Welcome to the week of Richland Park! This is a huge event for the midwest and is generally the first FEI event most of the big name riders attend as they get back into swing for the fall season. Of course, this year we are missing quite a few of the Richland regulars, with the WEG team and their alternates making the hop across the pond this weekend.
What does that mean? Without most of our top U.S. pairs, the Richland field is suddenly wide open. Today I’m going discuss who I think our top 5 finishers in the CIC3* will be, a dark horse who has a chance of proving that numbers are just numbers and a sleeper who may not be in the top here, but might have the potential to develop into world class.
For a short explanation, 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 or CIC/CCI3* and CCI4* run from every single pair who has attempted the level in the United States in 2013 and 2014. I’d have loved to go back further, but let’s face it, I have a day job and a horse of my own to ride on occasion. I’m sure you all can relate!
In any case, this database contains not just bare scores, but also who the cross country and show jumping course designers were for the show, how long the cross country track was, what type of surfaces the dressage and show jumping were held on, which dressage test was performed, and going forward will have the dressage judges and their respective scores. I may add other information as time goes on, so if you have a suggestion of good factors to take into consideration, email EN at [email protected] and let me know.
For now, I’ve left the analysis fairly bare bones, because Rome was not built in a day. As I move forward, I will probably begin correlating dressage scores as well as determining if a show is abnormal compared to other shows, but for now, we 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. Advanced dressage scores are converted into what their FEI scores would be be, and vice versa.
For Richland Park, the dressage test will be 2009 FEI 3* B. The cross country course designer is Ian Stark and the show jumping course designer is Marc Donovan. Marc Donovan tends to mostly do East Coast shows, while Ian Stark primarily designs in the west, so this show is a curious case of east meets west.
1. Michael Pollard and Mensa: Michael and Mensa average a 47.3 when performing this dressage test, which should put them in the top three, but not first place, after the flat. Mensa generally has one rail over Marc Donovan show jumping courses, and averages zero jump and 4.8 time penalties for Ian Stark cross country courses. This should give him a final score of approximately 56.1, edging out Sharon and Under Suspection.
2. Sharon White and Under Suspection: Sharon and Under Suspection average a 50.4 performing 2009 FEI 3* B. The mare has a clear show jumping record over Marc Donovan courses, with no jump or time. While the pair hasn’t yet tackled an Ian Stark cross country course, they average only 7.6 time penalties with a clear round at the Advanced and CIC3* level. This should bring them home close to 58.0, tucking them neatly into second place.
3. Maya Black and Doesn’t Play Fair: Maya and Doesn’t Play Fair are only in their first year at this level, but have already racked up an impressive record. In their previous experiences with this dressage test, this pair averages a 49.3. Doesn’t Play Fair and Maya jumped clear over Donovan’s show jumps at Carolina, the one time they’ve seen his course design. The pair hasn’t seen an Ian Stark course at this level yet, but have yet to earn a jump penalty on cross country, coming home with an average of 9.6 time penalties. They should end up in third near 58.9 penalties.
4. Colleen Rutledge and Covert Rights: Despite Covert Rights’ relatively young age, he’s already somewhat experienced at this level, having been aimed at Fair Hill CCI3* last fall until Colleen broke herself at Morven two weeks prior. He scores averages a 50.4 when performing this test, which puts him solidly in the top group after dressage. However, he took some time off this year to work on his flat and came out swinging at Millbrook with a 28.8 (equivalent to a 43.2), so could end up on top if his new form stays consistent. On Ian Stark courses, he tends to jump clean, with only 6.8 average time penalties, and while he does tend to add one rail in Marc Donovan show jumping, he ought to finish solidly around 60.8 penalties.
5. Jon Holling and Zatopek B: It’s a close race for fifth, with three pairs clustered within a point, but I’m giving the edge to Jon here. This horse generally scores around 54.9 when performing the 2009 FEI 3* B test and averages only one rail on Marc Donovan designed show jumping courses. This pair tends to go clear on Ian Stark cross country courses, bring home an average of 11.6 time penalties. While Zatopek had a little trouble on cross country this spring, all of his issues occurred at the CCI3* and 4* level, so a CIC3* should be no trouble. Overall, he should end up around 70.5 penalties, solidly out of the top four but clearly the best of the rest.
THE DARK HORSE
Mackenna Shea and Landioso: This pair has the power to ruin everyone else’s day, if things go their way. In all likelihood, they will be in first after dressage, as they average a solid 46.6 for this test. Mackenna and Landioso have no experience on Marc Donovan show jumping courses, but average four jump and four time. However, she has not had a rail at the Advanced or CIC3* level since early 2013, so she could potentially turn in a clean round with only one or two time penalties.
Now, the reason that Mackenna currently doesn’t rank in my top 5 is because she incurred a stop on the only Ian Stark course she’s ridden in my records, at Galways Downs in March 2013. Going by my formula, she’ll finish with a stop on another Ian Stark course. But one sample doesn’t take into consideration all the courses she’s ridden since, where she’s been clear save a fluke fall early at Jersey Fresh. If Mackenna keeps on her current form, she could easily crack the top five.
Kendal Lehari and Totally Frank: This pair has been hanging out under the radar all spring, with placings in the top third of the divisions at all of their competitions this year. Totally Frank only moved up to Advanced this winter at Pine Top and has quickly proven he belongs there, with no XC jump penalties on his Advanced and 3* record. This pair skipped around Red Hills Advanced, Fair Hill CIC3*, and Bromont CCI3* with only 29 seconds total over optimum time for all three shows.
At every show where show jumping was before cross country, the pair has had zero rails, and recently at the Bromont CCI3*, they had only one rail. Right now, the dressage is bouncing between a 53 and a 63, with not much in between. If Kendal can help her horse more consistently score in the 53 range, this pair will be landing in the top 10 at every competition instead of the top third. Canada should keep an eye on this pair, because I bet they will be primed and ready for Rio 2016.