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We knew we’d see some heavy hitters coming in to take their swing at the CCI5* dressage on day two at the Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill. No one would quite make it to challenge the top of the board, which will still be occupied by Great Britain’s Oliver Townend and Cooley Master Class on a score of 21.1, but New Zealand’s Tim Price was good for second place with Trisha Rickards’ Xavier Faer (Catherston Liberator – Faerie Dazzler, by Catherston Dazzler). Tim and “Hugo” collected one of a handful of 5* personal bests given out this afternoon, earning a 24.3 from the judging panel of Angela Tucker, Mark Weissbecker and Martin Plewa to tick a few marks off his previous best score of 28.2.
Despite one bobble in the flying change work, Tim says he was very pleased with the 15-year-old British Sport Horse gelding’s work in the ring today.
“He struggles with this dressage job where he’s got to put his body together the whole time repackage step under,” Tim said. “And if I don’t quite get that mastered in time for something quite difficult like a change he just gets a bit discombobulated and that’s what happened. That’s improved when he started at this level. I think I was lucky to get one of the four changes and now we’re getting three of the four and the rest of the quality is up, so I’ve got to be pleased. Every horse has strengths and weaknesses and you sit them on.”
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Both Tim and Jonelle Price’s horses this week are owned by Trisha Rickards, and it was thanks to her unwavering support that they opted to hop on a plane to the U.S. rather than the much logistically simpler trip to Pau, happening later this month. The big and open nature of this track, they said, is something they felt suited their horses better than the twists and turns of Pau, not to mention the fact that this was a supreme opportunity to experience and test out a brand-new five-star. Jonelle and Classic Moet also did their dressage today, and though “Molly’s” preference wouldn’t exactly be the first phase, but they earned a respectable 30.6 to sit 16th.
Boyd Martin has had Christine Turner’s On Cue fit and raring to go all summer, as she was designated as his alternate ride for the Tokyo Olympics. The 15-year-old Anglo European mare (Cabri d’Elle – On High, by Primitive Rising) traveled to the training came held at Aachen with the team, but ultimately was not called up. So after a couple of weeks of downtime upon return to the States, Boyd began legging her back up for this weekend. On Cue beat her 4* and 5* personal bests with her score, earning a 25.0 to slot into third place overnight.
“A lot of preparation and practice and hard work goes into performing this dressage test,” Boyd commented. “Even though it’s only seven minutes long, there’s hundreds and thousands of hours of practice to get to that point. I was obviously thrilled with On Cue, she’s just a fantastic horse I love her. She’s flamboyant, she’s a mover, she’s really smart and tries hard. You stay up late at night worrying that little things are going to go wrong and I was just really, really pleased with the way she performed.”
Lauren Nicholson is here this weekend with Ms. Jacqueline Mars’ Landmark’s Monte Carlo (Formula One – Glamour), who also earned a personal best with a 28.5 as one of the final pairs to see in the ring today. It’s always a special weekend for Lauren, but with Hannah Sue Burnett’s Harbour Pilot also competing, we have two among the original homebreds produced out of Ms. Mars’ breeding program.
“He’s not the most flashy mover, but if you have him where he’s relaxed and quiet he’ll go in there and just knock off the movements,” Lauren said. “Especially in an atmosphere like this being accurate and just going through the movements without having any tension will get you up the leaderboard.”
Phillip Dutton was also among the last to go today to wrap up the dressage with Ann Jones, Tom Tierney and David Vos’ Fernhill Singapore (Singapore – Riedellia, by Animo), who improved on his debut 5* score of 35.0, earned at Kentucky, with a 29.0 to end the first phase in ninth place. Phillip is here with two younger horses this weekend; the Sea of Clouds Partnership’s Sea of Clouds did his test yesterday in his 5* debut and earned a 31.5 for 20th place overnight.
Another visitor from Great Britain, Harry Meade, was tickled with his ride about Superstition, a 12-year-old Hanoverian gelding by Satisfaction FRH. This pair earned a 29.1 to complete the top 10. “Slinky” (who got his nickname because he originally came in with the barn name “Stinky”, but he didn’t want to call him that so they took the cross of the t and went with “Slinky” instead) is one who Harry says get a bit of “stage fright”, and so he’s tried to come up with empathetic ways to encourage him to breathe and engage his diaphragm. Listen to him explain it:
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“In some ways he exceeded my expectations,” Harry continued. “The trot work like he was on air. He’s a horse that you can’t practice the test too much on. He hasn’t been in a dressage saddle in a week. I’ve galloped him every day. I did some pole work before my test and then ran through a three-star test. Got off him for 5 minutes, got back on him two minutes before, and went in. I had to run through the test a million times in my head because I couldn’t work him through it. He executed everything I wanted and actually to a higher level than I’d hoped for. It was just the changes, he got a little bit tight.”
As we look ahead to tomorrow’s challenge, 40 out of the 45 starters are separated by just 20 penalties. We know with certainty that the dressage scores won’t quite matter so much come tomorrow evening, but we have a unique circumstance in that there is no precedent at this event. We don’t know how the track will end up in terms of average completion rate or average number to make the time. Speaking with the riders throughout the week, the general sentiment is that the track is to be respected and the terrain will be influential. You can check out our preview of the 5* track here.
We will kick things off in the morning with the CCI3*-L cross country at 9:15 a.m., followed by the CCI5*-L at 1 p.m.. You can find 5* start times here and CCI3* times here. The weather forecast is calling for rain, with scattered storms forecasted to begin around 2 p.m. and lasting through the afternoon, so that adds another layer of challenge to the track. We can’t wait to get out there — and thank you to everyone who joined Ema Klugman and Kate Samuels for our course walk this afternoon in partnership with RideiQ!
Until tomorrow — Go Eventing!
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