Coverage of Tryon International this weekend is brought to you by Strides for Equality Equestrians (SEE). Diversity and inclusion in all equestrian sports are important, and we’ll be bringing you tidbits on what this new organization hopes to accomplish.
Although the heavy focus this weekend is on the 4*-L division, a healthy group of both young guns and old favorites have come forth to contest the 4*-S division. This is an interesting offering by Tryon; they have held Advanced divisions in the fall under the name of Blue Ridge Mountain Horse Trials as well as Advanced and 4*-S divisions in the spring after taking over the nomenclature of The Fork. But this will be the first time this style of division is run under the venue name itself. For this venue, regardless of the name, Captain Mark Phillips has done the course design with Chris Barnard on tap for the stadium phase. This will hold true for this weekend as well, for both divisions.
We’ll be bringing you day by day coverage of the 4*-L including jog photos a bit later, but for now we are focused on the 4*-S division, which does dressage and cross-country on Friday, then follows up with stadium on Saturday.
Time has not been easy to catch in the Advanced and 4*-S divisions held at Tryon; in 150 pairs who have left the startbox, only six have caught the optimum. Three pairs made the optimum at The Fork 4*-S in 2017, and then another three pairs in the same division in 2018; none have finished inside the time since.
New to the level this year, Zick Zack has proven promising in this phase under Elinor MacPhail O’Neal, who has averaged a smart 30.5 penalties in this phase in four starts and has dropped his score by at least 1 point with every consecutive test. Most recently he broke the 70% barrier for the first time at the Florida Horse Park Advanced, clocking in at 27.3 penalties.
For a consistently good performer, we look to Will Faudree and the experienced Caeleste. Although lightly competed through the years, she has been at this level since 2015 and in the last two years has knocked approximately 3.5 points off her average. From 2015 to 2018, this mare averaged 34.6 penalties in this phase but across three tests in 2019/2020 she has averaged only 31.3 penalties. That includes a personal best of 27.4 just last month, the first time at this level Caeleste has broken the 70% barrier.
Another experienced campaigner to keep an eye on is last year’s Fair Hill 4*-L winner, Paddy the Caddy. Although he and Erin Sylvester most often sit in the 32 to 35 scoring range (doing so in seven of nine A/4/5* starts since 2019), this little Thoroughbred can occasionally pack a real punch. Just earlier this year, he laid down a personal best of 26.5 at the Great Meadow 4*-S, and while that type of test isn’t the norm for Paddy the Caddy, it’s certainly not outside of his capabilities.
With time likely being tough to make, the cross-country phase could be a real game changer. Those with speed should excel in this phase and use it to move up in leaps and bounds. Unfortunately, some of the greener horses may find this too big a task; it’s likely that we will see horses like Zick Zack tumble down the ranks in this phase.
That leaves an opening for horses like Simply Priceless to strike from further down the order. Despite not having started at this level since February of 2019, the experience of this horse cannot be discounted; in fifteen career A/4*-S finishes paired with Elisa Wallace, this horse has finished within 10 seconds of either optimum time or the fastest cross-country time in all but three of them. While they might not quite be the fastest time of the day, they are sure to be close to it and therein lies their advantage.
Caeleste is likely to accumulate enough time penalties to slip by a place or three, with an average speed rating of 22.33 seconds; even edging into double digit time penalties will be enough to keep a foothold within the top five. The interesting horse to watch will be Paddy the Caddy; this horse’s speed has generally been saved for the long format but he can certainly make the time even at the short format if Erin Sylvester wants to. It’s a good bet that Erin will be looking to press the pace this weekend and make a splash; with a 4*-L win from 2019 already serving as their Tokyo qualifier, they will want to stay on the radar for the team with a good showing in this division weekend, having forgone the opportunity to go head to head with a number of other team hopefuls in the 4*-L.
Clip Clop with Joe Meyer, Van Gough under Jacob Fletcher, and Bogue Sound ridden by Jessica Phoenix are all experienced pairs that will be able to put the pedal to the metal and stalk into the top ten on the strength of their speed.
No matter how fast Simply Priceless goes, he won’t be able to outrun the stadium phase. Incurring at least one rail is a near certainty for this horse, having last jumped a clear round at this level back in 2016. A single rail could keep him contesting for a top five slot but more than that will leave the door open for others to capitalize.
Erin Sylvester and Paddy the Caddy will take advantage of that opening, being 8 for 8 on clear rounds in their A/4/5* starts in 2018 and 2020. They’ve also never had more than one rail in their entire A/4* career, incurring only four rails total in a whopping 26 starts. These two will be able to fully capitalize in this phase.
Another pair ready to capitalize on any mistakes at the top is once again Caeleste and Will Faudree, who also have a very clean record, if significantly less extensive. In eight A/4* starts, they’ve incurred only two rails, jumping clean at all of their 4*-S rounds save one. A clear round is more likely than not with this pair and should send them hunting for a top two position.
Overall, this is not the strongest field of jumpers for the stadium phase; any pair who can hold it to one rail or even pull off a clear round will be able to hugely capitalize on the final day.
Erin Sylvester and Paddy the Caddy are too experienced to discount and have long since proven their ability to finish on their solid (or better) dressage score. There are a couple of young horses who could give them a run for their money and certainly Caeleste will be right there as well, but these two will be out to make a statement.
NEW TO THE LEVEL
CharmKing should get a serious look by all as a possible wild card this weekend; currently piloted by Lillian Heard, this horse has averaged a 30.5 in two starts, jumped two clear stadium rounds, and finished with only six seconds over optimum time in his only cross-country completion. Although a rider fall does mar his record, he’s got some serious promise for the future and if he can match his previous performances, could pull a rabbit out of a hat this weekend.
Also having early success at the level are Trendy Fernhill and Jenny Caras. With three starts under their belt, they’ve broken 70% on one occasion and narrowly missed it on a second, put in two clear stadium rounds out of three, and finished as the fastest time of the day in the horse’s first try at the level back in February. Although the dressage and stadium phases both regressed slightly in their most recent start at Chattahoochee Hills (where cross-country was ultimately cancelled due to rain), this is certainly a pair to keep an eye on.
- Atlantic Vital Spark, previously ridden through the 4*-L level by William Fox-Pitt, is paired with new rider Lucienne Elms in the CCI3*-L.
- Cosby Green will make her FEI debut with the former Buck Davidson ride Copper Beach in the CCI2*-L.
- Catalina, a former 4* ride of Jennie Brannigan’s, will be in the OP with a Texas-based rider.
- Spring Easy will be contesting the CCI3*-L with young rider Maddie McElduff.
- Former Boyd Martin 4* ride Contestor is paired with a new rider in the CCI2*-L.
- Wise Santano II, who led the field after two phases at the Rio Olympics, will be in the OP with Ronald Zabala.
Keep it locked on EN for all the latest!