In honor of the 25th anniversary of Fair Hill International this year, I’m bringing you not one, not two, but THREE preview posts of all the horse and rider combinations slated to compete this coming weekend. Fair Hill is widely considered to be the toughest CCI2* and CCI3* competition in the United States, and the entries this year are enormous. Today I’ve got the first half of the CCI2* division, as there are 79 total entrants, talk about a competitive division! Without further ado:
Arianna Almeida & Drummer’s Call: This pair has been competing successfully at the Intermediate level since the beginning of 2013. Ringo is a really lovely athletic horse, and Arianna has had him for quite some time now, so she knows him and rides him well. These two were 5th at the CIC2* at Virginia in the spring, and this will be their first effort together at the CCI2* level.
Susie Beale & Isabella II: This mare is easily one of the most athletic horses I’ve ever seen, and an extremely impressive jumper. While she and Susie have been absent from the upper levels in the past years, in 2009 they competed at the Advanced level multiple times with success. They have competed at Intermediate twice this year, and might still be a little rusty, but have the experience to pull this off at Fair Hill.
Allie Blyskal & Sparrow’s Nio: Allie & Neo have been tearing it up at Advanced recently, looking better than ever. Neo is a grey Connemara gelding, by the famed Grange Finn Sparrow pony stallion. This pair is coming off a 2nd place finish in the extremely competitive Morven Park Advanced, and while dressage might not be Neo’s favorite thing, he makes up for it in the jumping phases. They have completed several CCI2*’s and will be looking for a more competitive result this time around.
Kristen Bond & I’m Sew Ready: I don’t know much about this horse, and they only have two competitions on their record so far, an Intermediate at Plantation Field, where they placed 9th and a second place in the Open Intermediate at Morven Park just recently. As a new ride for Kristen, I’m sure she’ll be looking for an educational clear round for the both of them.
Kristen Bond & Seams Ready: This horse has completed a Preliminary with Kristen, at Plantation Fields where they placed 6th and the pair just had a win at the Area II Intermediate championships. This horse seems to have all the right components of a competitive team, but it’s still a new partnership.
Lara Borson-Knight & Shooby Do: Lara and her bay gelding Shooby have been featured on EN a number of times, as they represent the power of the OTTB quite well. These two have been rocking around the Intermediate levels successfully for some time now, and even made the move up to Advanced at Poplar Place, finishing 9th. Although they were unsuccessful in their attempt at Fair Hill last year, I’m positive they will be on top of their game this year.
Diana Burnett & Diamond Cut III: Diana has not had the best year with this horse. They have not completed a competition since February at the Ocala HT, and have had multiple problems at water jumps on cross country. I’ve seen both this rider and this horse go beautifully at different times, but I fear that 2013 just isn’t their year. Diana is a great rider for the Canadian team, but just needs a little more confidence to make it around this challenging course.
Rebekah Calder & Jazz King: Jazz is one of my favorite horses out there, and one of the best jumpers you could ask for. Rebekah isn’t usually very competitive on the flat with him, but he’s more than capable of jumping double clean in both phases with his eyes shut. I saw him trot several elements of the Advanced at Millbrook, so trust me when I say that he’s got it under control.
Rebekah Calder & The Game Plan: This horse has been competing at the Intermediate level for quite some time now, but this will be his first attempt at the CCI2* level. I haven’t seen him go in person, but he has a decent amount of good results, and Rebekah will be benefiting from having two horses at the same level to give her more information about how to ride the course.
Jenny Caras & Fernhill Fortitude: Jenny and Forty moved up to the Intermediate level last fall, and have completed a few CIC2* competitions since that point, finishing well in all of them. This horse puts in nice, workmanlike dressage tests and jumps around well, and I predict that she’ll get a great education out of this weekend, and possibly be quite competitive.
Kate Chadderton & VS McCuan Civil Liberty: This pair began their Intermediate career together this spring, after a late fall move up in 2012. They’ve been quite successful, with several top placings at horse trials and a 5th place finish at Bromont in the CCI2* this summer. Kate’s got a great eye for super jumping thoroughbreds and Liberty is no different. I think he’ll flourish in the jumping phases and be able to move up quite a bit into a good spot at the end of the weekend.
Leslie Chelstrom & Cecelia: Leslie and Cecelia moved up to Advanced in 2011 and contested the CCI3* here at Fair Hill last fall, successfully finishing in 11th place. They had a great spring at Advanced, including a win at The Fork but ran into problems on the cross country at Bromont in the CCI3*, and have since then seem to have lost a little of their mojo. I heard that this pair simply missed some gallops on their way to the CCI3*, and thus have re-routed to the CCI2*, where they should be quite competitive.
Hallie Coon & Namaste’: Hallie and this chestnut gelding have already been dipping their toes into the Advanced waters this year, with success at a few horse trials. While they aren’t always competitive in the dressage, their extra experience around some tough Advanced tracks will serve them well in the jumping phases this weekend, and a strong performance on cross country could move them up quite a bit.
Buck Davidson & Santa’s Keeper: This lovely dark TB is a real stunner, and I think as he grows up will be a really nice top level horse. This spring he was 2nd at both the Ocala CCI2* and Bromont CCI2*, so you might want to keep an eye out for this horse’s name at the top of the list on Sunday. He thrives on the 3-day format, and this weekend might not be any different.
Buck Davidson & Wiley Post: Buck’s second ride is an old campaigner who knows his job well. Max has been going really well lately, and earlier this spring won the CIC2* at Poplar, and finished 11th at Jersey Fresh in the CCI2*. Buck will be looking to improve upon his show jumping from Jersey this weekend, and finish with a nice clear, which should set them up to be pretty competitive.
Mara DePuy & Alimit: Mara always has really lovely horses underneath her, and Alan is no different. He’s new to the Intermediate level, having only moved up this summer, but he’s been quietly successful so far at each competition. This pair is coming off a 3rd place at Morven in the Intermediate Championships, and I think this is a super talented young horse for the future.
Maggie Deatrick & Divine Comedy: Maggie is another one who’s been testing out the waters at Advanced in preparation for this event, although unfortunately she was one of the victims of the Plantation water complex, so I hope all her bruises are healed for this weekend. This pair had some good results this spring, but seem to have lost their mojo this fall. However, their experience at Advanced should serve them well and they are more than capable of making it through the weekend.
Danielle Dichting & The Graduate: After selling her big horse Tops last year, Dani has a wonderful replacement for the upper levels in Benjamin, a lovely German chestnut gelding. He has all the power in the world, and is fully capable of a solid three phases. He did compete at Advanced a lot in 2012 but has spent the majority of 2013 at the Intermediate level, but is coming fresh off a 3rd place finish at Poplar CIC3*. Their joint experience over tougher courses will serve them well this weekend in the CCI2*.
Lucy Disston & Captain Jack: Lucy and Jack have been competing at the Intermediate level for several years now, but this will be their first time contesting a CCI2*. While this pair do not relish their time in the dressage ring, I think their wealth of experience at the level should help them complete the event and finish the weekend with a smile.
Sarah Dunkerton & Matapeake: Sarah and Petey are a really competitive pair to watch for this weekend. They’re coming off a win at the Poplar CIC2*, and several top five placings at horse trials. They can put in a very nice dressage test and jump to keep that score, and they will be looking for their first completion of a CCI2*. I hope to see this pair in the victory gallop.
Callie Evans & Glendening Avis: Callie is one of my favorite Canadians and Avis is an absolutely stunning big buckskin mare that you just can’t miss. This pair are very competitive on the flat, and quite good at the jumping. Avis might have time penalties on cross country, but I expect that’s about it. They were recently 8th in the super competitive CIC2* division at Plantation Field. Look for these two tearing it up this weekend and stealing all your ribbons.
Eliza Farren & Fuscia Diamond: This horse is a nice Irish type gelding, and has just moved up to the Intermediate level with Eliza in August at GMHA, where they placed 4th. I think their inexperience will keep them from being competitive, but she’ll be happy with a nice clear cross country to teach this young horse more about the level.
Will Faudree & DHI Colour Candy: This is a lovely young horse that was actually 4th here in 2011 and competed at the Advanced level during 2012, but Will took a tumble on XC at last year’s CCI3*, and they have since then returned to the Intermediate and 2* level for 2013. They are coming off a 2nd place at the Morven Intermediate Championships. I really like this horse, and I think Will is a classy rider who can easily bring the two of them into the victory lap this weekend.
Debbie Foote & Fly Me Courageous: This pair moved up to Intermediate this spring, and have contested quite a few horse trials and CIC2*’s in preparation for this event. While the dressage is not their favorite phase, they seem to have a good handle on running fast and jumping clear over the cross country, and I think they’ll do just fine this weekend in their first attempt at a CCI2*.
Nina Fout & Walk About: Nina and this lovely bay thoroughbred gelding moved up to the Intermediate level last fall, and have had some good placings at the horse trials and CIC2* level. They also completed the Jersey Fresh CCI2* this spring in 15th place, and just recently were 6th in a division of Intermediate at Morven Park. The dressage is not their strong phase, but I think this horse will thrive in a jumping competition, which is what Fair Hill usually turns out to be.
Heather Gilette & Boris O’Hara: Boris is a really nice Dutch Warmblood gelding, and has a lot of talent, but sometimes too many opinions! Heather has been really patient figuring out all the keys to getting Boris on the right track, and I hope it’s all in line for her this weekend. I don’t think they’ll be competitive but it will be a great education for Boris and a good move for Heather as she works to let him become her upper level mount.
Ariel Grald & LBF O’leagh’s Image: This is a super pair, and I think they’ll be nicely competitive this weekend. This grey mare can turn in a professional dressage test and she’s a super careful jumper capable of also making the time on cross country, so I expect to see these two in the top realms on Sunday. They were recently 13th in the really competitive CIC2* division at Plantation Field.
Ariel Grald & Fernhill Cove: Ariel’s second ride is a new one for her, as they just joined up earlier this year. The horse has experience at the Intermediate level, but this will be their first CC2* together, and I think they have potential. They are both capable of turning in three solid phases, which should bode well for them after a tough competition like Fair Hill.
Sara Gumbiner & Polaris: Sara and Larry have had a great move up to Intermediate early this spring, and contested their first CCI2* together at Jersey Fresh, finishing in 12th place. They might not be able to catch the low scores on the first day, but they’ll sit in a good position going into cross country, and Larry is a super jumper. I know that this pair will finish with a huge grin and clear jumping efforts.
Brynn Hamel & Cavalier Clover Boy: Brynn and her bay Irish gelding have been competing at the Intermediate level all year, with good results. They don’t always start at the top, but they are very consistent in both jumping phases, and usually good at pulling a double clear in the show jumping when most other people have rails. That kind of performance will go a long way at Fair Hill, and I think they should do well.
Lillian Heard & FYI: FYI is a lovely jumping horse that was previously campaigned by Boyd Martin and recently transitioned to Lillian this summer. They’ve had good results, and are well prepared for the challenge this weekend. Their dressage is on the cuff of being competitive, but in a huge division like this I think she’ll stay right outside the top placings. They will easily jump around the two jumping phases.
Jodi Hemry & In Style: This pair completed the Jersey Fresh CCI2* in 2011, but were missing from action all of 2012 and have come back to the Intermediate level quietly this year. They were 10th at the CIC2* this year at Jersey, and recently 3rd in a division of Intermediate at Plantation. While they are perfectly capable of a nice test on the flat, I think they’ll be edged out by some fierce competition on that day, but they have a great jump record and should be able to climb into a competitive position in the end.
Melissa Hunsberger & Starstruck: I saw this horse at Plantation and it is a super nice jumper, and Melissa rides him very well. Jarmen is a super talented Brandenburg’s Windstar foal with a fierce personality. This pair competed here last year and will be looking to improve upon their dressage score and get around professionally for a better finishing place.
Dasha Ivandaeva & Autorytet: Dasha rides this lovely grey here this weekend, fresh off of Young Riders this summer. This pair dipped their toe into the Advanced pool at Plantation and finished, but encountered some troubles on cross country. That education will serve her well for getting around here this weekend.
Holly Jacks & More Inspiration: My other favorite Canadian competing here this weekend is Holly. We were stabled next to one another at Plantation and you couldn’t ask for a nicer girl! Holly’s horse has an extremely cool story, as he was gifted to her as a young TB by her grandfather, went on to win over $90K for Holly at the track, and now has become her first awesome upper level horse. Morris can run and jump like nobody’s business, and whatever small lead she gives away in the dressage she’ll steal right back after running double clear for the next two days. She’s coming off a super finish at Plantation, placing 10th in the very competitive CIC2* division.
Kimberly Kojima & High Time II: This pair has had an easy year, with a few Intermediate horse trials early in the spring, and a clear effort at the Ocala CCI2*, finishing in 18th place. They’ve had one Intermediate since then, finishing 4th at Poplar Place in preparation for this weekend. They won’t be able to be competitive on the flat, but they should jump around just fine.
Leah Lang-Gluscic & AP Prime: We know Leah & AP from EN’s Got Talent earlier this year, where we learned his story from the CANTER ranks to the 2* level. They’ve been competing at the Intermediate level since 2012, but this will be their first CCI2*. These two have had some really good results recently, including a 14th at the competitive Richland CIC2* and a win at Otter Creek. If all goes their way, they could be nicely competitive this weekend.
Leslie Law & Billy Wiz: Billy moved up to the Intermediate level this spring, but so far has done no worse than 4th place at any of his competitions, culminating in a recent 4th place finish at the Poplar CIC2*. With Leslie in the irons you can bet he’ll get around the course clean and I’d put money on these two being in the top 15 at least on Sunday.
Edith Lee & Prince Halory: Edith has the distinction of riding the only stallion this weekend, as this chestnut TB takes on his first CCI2*. They are new to the Intermediate level, having completed two horse trials and a CIC2*. They were 2nd at Otter Creek in August, and 15th most recently at the AEC’s. They’ll be looking for a nice round to complete their first effort at this level.
Part II debuts tomorrow, so hold onto your hats! The CCI3* preview will be on Wednesday morning, prior to the beginning of the competition.