Red Hills continues to evolve, looking for ways to better serve both riders and spectators to ensure strong participation and big audiences. Their efforts are paying off, with nearly 50 horses entered in the CIC3* and another baker’s dozen in the Advanced, both improvements over last year’s entry numbers.
In an effort to give the riders options while also preserving the chance for an exciting show jumping conclusion, the CIC3* will run with show jumping on Saturday morning before the cross country, while the Advanced division will show jump on Sunday after running the course on Saturday. This is an ideal way to give riders options to do what is best for their horse in their preparations for the spring CCI competitions.
The dressage test will be 2015 FEI 3*-A. The cross country course designer, new for 2016, is Mike Etherington-Smith, and the show jumping course designer is Fuzzy Mayo. Mike Etherington-Smith will also be designing at Great Meadow later this year as well at Plantation Field in the fall. Fuzzy Mayo is exclusively seen at this event.
1. Lauren Kieffer and Meadowbrook’s Scarlett: It’s become difficult to bet against Lauren these days. Because Meadowbrook’s Scarlett is strong in all three phases, she consistently appears at the top of the leaderboard, and this week will be no exception.
Meadowbrook’s Scarlett favors this particular dressage test, averaging a 43.5 in the two times she’s executed it. This will be her first time jumping a Fuzzy Mayo course, but she averages only one rail per round at this level. Her biggest strength is across the country, where she averages only 1.6 time penalties. If she matches that across her first Mike Etherington-Smith course, she’ll give Lauren the blue with a score just under 50.
2. Maya Black and Doesn’t Play Fair: Maya and Doesn’t Play Fair had a stellar run in their first year at Advanced in 2014, then cooled off slightly during 2015. With more experience under their belt, this pair could be the surprise pair of 2016 if they show they can put all the pieces together in one weekend.
Although they haven’t done this particular test yet, Maya and Doesn’t Play Fair average a 48.4 on the flat, which will have them stalking the leaders just after the first phase. Doesn’t Play Fair hasn’t jumped a Fuzzy Mayo course, but he averages one rail per round overall. Across the country, he is quicker than average when Mike Etherington-Smith is the designer, racking up only 3.6 time penalties. Look for these two in second place, with a score in the mid-50s.
3. Lauren Kieffer and Landmark’s Monte Carlo: Once again, Lauren is bringing multiple horses to the party, and while Meadowbrook’s Scarlett flew under the radar last year, Landmark’s Monte Carlo will be flying under the radar this year. This horse already has some overseas experience under his belt after a season in England with Lauren’s string last fall.
“Patrick” is another who excels at this test, averaging a 47.5, nearly 1.5 points better than his overall average. This horse also averages one rail per round, though this will be his first attempt at a Fuzzy Mayo course. He hasn’t yet seen a Mike Etherington-Smith course, but a quick average of only 5.6 time penalties across the country will serve him well. Lauren will lock up third place with a score in the mid-to-high 50s.
4. Phillip Dutton and Fernhill Fugitive: Fernhill Fugitive is the most experienced of Phillip’s trio in the three-star this weekend. This horse has been blossoming as of late, with his dressage dropping consistently into the 40s and his feet becoming very careful over the colored poles in the latter part of 2015.
Fernhill Fugitive has only done this test once, but he knocked it out of the park with a 43.4, nearly seven points better than his overall average. In his only attempt at a Fuzzy Mayo course, he incurred two rails in what was only his second Advanced. This will be his first crack at a Mike Etherington-Smith course, but an average of 7.2 penalties will still bring him home in fourth place, with a score in the high 50s.
5. Matt Brown and Super Socks BCF: Matt and his stalwart Super Socks BCF are coming here after running just the dressage test at Pine Top, where Super Socks BCF knocked off some rust. Expect this pair to bring their A game after a great finish at Boekelo CCIO3* last fall.
This horse can be hit or miss with this particular test, overall averaging a 50.4 when attempting it. Matt and Super Socks BCF average a rail and 1 time penalty while show jumping, although this will be their first Fuzzy Mayo course. A swift average of only 6.4 time penalties will serve them well as they attempt their first Mike Etherington-Smith course. Look for them to round out the top five with a score just over 60.
Selena O’Hanlon and Foxwood High: The last time that Selena and Foxwood High attempted this dressage test, at this event last year, they scored a 57.7. Since then, they’ve dropped their dressage average by an astonishing 15 points. In all likelihood, this pair’s final score will be about 15 points below what the numbers predict, putting them up near the very top of the division.
THE DARK HORSE
Phillip Dutton and Mr. Candyman: One of the less-experienced horses in Phillip’s three-star string, Mr. Candyman only stepped up to this level for the first time at Millbrook last summer. In his only attempt at a Mike Etherington-Smith course, he accumulated a stop on cross country at Plantation Field CIC3* last fall. However, that stop is his only blemish on his cross country record thus far, and a clean run across the country would put this pair right near the top of the leaderboard.
Phillip Dutton and Sportsfield Candy: Phillip has another potential star on his hands with the sweetly named Sportsfield Candy, owned by Patricia Vos. Previously ridden by Jenn Simmons, this horse just recently stepped up to Advanced at Pine Top a couple of weeks ago, where he finished in fifth. Simply matching his scores from that show would put this horse up in the top five.
Number of entries: 14
Pairs to watch:
- Phillip Dutton and Indian Mill
- Liz Halliday-Sharp and Fernhill By Night
- Lauren Kieffer and Veronica
- Sara Kozumplik-Murphy and Catchascatchcan