Liz Halliday-Sharp Leads Lexington CCI4*-S Dressage Day One

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Cooley Nutcracker. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Competition at 2023 edition of the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event presented by MARS Equestrian officially kicked off this morning with the first half of competitors in the Cosequin Lexington CCI4*-S performing their dressage tests for Bobby Stevenson (USA) at C and Helen Brettel (GBR) at E. A familiar name — Liz Halliday-Sharp — leads the division at the conclusion of today’s 4* tests but her mount, Cooley Nutcracker, is a newer name on the eventing scene in the U.S.

Owned by the Nutcracker Syndicate (which consists of Liz, Deborah Halliday, Ocala Horse Properties, and Renee Lane) “Bali” is one of the most recent additions to Liz’s string of competitions horses, having just been acquired and imported in March of last year by way of his previous rider, France’s Astier Nicholas, who rode the gelding to a top 20 finish in the 7-year-old championship, which is set at the CCI3*-L, at the FEI WBFSH Eventing World Breeding Championships at Mondial du Lion.

“It was an exciting opportunity to find a nice young horse that maybe hadn’t quite won the world yet, which made him possible to acquire, to be honest,” Liz said.

“I know that Astier really believed in him, and so did we. It’s taken some training, and we still have a ways to go, but I really believe in him. I think he’s a five-star horse; I think he’s a team horse too.”

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Cooley Nutcracker. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Liz and Bali wasted no time starting their stateside campaign off with a bang: in their first seven competitions together they placed no lower than second, winning their first CCI3*-L together last summer at The Event at Rebecca Farm and then winning their Advanced debut at the Park Equine Kentucky Classique. The partnership that Liz has been able to build with the 9-year-old Irish Sport Horse (Tolant R —  Ballyshan Cleopatra, by Cobra) has been key to their early successes as well as their leaderboard topping score today — a 24.5, a personal best for Bali at the Advanced/4* level.

“I think a lot of it with him is the teamwork and him trusting me, and the more that goes along, the better he is. Today was proof of that because this would have been huge atmosphere for him, and not long ago, he would have been very spooky. So he just really fought for me today. I’m totally thrilled. Today he was the best he’s ever been in the biggest atmosphere he’s ever seen. So this for me is showing everyone what this horse is going to be, and that’s so exciting.”

Tamie Smith and Solaguayre California. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

One of the final pairs to enter at A this morning, Tamie Smith and Solaguayre California, took over second place on the leaderboard by delivering a test worthy of a 27.6 — a nice improvement over their score of 31.5 in this class last year.

While Tamie had initially entered the 2-year-old Silla Argentino mare (Casparo — Solaguayre Calandria, by Casall) in the marquee class for this weekend, she later decided to run her in the 4*-S instead. There’s no doubt that the 2022 Morven Park CCI4*-L winner has talent in spades, but Tamie opted to give their partnership just a little more time to develop before they step up to the highest level, which they now plan to do later this spring at Luhmühlen.

“I think [the four-star] course would actually suit her probably a little bit better,” Tamie said, “but she’s greener and she needs more atmosphere exposure, so we decided that that would probably be a better avenue for her.”

Prior to being imported by owners David and Julianne Guariglia, Solaguayre California show jumped at the 1.35m level in her native Argentina and then began evening under the tutelage of fellow California-based event rider David Adamo before Tamie took over the ride at the Preliminary level.

“As anybody knows, it takes time to develop a partnership … but I feel like she really fights for me now. She just keeps trying. It’s funny, because the warm up — she can be quite naughty, but she always goes in the ring and she knows she enters at A and she just knows it’s a stage. So I’m grateful for that.”

Colleen Loach and Vermont. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Squeaking in sub-30 for third place are Canadian pair Colleen Loach and Vermont, scoring a 28.9. The towering 11-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Van Helsing — Haptstutbuch Hollywood, by Heraldik xx) owned by Peter Barry didn’t quite meet their leading mark of 24.5 in this division here last year, but Colleen was nevertheless very pleased with his performance.

“He felt super in the trot work, great down the centerline, then when I walked, I heard a horse call from the warmup and he heard it too and he’s very reactive to that sort of thing. So he called back and then he got a little bit of tension as well. Then when we picked up the canter, he was very rideable and stayed with me.”

Colleen and “Monty” have had a long-standing partnership, having been together since the gelding was a four-year-old. The pair was selected to represent Canada at the World Championships last fall, but sadly the gelding aggravated some scar tissue in his final prep run at Bromont and the pair didn’t make the trip to Pratoni. Despite the disappointment, the veteran competitor is simply grateful to have her big chestnut happy, healthy, and ready to rock this year.

Twenty-five more pairs will finish out the 4*-S division tomorrow. Friday’s first down the centerline at 8:00 AM sharp will be reining USEF CCI3*-L National Champions Elisa Wallace and Renkum Corsair. For now here’s a look at your top 10 in this division. Stay tuned for the scoop on the 5* later this afternoon and go eventing!

LRK3DE: [Website] [5* Dressage Times] [5* Scores] [4* Dressage Times] [4* Scores] [Schedule] [Live Stream] [Tickets] [EN’s Form Guide] [EN’s Coverage] [EN’s Ultimate Guide]

[Click here to catch up on all of EN’s coverage of the 2023 Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event]

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