Michael Pollard put the pressure on overnight leader Will Coleman early in the day by jumping double clear in the CIC3* show jumping, moving into first place provisionally before an hour-break in the division. Taking a break at the halfway mark of show jumping is certainly different, and you have to wonder how that impacted Will’s mental game with Conair, a horse he admits isn’t strong in this phase. Whether that break played a role or not, two rails came down for Will when he finally did jump, giving Michael the overnight lead on 42.3 heading into cross country tomorrow.
The fact that Michael got a bit lost after the first jump on Marc Donovan’s course — and was able to re-route and still jump clear and make the time — says a lot about Ballingowan Pizazz’s strength in this phase. Michael said he had to turn the rest of the round into something of a jump off, and Mango’s penchant for the show jumping meant he could go for it and let the horse take care of the rest. But that’s not necessarily the strategy he’ll take on Hugh Lochore’s course tomorrow. “I need to look at the big picture,” Michael said. “If I feel like he’s not jumping fantastic, then I’m not going to make this into the Olympics.”
Michael’s ultimate goal for the spring is to get Mango to the CCI3* at Jersey Fresh, a destination that thus far has eluded them since their partnership began two years ago. “I’ve had him ready to do that a couple times and have had something come up,” Michael said. “He feels really good right now. We’ll go to The Fork and then Jersey and see where we end up after that.” Mango has recovered beautifully from a tendon strain that cropped up about 18 months ago, and he was also out for a month last fall, which prevented Michael from aiming toward Fair Hill. But — knock on wood — he’s healthy so far this season.
Crown Talisman was almost comical to watch in the show jumping today due to the way he effortlessly rocked back on his hocks and practically stepped over the jumps with Doug Payne in the irons. Doug and Tali jumped double clear to move into second place on 44.1. “He’s an incredible horse, but in the grand scheme of things, his prime will be in the next couple of years to come. You’re not going to do anything jeopardize his future,” Doug said in regards to his strategy on course tomorrow. But that doesn’t mean he won’t try to up the ante for Tali, who he’s aiming at Rolex — though he’s also applied for a grant to Saumur.
Since Tali just moved up to Advanced last year at Millbrook, Doug spent the fall taking the easy routes around courses to further the horse’s education. But now that he has enough runs at this level under his belt, Doug is looking to step things up, meaning he’ll be taking more direct routes tomorrow. “The mound to the corner (at Zoe’s Bank Complex) — I would probably bend that out in five in the past,” Doug said. But he’ll plan on taking the direct route in four tomorrow. He also likes that the second water is more forward thinking, and he plans to kick on through there, whereas in the past he might have backed off to let Tali process what was happening.
Jan Byyny’s Inmidair — in stark contrast — is not a horse that needs to process what’s happening at this point in his career, or at least he thinks he doesn’t. “Normally at my expense, he enjoys himself,” Jan said. The overnight leaders after dressage, Jan and JR fell victim to the natural oxer at fence four, which rode a bit tough due to its placement right next to the new Stonehenge complex. That rail drops them to third place on a score of 44.5 heading into cross country. “I think he barely hit it, to be honest,” Jan said. “My horse wants to be careful, and he can be quite spooky, but I didn’t feel that there at all.”
Jan said she might go for it a bit tomorrow — as the horse needs a good gallop — but this is not her end goal. “I have one horse at this level right now, and that’s it,” Jan said. “I’ll work him in places. He’s a naturally quick horse. He’s a fast cross-country course, and this kind of course normally suits him as long as I show him where he’s going.” Jan plans to head to The Fork next to run Advanced as their final preparation for Rolex Kentucky, and she again echoed her mantra of one day at a time. “The horse doesn’t need the runs,” Jan said. “I probably need them more than he does. So we’ll see what happens tomorrow first. He would like to think he’s a professional.”