Truth be told, Liz Halliday-Sharp was a little frustrated with her show jumping performance yesterday. Two seconds cost her a $15,000 lead. But, Liz isn’t one to wallow, she woke up today with a steely expression and one goal in mind: go fast and clear.
This afternoon she was the only rider to finish inside the time not once, but twice. Debbie Palmer and Ocala Horse Properties’ Miks Master C was her winning ride, coming in a smashing six seconds under the optimum time to make her the first rider to ever win this event three times.
“I have to say I wasn’t totally sure what horse I would have, I haven’t been with Mickey even a year yet, and he was very, very strong at Boekelo,” Liz said. “I had a new bit that I’ve never competed in him that I rode him in today, and I sort of already decided if he felt like he was getting a bit rogue on me, I was not going to go fast at all costs, because I wanted to think about the big picture for him. But actually, he was brilliant and really with me, and I had a super, super round.”
“I thought the time was the tightest it’s ever been, and that was actually really great,” she continued. “I think we had a really great weekend of sport, and that’s what I think they need in these sort of things — it shouldn’t be a dressage competition, it should be a fight all the way to the end.”
For Liz, the showcase is like a pressure cooker for reproducing the kind of atmosphere that riders face at some of the biggest events in the world, and that’s why she chooses to bring her horses here year after year.
“I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to manage [winning a third time], but that’s what I came here hoping to do. I just think this is such a great event, and — a little bit reflecting what Boyd and Doug said — it kind of puts you under pressure early. It’s not always the right track for certain horses, but for myself, I think it really gets your eye in early in the year, under pressure and trying to see a stride and you’re going fast. It’s the first run of the year for all my horses, I’ve done that quite a few times. I actually think too, for those big, bold, galloping horses, it’s good to have them have to dip around here and start to look for what’s next, instead of just racing around. This is one of my favorite competitions, I’m sad I missed it last year but I’m glad to be back.”
“Could have used that rail yesterday,” Doug Payne lamented after his two cross country time penalties cost him victory with Starr Witness. The 12-year-old KWPN (Chello III VDL – Carmen, by Veneur) started the weekend on an earth-shaking dressage score of 19.9, but knowing the mare as well as he does, Doug understood that beating the clock would be a big ask around Mark Phillips’ track.
“Time for her is a little bit harder, so I knew it was gonna be a challenge, but she gave everything she could have,” he said. The petite liver chestnut was clever and quick enough for second place on a score of 25.9, a finish that should fill Doug with confidence as his ultimate goal is the Pan American Games in October of this year.
“But she was exceptional, really. Couldn’t have given more and couldn’t have tried harder,” he said.
Defending champions Boyd Martin and the Annie Goodwin Syndicate’s Fedarman B conceded a back-to-back win, but for Boyd this event is still just as sweet as Annie’s family and friends line the fences to watch their boy “Bruno” in his hometown. The 13-year-old KWPN gelding (Eurocommerce Washington – Paulien B, by Fedor) was just two seconds slow on an otherwise picture perfect performance.
“It’s bittersweet obviously. Annie’s parents and the friends and family of Annie Goodwin are in this area, and a lot of connections to Bruno, people that used to work for Annie, there’s a lady here that helped start him off as a three-year-old, and all these people that were connected to this horse and to Annie. I think they love to come to this event and cheer Bruno on, and it’s just, for me, an honor and privilege to ride Bruno. I really feel like we’re starting to gel, I’m very, very proud to ride him and continue all of Annie’s work. In years to come, he has the opportunity to be a championship horse, and what a fantastic honor it would be to just keep going the way we are now, sort of like a living memento for all of Annie’s work. It’s a real privilege,” Boyd reflected.
The veteran partnership of Phillip Dutton and Z held on to their fourth-place position. The 15-year-old Zangersheide gelding (Asca Z – Bellabouche, by Babouche VH Gehucht Z) saw only three added seconds across Saturday’s boiled-down cross country challenge.
In addition to winning, Liz also took home a slightly smaller check for fifth place aboard Cooley Quicksilver. The Monster Partnership’s 12-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Womanizer – Kylemore Crystal, by Creggan Diamond) joined his stablemate “Mickey” as only the second horse to manage the time allowed, finishing on his dressage score of 27.9.
The 16-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Tadmus – Celerina, by Cento) Pfun was just a second too slow, but his placing was unaffected as he and Will Faudree stayed sixth. Will also earned the Annie Goodman Sportsmanship Award this weekend, as voted on by his fellow competitors.
Seventh place went to the exciting new partnership of Phillip Dutton and Azure. The 11-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare (Omar – Cavalier Roselier, by Cavalier Royal), owned by Anne Moran, Caroline Moran and Michael Moran, rose to the atmosphere and occasion, considering this is her first outing of the year, and we can guess that there will be more where that came from.
Boyd was again in the top ten with Tsetserleg finishing eighth on a score of 32.6. Despite this type of tight, twisting track not suiting “Thomas,” the 16-year-old Trakehner gelding (Windfall II – Thabana, by Buddenbrock) owned by Christine, Thomas and Tommie Turner, was just four seconds down according to the official watch.
The crowd’s hearts were in their throats for a brief moment as Rubens D’ysieux’s fancy footwork got him and Sara Kozumpik out of a bind at the bounce, and for that the pair earned ninth place (32.8).
Sydney Elliott had a smile plastered on her face after a clear round with QC Diamantaire. Carol Stephen’s 13-year-old Oldenburg gelding (Diarado – Lantana, by Sandro Hit) rounded out the top ten on a result of 35.9.
This year’s competition mostly determined by the clock, with very few jump penalties seen across the 22 cross country starters. One victim to a refusal was William Fox-Pitt with Heather Gillette’s Vincent Chase. The 11-year-old ex-racehorse seemed to misunderstand when William asked for the direct approach at the angled brushes. But, William tactfully represented for the long route and Vinny looked all the better for it by the course’s end.
Other special awards went to Shannon Lilley as the top rookie with Ideal HX, Amanda Beale Clement as the Top Young Rider with Carlson 119, and Campground as the High Point Thoroughbred with Erin Kanara.
Thanks for following along with us, EN! We can’t wait to see you at the next one.