We’re in the heart of Thoroughbred country here at the Ocala Jockey Club International Three-Day Event, and so it seems fitting that the clock should play a heavy-handed role in sorting the field on cross country day. Let’s take a look at how the CCI4*-L, CCI3*-L and CCI2*-L scoreboards shook out post cross country and check in on CCI4*-S show jumping.
As Maggie Deatrick noted in her “By the Numbers” preview, not only did no one make the time in this division last year, no one even came home inside of 10 seconds of optimum. The fastest pair in 2018 was Lauren Kieffer on Paramount Importance, who finished 10 seconds over; she’s back this year with Landmark’s Monte Carlo, who owns a deserved reputation as one of the fastest long format horses in the U.S. In his five clear rounds at the 4*-L level, two were inside the time and he has never finished more than four seconds over optimum time.
Lauren and the 13-year-old Irish/Thoroughbred cross (Formula One by Glamour), owned by his breeder Ms. Jacqueline Mars, delivered on their speed demon reputation today, turning in one of only two clear rounds inside the time of the 31-horse CCI4*-L division. They moved from 8th after dressage into the top spot on a score of 32.7.
Lauren says she was going for the time, and they came in right on it: “He’s always been a fast horse, and we were quick but it didn’t feel like we were taking risks, but he’s easy to be quick on … He’s one of those horses who has a snaffle on and you go 100 miles per hour and then you can come to a dead stop on a drop of a hat.”
She says that while the course suited “Patrick” because he doesn’t pull and that the jumps themselves were quite fun, the roping was a hindrance to their rhythm.
“You had a lot of unnecessary yanking them off their feet, which was unfortunate because it’s such a great piece of ground and it feels a lot like Kentucky,” she says. “I think the sharp turns with the roping, the course didn’t suit a bold cross country course — in a weird way because those type of horses are pulling you along, but you had to put the handbrake on to do those turns. The rain made the footing great, but it also made those turns greasy too. I honestly had to put in more stud than I would have just because of the turns. The course suited ponies, not necessarily good, bold galloping horses.”
This long-established partnership has crossed the pond multiple times, and finished in the top 20 at Kentucky twice. They landed in 2nd at their last CCI4*-L start at Bromont this summer.
“He’s a homebred, so I’ve ridden him his whole life,” Lauren says. “We’ve got a good partnership … I had a great time on him. He’s an old pal now, and it was a fun course to ride around on him.”
Looking ahead to tomorrow, Lauren says, “Show jumping is his bogey phase. He doesn’t do well with pressure, so it will be an interesting mental exercise to go in like it doesn’t matter tomorrow. But we know that’s his thing, and Ms. Mars knows that’s his bogey. We do the best we can by him and try to prepare him tomorrow as best we can. We’ll enjoy tonight and just take it as it comes.”
The establishment of a second fall east coast CCI4*-L at Ocala has given riders the choice of which end-of-season event to point their horse at. Of her decision to aim Patrick for Ocala rather than Fair Hill, Lauren says, “This was always the plan with him. I know he’s a quick horse and he tends to prefer show jumping that’s on grass, and he’s done Fair Hill three or four times, so we’re going somewhere different and trying to cater a bit to his preferences. We’re trying something different and hopefully he likes it.”
Phillip Dutton and The Sea of Clouds Partnership’s 8-year-old Thoroughbred gelding (Malibu Moon x Winner’s Ticket, by Jolie’s Halo) are 2nd, having delivered the only other double clear round of the day. The pair was held briefly on course early on course, which resulted in time penalties he had to protest. But ultimately they went on to a fast, confident round.
Of Socs, Phillip says, “He went well. I didn’t think it would be quite as strong a course here. I wanted a nice move-up course, and obviously it didn’t ride like that but he stepped up and did his job. He’s a very fast horse and he’s a good cross country horse but he hasn’t been exposed to a lot of the stuff that he saw today, so I’m very proud of him.”
Ocala Jockey Club International Three-Day Event is once again giving away $15,000 in prizes to top-placing Thoroughbreds in each of the four FEI Divisions (CCI2*-L, CCI3*-L, CCI4*-S, CCI4*-L) to compete in the Thoroughbred Eventing Champion category. This incentive was launched in 2016 with the intention of highlighting and rewarding the use of off-track Thoroughbreds in second careers. The idea worked: 27% of that year’s OJC event were Thoroughbreds, compared to an average of just 6.5% in two other Ocala three-day events. Similar numbers have participated in each successive year of the event.
Sea of Clouds won a whopping $200 in his two starts on the track before beginning training with Phillip as a 4-year-old — he’ll have a chance to one-up those career earnings at OJC if he jumps around well tomorrow.
“Fair Hill traditionally has had more of a championship feel, but today rode a bit more like a championship here,” Phillip says. “I liked the idea of brining a Thoroughbred and coming here. It gave me a bit more time to prepare.”
Erin Sylvester and Campground, a 12-year-old Thoroughbred gelding (Forest Camp x Kneel) owned by Marnie Kelly, had the second fastest round of the division. They picked up just 0.4 time to make a big jump from 24th after dressage into 3rd place.
Ocala was the first long “Gideon” has done since Bromont 2017. He had a mild injury, and Erin says she has been battling a little bit with his rideability in the process of bringing him back. Most recently, they were 20th in the Plantation Field CCI4*-S in September.
“He loves cross country so much that he became a really strong horse this year, to the point where I was not really able to go fast on him anywhere because I was just spending so much time setting him up,” Erin says. They tried a different bit today, which she reports was strong — she got a little too much whoa in response to some half-halts — but suited him most of the way around.
“The time was getable, you just had to work pretty hard to get it,” she says. The pair was about 15 seconds up on the clock heading to the last water but slowed down over the road crossing that followed, which put them just a smidge behind where they wanted to be. Also, she recalls, “I almost fell off in the first water. I needed a re-group for the minute after that my tack was completely soaked. I felt like I was riding in the pouring rain and my foot was sliding out of my stirrup. So I probably wasted a bit of time there.”
Their goal is Kentucky in the spring, so Ocala was meant to be a tough, preparatory test: “It was definitely a bigger, scopy track and I think it asked plenty of questions that are going to set us up for that.”
Looking ahead to show jumping, Erin says, “I’m cautiously optimistic. I’ve been working on his show jumping for the last month and a half, and we’ve gotten him jumping really well. He can get nervous and quick in the ring. He’s had plenty of great rounds and he’s had a few rounds that had two or three rails. I plan to do a jump school with him in the morning to get him as loose and as settled as I can.”
Like Lauren and Patrick, Erin and Gideon have a long history together. He’s owned by her longtime client, Marnie Kelly, who bought him in Kentucky as a 3-year-old when she went to watch the World Equestrian Games in 2010. He was trained as a racehorse, though he never made it to the gate.
Marnie rides Gideon once or twice a week, and humors her with the occasional Training level event. “It’s really impressive that she does that,” Erin says. “He’s so sweet and she loves him to death … He takes her out of the box and has a blast.” They went to Full Moon Farm H.T. in July and Erin says they were going so fast around the cross country that they ran right past the coffin and had no idea. “He thought they should be going Advanced speed,” she laughs.
“He has an absolute heart of gold,” Erin says. “He sort of struggles with the dressage just because of his build. Not because he doesn’t want to do it, but he’s made a lot of headway. He’s been cool to bring along. Those horses are really neat because they know you and know nothing else, so they try so hard for you.”
“He went good. I didn’t think it would be quite as strong a course here. I wanted a nice move up course, and obviously it didn’t ride like that but he stepped up and did his job. He’s a very fast horse and he’s a good xc horse but he hasn’t been exposed to a lot of the stuff that he saw today, so I’m very proud of him. It wasn’t ideal (to be held) and it wasn’t a very long hold. And it was only three fences before fence 7. It was a shame”
Sharon White and Cooley On Show, her own 12-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Ricardo Z x Jogantina, by Grande D’Espagne), came home with 9.6 time penalties to move from 9th to 4th.
“I was really pleased with him,” Sharon says. “He’s only had one Intermediate for prepping, so our time is just from lack of runs. It was just an experiment to see how he would perform best.”
Of the course, Sharon says, “It was interesting. I thought there was a lot of turns. Line of direction was the harder thing than the actual jumps. My questions after walking it was ‘which way should I turn?’”
After what Sharon calls “an epic fail at Kentucky,” she says, “I’ve spent the rest of the year really trying to figure out how to perform better because he’s such a wonderful horse … Badminton is always up in the air, but I’ve got some Kentucky redemption coming my way.”
Looking ahead to tomorrow, Sharon says her goal is to jump clean: “So that’s my plan!”
For a play-by-play of how the CCI4*-L cross country played out, check out our live updates here.
Marilyn Little and RF Scandalous, a 14-year-old Oldenburg mare (Carry Gold x Richardia, by Lario), owned by Ms. Jacqueline Mars and Phoebe and Michael Manders, had two rails in hand heading into show jumping this morning and needed neither of them, turning in a clear round inside the time.
Sara Kozumplik Murphy and Rubens D’Ysieux, a 14-year-old Selle Français gelding (Balougran x Davidoff Silver Shadow, by Mr Blue) owned by the Rubens D’Ysieux Syndicate, held onto their second place from dressage.
Dana Cooke and FE Mississippi, a 14-year-old Selle Français gelding (Balougran x Davidoff Silver Shadow, by Mr Blue) owned by the Rubens D’Ysieux Syndicate, moved from 6th into the top three.
Leslie Law and Zick Zack, a 10-year-old Swedish mare (Blue Hors Zack x Mercedes, by Master) owned by Sally Cox, turned in a double-clear to slip past dressage leaders Phillip Dutton and Fernhill PickPocket.
Phillip and the 8-year-old Irish Sport Horse (Chacco Blue x Bracklin Mystique, by Solitair), owned by his stepdaugher Lee Lee Jones, her grandmother Annie Jones and Caroline Moran, picked up 4.4 time penalties.
“He’s strong and I was trying to go fast,” Phillip says. “The rideability is still a work in progress, so I think he’ll learn from today. He’s a great jumper, but sometimes he’s not quick off the ground. The course was very tough. It had a lot of turning and rollback situations. I think that made I harder to get the time especially on a big jumping horse.”
Looking ahead to tomorrow, Phillip says, “My plan is to jump clear. Hopefully he comes out of it OK and we’ll warm him up nicely and we’ll get him to forget about cross country.”
In third is Lauren Lambert with Fantastique, who moved up from 5th thanks to a double-clear round. Lauren has had the 11-year-old Belgian Warmblood for six years, having picked him up from the show jumping world.
“He was wonderful today,” she says. “He was on him minute markers all the way around. This is the first non-Thoroughbred that I’ve brought to this level so I was waking up in the middle of the night concerned that he wasn’t fit enough or that he wasn’t going to be able to make time, but he was solid he was awesome.”
While he may have technically been a failed show jumper, Lauren says she was willing to take on a project. “I take rejects!” she laughs. “It’s been a patient partnership and I’ve figured out his show jumping. Figuring the flatwork out has helped with the show jumping. I’ve also had an Advanced horse who was a terrible show jumper so I dedicated a lot of my time to working for a Grand Prix show jumper in the States and then in Germany for an Olympic show jumper. So if I can sit up and ride somewhat well I’ll feel good. I hope that we can handle the pressure.”
Looking to the CCI2*-L, it wasn’t a particularly influential day of cross country, with the top 13 placings from dressage still intact from yesterday. Of 71 starters, there were 29 clear rounds inside the time and 24 clear rounds with time.
The top three remain Will Coleman and Chin Tonic in first on 24.2, and Buck Davidson with Cooley Candyman and Will Coleman with Steam Engine in equal 2nd on 27.9.
Many thanks to Shannon Brinkman and her team for the beautiful photos — and an extra special credit to daughter Roya!
Here’s a gallery from the day — enjoy!
Much much more to come. Go Eventing!
CCI4*-L Top 10 After Cross Country:
CCI4*-S Top 10 After Show Jumping:
CCI3*-L Top 10 After Cross Country:
CCI2*-L Top 10 After Cross Country: