Lexington CCI4*-S Dressage Concludes with Double Dose of Halliday-Sharp and Smith + Kozumplik

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Cooley Be Cool. Photo by Abby Powell.

Dressage for the third annual running of the Cosequin Lexington CCI4*-S at the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event presented by MARS Equestrian concluded this morning with a couple of changes to the leaderboard, but familiar names remain.

The top test of the day came from Liz Halliday-Sharp and 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Heritage Fortunus — HHHS Carlota) Cooley Be Cool, earning a mark of 25.5, an achingly close score to stablemate Cooley Nutcracker who retains the lead in this division on a 26.5.

“He changed behind first in his first change, which he never does, but I think he was just a bit excited. Had he not done that I think he would have been on the same score as [Cooley Nutcracker], which is super cool, because this is still his personal best at the level. I’m totally thrilled with him,” Liz said of her test.

Owned by Ocala Horse Properties and The Monster Partnership, “Dave” was sourced through Richard Sheane of Cooley Farm, as many of Liz’s horses are.

“Richard, when we found him, said this one will be a slow burner. He said he might not be a winner at the low levels, but he’s going to be a really top five-star horse,” Liz recalls, “And yeah, I actually totally agree.”

After two wins in the early season last year — one in the CCI3-S at Carolina International and the other in the CCI4-S at The Event at TerraNova — some time off over the rest of the 2022 competition season did “Dave” some good, helping him to mature.

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Cooley Be Cool. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

“I think it was the making of him. He came out this year like a different horse, just more professional, lighter on his feet, and just really wanting to do the job,” Liz said. “He’s incredibly scopey, but he is very cheeky and very arrogant. So that’s kind of been the biggest training. He’s a lot like Cooley Quicksilver in that way — they’re quite similar horses like that, so it’s been a matter of sort of getting him on side and also just managing that.”

Speaking of Cooley Quicksilver, last year’s winner of this division: Liz opted not to bring him for a return trip to Kentucky to defend his title. Impressed enough by his winning performance in the Stable View 4*-S this spring and with a cap at four entries per rider over this weekend, Liz determined the gelding didn’t need the extra run here prior to taking another crack at the Luhmühlen 5* this year. This decision allowed her to bring Dave instead, who, at 10-years-old would benefit more from the extra prep and big atmosphere that Kentucky brings prior to making his 5* debut as he’ll travel alongside “Monster” to Luhmühlen this year.

Tamie Smith and Elliot V slip into equal fourth place at the culmination of the first phase. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Solaguayre California, Tamie’s mount in this division yesterday, now sits in third place with their score of 27.6. Not far behind them, however, is … Tamie Smith, this time with Elliot V, and also Sara Kozumplik aboard Rock Phantom. Elliot V and Rock Phantom both scored a 28.4 to share equal fourth place.

Elliot V came to Tamie through her student Louisa Southworth, who rode the gelding through the CCI2*-L level and then handed the reins to Tamie when it was time to go off to college. Lousia and her parents remain involved in the gelding’s future as members of the Elliot V Partnership which now owns the 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood (Zavall VDL –Vera R).

“He’s super talented and he has all the ingredients, so we syndicated him and they stay part of it. It’s only been two years to solidify a partnership, so we’ve had our ups and downs with everything, trying to figure it all out. But he’s a super jumper and galloper and just trying to teach him the game,” said Tamie.

“It’s been a work in progress with him and getting him stronger. That big atmosphere is quite a anxious type of force, but he was so good. I’m really, really pleased.”

Sara Kozumplik and Rock Phantom. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The third to last ride of the day was an emotional one. For one, Sara Kozumplik and Rock Phantom knocked nearly two marks off the gelding’s previous personal best at the level, dipping into the twenties for the first time.

Sara took over the ride on “Rocky,” a 12-year-old Irish Sport Horse (Spirit House — Ballycroy Rose) roughly a year and a half ago from Nilson Moreira da Silva, who previously brought him to the four-star level. Sara and her long-time friend snap supported Edith Rameika were looking for a horse for Sara to fill the gaps between her young up-and-comers and her experienced campaigner Rubens D’Ysieux who, at 18 years old, Sara has retired from long-format events.

But the tears in Sara’s eye at the conclusion of her test weren’t really for her score; they were for longtime mentor and friend Jimmy Wofford, for whom she wore a green ribbon over heart. A patron saint of U.S. eventing, Jimmy lost his battle with pancreatic cancer earlier this year.

An emotional Sara leaves the ring after her test with Rock Phantom. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“It sounds awful, but I’m kind of glad we lost him before this event because he was very proud of never missing this,” Sara told us. “He actually would have struggled to come in the COVID year because he was having quite a lot of chemo during that time. And so the year it didn’t run, he probably couldn’t have come that year. But he actually never missed it. He was here last year, and he was here the year before that. The impact he’s had on my life, I can’t describe.

Jimmy’s presence is synonymous with the Kentucky Three-Day Event thanks to his involvement over the years as a competitor, coach to so many, and commentator.

“He’s like a father figure to me, and to so many. It is a special place and he’s definitely here,” Sara said. “I think I’m only one little piece of it. You can talk to a thousand people here this weekend that would say the same thing.”

Tomorrow is cross country day and the four-star entrants will leave the start box first, beginning at 9:15 AM. As always, EN will be here to bring you along for the ride.

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