September’s Poplar Place event is a staple of the southern eventing circuit and a good prep for those who are headed to the American Eventing Championships. The Poplar courses are always solid, intimidating and creative. Hilly terrain makes this course all the more challenging, so a clear round here is a solid accomplishment.
With Plantation Field heavily waitlisted for next week, it’s possible that we will see some last second entries in the CIC3* and Advanced this weekend. Marilyn Little is cross-entered with three of her pairs at Plantation, while a couple of others have completely defected from the Plantation wait lists to re-route for a sure run at Poplar. The CIC3* is a healthy field of just over 20 entries, while the Advanced is a bit more sparse with only six.
Poplar Place is the sole eastern event to choose 2015 FEI 3*-A for the fall, as Fair Hill will be running the B test. Happily, Poplar also traditionally chooses the more difficult Advanced test, 2014 USEF A-A, for their fall event. Tremaine Cooper is the long-standing cross country course designer for Poplar, while Jan Brodkin, who also does Rocking Horse, designs the show jumping.
TOP FIVE CIC3*
1. Marilyn Little and RF Demeter: Marilyn and her ever-consistent partner RF Demeter are back at it for the first time since winning the CCI3* at Bromont in June. A trip down south would pay off for them as they look to make it two wins in a row.
RF Demeter has done this test only once so far, scoring a 46.7 at Red Hills earlier this year. Marilyn and this mare jumped double clear over their only Jan Brodkin course at Rocking Horse in 2013, and when show jumping comes first, these two almost always jump double clear.
This pair has three double clear cross country rounds over Tremaine Cooper’s course at The Fork, and while the hills of Poplar might make it tougher to meet optimum time, you can be sure that RF Demeter will be one of the swiftest rounds. Look for these two on top with a final score in the mid-40s.
2. Marilyn Little and RF Quarterman: Marilyn has brought a string of five hugely talented horses to this show, and quantity doesn’t necessarily negate quality in this instance. RF Quarterman, though young, has been showing his potential all year and should be able to obtain his highest placing to date as he begins his prep for his first overseas competition at Boekelo CCI3*.
RF Quarterman is another who did this test at Red Hills, with his score of 47.0 displaying his potential. While he hasn’t jumped a Jan Brodkin course yet, he’s likely to go double clear as he has yet to have a rail in a CIC3*. This will be his first run over a Tremaine Cooper course, but overall this horse averages only 8.8 time penalties across the country. Marilyn will complete her double with a score in the mid-50s.
3. Jon Holling and Downtown Harrison: Downtown Harrison has already had a good start to his post-injury campaign with a win at the Chattahoochee Hills Advanced a couple of weeks ago. Jon could keep it rolling with a top three placing this weekend as he prepares for a run at the AECs.
Downtown Harrison hasn’t done any of the new 2015 FEI tests yet, but he is quite proficient on the flat, averaging a 44.3 since 2013. He jumped clear over the same Jan Brodkin Rocking Horse course as RF Demeter in 2013. Jon will be taking the horse over his first Tremaine Cooper course in quite some time, but overall these two average 12.8 time penalties across the country. The should nab third, with a score in the mid-to-high 50s.
4. Ronald Zabala and Mr. Wiseguy: Ronald and his longtime partner are back at it again. Ronald withdrew this horse after doing the combined test at Richland, but if he decides to tackle the full course here, he should come away with a top five placing.
Mr. Wiseguy hasn’t done this test yet, but averages a 49.7 overall this year. This pair does overall average one rail and 3 time penalties in the show jumping phase. A quick run across the country with only 6.8 time penalties should help them snag fourth place with a score in the low 60s.
5. Abby Hamblin and Silver Flash: After moving up to Advanced earlier this year, Abby and Silver Flash took a summer break after finishing fourth in their first CIC3* at Chattahoochee Hills in May. This pair had a clear run over the Poplar course in March, which will come in handy as they tackle their second CIC3*.
Silver Flash will be fairly low on the board after dressage if he matches the 65.0 scored on this test in May. But these two will begin to climb the ranks in show jumping, with two rails over a Jan Brodkin course that will likely cause plenty of trouble. This pair really nips quickly across the country, and if they match the 4.8 time penalties they accumulated over March’s Poplar course, they’ll fly up the ranks. Look for this promising young pair in fifth on a score in the mid-70s.
THE DARK HORSE
Ronald Zabala and Master Boy: Ronald is bringing not just one, but three horses down to Georgia, and his Pan Ams partner is one of them. Master Boy has been quite the world traveler for Ronald since competing at Rolex in 2013, heading to France for the World Equestrian Games test event first, then in May finishing second (behind Mr. Wiseguy) at Campo de Mayo CIC3* in Brazil. Previously campaigned through the four-star level with Oliver Townend, Master Boy is no slouch in any of the three phases and could make this weekend very interesting.
Kyle Carter and FR’s Trust Fund: FR’s Trust Fund is a horse to keep an eye on. At his first Advanced last month, he scored the equivalent of a 44.0, which might be enough to hold the lead this weekend. Unfortunately, the other two phases didn’t go quite as well, with a clear show jumping round marred by significant time penalties and a blip across the country. Kyle is sure to sort all that out quickly, and when he does, this horse will be quite formidable.
Marilyn Little and RF Scandalous: Everyone should keep an eye on the results from Poplar this weekend if only to see how our reigning Pan Ams individual champion handles her first three-star. The potential of RF Scandalous has been discussed ad nauseum, so I won’t re-hash it again. Needless to say, this is a big weekend for this mare. No pressure, Marilyn.
TOP TWO ADVANCED
1. Joe Meyer and Clip Clop: Clip Clop is a new partnership for Joe in 2015, and after an initial hiccup early on Joe stepped back and spent most of the spring getting to know this horse. He recently moved Clip Clop back up to the highest level at Richland, putting in a strong effort in all three phases to complete the horse’s first CIC3*.
Clip Clop probably won’t be in the lead from the beginning with an overall average of 37.4 on the flat. He’ll make up headway by jumping double clean over Jan Brodkin’s course on the second day. While Clip Clop hasn’t run over a Tremaine Cooper course yet, his average of only 2.8 time penalties overall will clinch the lead on a score just over 40.
2. Brittany Kart and Llewellyn: Brittany and her experienced partner tackled this course earlier this year, scoring a clean run at the Poplar Place March Advanced. No stranger to this level, Llewellyn will be putting his experience to good use this weekend.
Llewellyn performed this test twice earlier this year to the tune of a 30.7 average, likely good enough for the lead here. These two did accumulate two rails when jumping Jan Brodkin’s course in March. A clean run to match the 17.2 time penalties they accumulated in March over Tremaine’s cross country will still drop them to no worse than second. Brittany and Llewellyn will finish with the red ribbon on a score in the mid-50s.