instead of the full 10 1/2 minutes. I can’t say for sure what Boyd has planned for this weekend, but there’s definitely a possibility that he’ll be out to show that Oscar is fit to compete at this level.
There’s a reason Oscar was picked to go to WEG, and it has a lot to do not only with his excellence, but also his consistency in all three phases. He’ll be in the top 10 after the flat with an average of 44.8 on this test. A double clear show jumping round over the Marc Donovan course will move these two up the ranks.
Finally, this pair will probably be out to prove that Oscar has the fitness to belong at this level, and will snag only 7.6 time penalties on cross country. If Boyd steps on the gas, they will bring home the blue with a score in the mid-50s.
2. Sharon White and Under Suspection: Always the bridesmaid and never the bride. This will be the third time that I rank Sharon and Under Suspection second, and I’d love to see them prove me wrong and take home the blue. Under Suspection is headed to the CCI)3* at Boekelo, so Sharon will be looking for a good result before heading overseas.
This horse is good on the flat, but averages a 50.1 on this test, which will keep them out of the very top group. Another good show jumper, Under Suspection will move up after a double clear show jumping on the Marc Donovan course. Sharon also averages 7.6 time penalties on cross country with this mare, so will sneak into second with a score in the mid to high 50s.
3. Erin Sylvester and No Boundaries: Erin and No Boundaries have had plenty of success this year, and as long as No Boundaries can contain himself during the flat phase, this pair will shine.
No Boundaries seems to prefer this dressage test, his average of 50.7 is four points better than his typical average. He does tend to have a rail in show jumping, regardless of course designer. A quick, clean cross country with only 6 time penalties should move them up to third after the final phase with a score barely over 60.
4. Maya Black and Doesn’t Play Fair: Other than a fall near the end of the course at Richland Park, Maya and Doesn’t Play Fair have had a phenomenal first year at the Advanced level, placing in the top five all but once. They ought to continue that trend here, sorting out any issues before the fall CCIs.
Doesn’t Play Fair averages a 47.0 on this dressage test, which will be good enough for the top 10. He typically pulls one rail over Marc Donovan courses, but a clear cross country with only 10 time penalties will keep him high in the order. Look for this pair to be breathing down Erin’s neck with a score in the very low 60s.
5. Emily Beshear and Shame on the Moon: Emily obtained the ride on this mare late last year and has been at the top of her divisions ever since. Although she had a bit of a subpar dressage score at their first Advanced in June, the pair bounced back at Millbrook and Richland.
In their one time performing this test, Emily and Shame on the Moon hit 44.7 penalties, and I don’t see any reason why they won’t score the same here. This score could potentially put them as the leaders after phase one. While in general Shame on the Moon averages one rail, she performed double clear over the Marc Donovan course at Richland.
Emily has been increasing the speed of her cross-country round on this horse over the past three shows, but still averages 18 time penalties. Depending on how quickly they come home, this pair will slot into fifth place with a low 60s score.
6. Buck Davidson and Copper Beech: Buck has three entries in the CIC3* this weekend, and depending on what he does with Reggie, I think Copper Beach is his best chance to end up in the top 10. Copper Beech flies a bit under the radar thanks to all of his famous stablemates, but he did just win the CCI3* at Jersey Fresh, so he’s starting to make a bit of a name for himself.
Copper Beach is good enough that he’ll probably end up in the top 10 after the flat, averaging a 48.1 on this test. This horse is a very good jumper as well and tends to go double clear over most show jumping courses, including Marc Donovan’s. Finally, he averages a few more time penalties on cross country, picking up 16.8 on average. Buck and Copper Beach should end up in sixth with a score in the mid to low 60s.
7. Kendal Lehari and Totally Frank: Previously ranked as a sleeper at Richland, Kendal and Totally Frank are breaking into the top 10 here by virtue of their cross country prowess. One of the quicker horses in the field, this pair has finished their last three courses with a combined 10 seconds over optimum time.
Kendal is still figuring out Totally Frank on the flat, and they bounce between low 50s and low 60s for their dressage average. On this test, their average is a 59.3, which will put them mid-pack. Totally Frank usually jumps double clear over Marc Donovan courses and averages only 6.4 time penalties, which ought to shoot them up the ranks to finish seventh on a mid-60s score.
8. Mackenna Shea and Landioso: Mackenna and Landioso are the second pair in this group who will be headed to Boekelo to contest the CCIO3*. They’ll be looking to continue to build on the good form they’ve had over the past year.
Landioso is really great on the flat, and with an average of 46.0 on this test, they’re likely to break into the top three. Mackenna and Landioso jumped clear over their only Marc Donovan course at Richland, but picked up seven time penalties, which will move them down a little after stadium if they have a similar ride. Landioso is also not quite as quick across the country, picking up an average of 13.6 time penalties. Mackenna and Landioso will finish solidly on a score just over the mid-60s.
9. Kurt Martin and Anna Bella: The final pair headed over to Boekelo, Kurt and Anna will be looking for three solid phases before boarding their flight.
Anna Bella averages a 52.8 on this test, which will put them in the top quarter of the division. They do average a rail and two time penalties on Marc Donovan courses, but a solid round with 8.8 time penalties will keep them in the top 10. Look for Kurt and Anna Bella in ninth on a score in the mid to high 60s.
10. Kelly Prather and Blackfoot Mystery: Kelly just moved Blackfoot Mystery up to Advanced in June, and the horse is already solid in all three phases, although not yet stellar. Still, solid performances will allow Kelly and Blackfoot Mystery to slip into the top 10 this weekend.
Blackfoot Mystery scored a 52.8 in his only attempt at this test thus far, which is slightly above his normal average. The pair also tends to have one rail in the show jumping and had four time penalties over their one attempt at a Marc Donovan course. Finally, they are fairly quick and getting quicker over time across the country, averaging 8.4 time penalties. Kelly and Blackfoot Mystery should sneak into the top 10 with a score in the high 60s.
Buck Davidson and Ballynoe Castle RM: Reggie just got back from WEG, where he completed most of the course before retiring. Buck is likely just doing the dressage and show jumping on the horse, but if he does decide to do the full event and be competitive about it, this pair will probably take the whole thing away from his WEG teammate, Trading Aces.
Reggie is very good and very consistent on the flat, averaging a 48.5 on this particular test. That will put him in the top 10 after the flat. He’s also a very good show jumper, averaging double clear rounds no matter the course designer. However, it’s on cross country that Reggie wins, as he averages only four seconds over optimum time, the fastest average in the field.
Everything for Reggie hinges on whether Buck decides to run and to run fast. If Buck wants to be competitive with this horse this weekend, he could play the spoiler.
THE DARK HORSE
Sharon White and Wundermaske: Right now, the numbers are telling me that this pair will be just outside the top 10. However, I think the numbers aren’t telling the full story in this instance, which is why Wundermaske is ranked as the Dark Horse.
Currently, Wundermaske’s overall dressage average is a 54.7, with an average on this particular dressage test of 54.5. That includes the outlier of 71.3 from Rolex, which doesn’t have a huge effect on the average because of Wundermaske’s significant experience. Since he has shown a lot at this level, he has a lot of data points to help even out the outliers.
However, in three shows since Rolex, Wundermaske has averaged a 42.7 on the flat, a 12 point reduction in score. Combined with a rail and a couple time penalties in show jumping and just under 10 time penalties on cross country, we could see Wundermaske pop into the top three if he continues to show such prowess on the flat.
Boyd Martin and Steadie Eddie: I singled out this horse at Five Points as my sleeper, and I still like him, but I think he’s not quite ready to be competitive in a field like this. At Five Points, he outperformed the numbers and ended up in 3rd, but I think this field will see him in the top 15 outside the top 10. This horse scores in the low 50s on the flat, usually jumps double clear in the stadium, and his cross country time penalties have dwindled with every single show. He’s down to about 10 time penalties and under Boyd’s tutelage, they should continue to drop.