If you haven’t noticed already, today is the beginning of Fork Madness (which follows March Madness, obviously), and I brought you part one of the CIC3* preview earlier today. The division is huge this year, with 57 horse and rider pairs contesting the tough course and duking it out in the dressage arena. The Fork is known for it’s challenging cross country, and it’s one of the best places to get a glimpse of horses heading to Rolex, and most riders use it as their last prep event. A round here can really make or break many Rolex rookies, and it just means that it’s all the more exciting for spectators. Let’s check out the rest of the entries.
Marilyn Little & RF Demeter: As reigning 2013 USEA Horse of the Year (and Mare of the Year!) and recent Carolina International CIC3* champion, Demi has certainly impressed a lot of people. This mare is incredible, with great style through all three phases. She looked super a few weeks ago at the Carolina International, and Marilyn always goes for time on cross country, so these two will easily be in the top 10 here at The Fork on their road to Rolex.
Marilyn Little & RF Smoke on the Water: Marilyn’s less experienced mount is nonetheless a good competitor, and despite an inconsistent spring last year, he came out for his first show in over six months at the Carolina International CIC3* a few weeks ago and did quite well, finishing in 8th place. They were almost champions here last year until a run out at a cheese wedge late in the course, so I’m sure Marilyn will be taking her time at the cheese this year! This horse should be competitive in this field, as she’s aiming him at his first CCI4* at Rolex in a few weeks.
Kurt Martin & Anna Bella: An EN favorite, this mare was talent scouted by us early last year, and she’s continued to improve, placing sixth last year at Fair Hill CCI2*. She just moved up to the Advanced level at the Carolina International HT, jumping around cleanly. This will be her first time at the three-star level, and she’s a phenomenal jumper, so I expect them to have a good round for a continuation of her education at this level.
Bobby Meyerhoff & Utah B: This horse was previously campaigned to the 3* level with Bobby’s wife, Danica, but last year she handed over the reins to her husband, who took a step back and kept him at Intermediate for all of 2013, culminating in an 18th place finish at Fair Hill CCI2*. They moved up to Advanced together this spring, placing 6th in the challenging Red Hills CIC3*, really smoking the cross-country course. While this isn’t Bobby’s Rolex entry, they could have potential to be quite competitive here this weekend.
Meghan O’Donoghue & Pirate: Meghan had a really stellar year of success in 2013, with her four-star debut and her first Team USA international competition at Blenheim in the fall, she’s proved herself a real rising star with her little Thoroughbred Pirate. He’s positively a jumping bean, and they have a great partnership. He looked phenomenal in the dressage a few weeks ago at the Carolina International, and even scored well up there with the big moving warmbloods. They are heading back to Rolex this year to see if they can improve on their 12th place finish from last year. They can easily get into the top 10 here, but the bigger goal is prep for Rolex.
Selena O’Hanlon & Foxwood High: Selena was second last year at Bromont CCI3* with this horse, and after having the fall off, he’s come back out this spring in good form. They were 4th at Rocking Horse in the Advanced and then placed 20th at the Red Hills CIC3* a few weeks ago. Selena obviously thinks a lot of him, as she’s got him entered in his first CCI4* at Rolex this spring.
Selena O’Hanlon & Bellaney Rock: As her second mount for this division and her second Rolex prospect, this big chestnut has always been a secret favorite of mine. He’s a great big old Irish horse with lots of chrome, and he really seems to enjoy his job. They were 14th together in the fall at the Fair Hill CCI3* and have done well this spring, placing second at Rocking Horse in the Advanced.
Lindsay Oaks & Enchantez: Lindsay and Taylor attempted Rolex last spring, but sadly walked home off the cross country after one too many stops on course. They took some time off after that, but have decided to give it another go this year. This horse is a great jumper but has not had a run at Advanced since that time last year, so she will certainly need a good round here to feel ready for Rolex in a few weeks.
Holly Payne & Never OutFoxed: Holly’s newest Advanced mount is pretty neat; he’s a great little jumper, and I expect he will eventually embrace the necessary evil of dressage. He just moved up to Advanced at Pine Top earlier this spring and sadly nicked himself in show jumping at the Carolina International CIC3* and so didn’t get to run cross country. Holly will be looking to pilot this nice young horse around his first three-star with a good trip to educate him for the future.
Holly Payne & Santino: Sonny is one of my favorite horses to follow, as he always seems to be having a good time out there. He was a bit naughty in his first show of 2014 a few weeks ago at the Carolina International CIC3*, but we’ll just chalk that up to winter kinks. Sonny is an incredibly talented horse, and he’s got a lot more up his sleeve than we’ve seen just yet. I think this will be the year that he really comes into his own.
Doug Payne & Crown Talisman: This horse is almost a freak of nature in the athleticism department, and this is the first year that I’ve seen him strong enough to really carry some of the bigger movements. They fulfilled my prediction last time out at the Carolina International CIC3*, finishing fourth, and I think they can pull off a repeat performance here at The Fork and finish in the top five. They are very competitive in dressage and quite consistent in the jumping phases.
Beth Perkins & Sal Dali: This pair is one of the more experienced in the field, having already completed Rolex twice, as well as numerous three-star competitions. They did have trouble on course in their last outing at the Carolina International HT, so they’ll be looking to get their mojo back here this weekend. While they won’t be able to stay competitive in the dressage ring, they should be able to jump around just fine.
Jessica Phoenix & Exponential: Jessica is turning into the Canadian Buck Davidson, with so many nice horses at the upper levels that it makes you wonder how many energy drinks she consumes per day. Tucker was the Jersey Fresh CCI3* winner in 2013 and has a few CCI4* competitions under his belt, including Burghley and the 2010 WEG. His exuberant jumping style never fails to put a smile on my face, or Jessie’s for that matter. They are heading to Rolex this spring, so they’ll be putting some finishing touches on their performances this weekend.
Jessica Phoenix & Patras VR: I haven’t actually seen this horse in person yet, but he led wire to wire in the recent Poplar Place CIC3* with a great dressage score and only time penalties on cross country to add to his score.
Jessica Phoenix & A Little Romance: This little mare is great fun to watch, and was second this spring in the Advanced at Red Hills over a challenging course. Unfortunately, they ran into trouble in the CIC3* at Poplar a few weeks ago, and so Jessie will be looking to get her groove back here at The Fork this weekend.
Jessica Phoenix & Abbey GS: Jessie’s final ride is another mare, and she is certainly less experienced than her stablemates. She was recently 6th at the Poplar CIC3*, but she needs more experience on the flat to be competitive here at The Fork. However, she’s a super little jumper and should be able to pop around the course just fine in preparation for a spring three day.
Michael Pollard & Ballingowan Pizazz: Michael and Mango definitely proved themselves a few weeks ago at the Carolina International CIC3*, finishing in third place after a really good dressage score and some great jumping phases. These two have been on the verge of greatness for awhile now, and last year just kept getting thwarted by minor injuries. I really hope that this year is their time to bloom. I expect nothing less than a top-10 finish from them.
Liz Riley & It’s The Truth: Liz and Tom hail from my hometown in Virginia and made their move up to the Advanced level at Millbrook last summer. They did their second event at that level a few weeks ago at the Carolina International and placed 12th. This will be their first attempt at this level, and they have a great partnership, so I fully expect them to complete the weekend with a big grin.
Colleen Rutledge & Shiraz: A pair that needs little introduction, Colleen and Shiraz are still on their mission to complete as many CCI4*s as possible in their lifetime. Shiraz seems to laugh at big jumps, but consequently he doesn’t seem to think that the three-star level is worth paying attention to at all. He looked distinctly disdainful at the Carolina International a few weeks ago, resulting in more than a few rails dropping in show jumping and some rough moments on cross country. We get it, Shiraz; you’re a badass. Now just calm yourself and behave over these “little” jumps, OK?
Kim Severson & Fernhill Fearless: Sparky and Kim are a formidable pair; with Kim’s perfectionist attitude on the flat and Sparky’s total badassery over jumps, we should really watch out. They put in a good dressage test and a rare double clear jumping effort in show jumping at the Carolina International, but sadly Sparky didn’t get to run cross country. He’s been sulking about that, and he’ll probably just use that energy to tear around this weekend. Kim needs this event to qualify for Rolex, where she has entered Sparky as a contender in a few weeks.
Allie Knowles & Sound Prospect: Sounder is a new ride for Allie, as she just took over the reins last fall. They’ve made a successful move up to Advanced together, running the Red Hills CIC3* and the Poplar CIC3* a few weeks ago, placing 8th there. Unfortunately, both times at this level they’ve had a spot of bother on cross country, so Allie will be looking to get their first clear round here together this weekend.
Allison Springer & Arthur: Allison is on a comeback tour with Arthur, who is delighted to be back competing after having 2013 off. They were 6th together at Burghley in 2012, won their debut for 2014 and placed second at their first Advanced back together at Pine Top. We all know that Arthur can basically beat everyone on the flat, and he’s looked better than ever in the jumping phases this spring. I think a top-five finish is totally reasonable for these two and a good preparation for Rolex this spring.
Allison Springer & Copycat Chloe: Allison has also entered Chloe in Rolex this spring, and she’ll be using this event to help prepare the mare. Although they finished Bromont CCI3* in 5th place, they had some on and off trouble on cross country later in the fall, finishing with some stops and a fall at Galway CCI3*. Chloe has come out great this spring though, and it looks like they are much more in sync on cross country this year. They were recently 14th together at the Carolina International CIC3*.
Cody Sturgess & Imperial Melody: This is another pair that I’m not completely familiar with, having not seen them compete in person. However, they have not navigated a competition at the Advanced level since placing 29th in the CIC3* here at The Fork in 2013, and so I expect that this will be quite a challenge for them. Cody is a competent rider on a good horse, and I think he is more than capable of getting around just fine.
Erin Sylvester & No Boundaries: Erin and Bucky are heading towards their third Rolex this year, and they’ve had a good lead up this spring. After getting caught out at Red Hills, they rebounded to place second at the Carolina International HT in the Advanced a few weeks ago. They’ve looked good in all three phases when I’ve seen them, and I expect them to be competitive here this weekend.
Sharon White & Wundermaske: Patch is traveling to Kentucky in a few weeks to make his four-star debut, and I’m not the only one that’s excited about that. Patch moved up to Advanced last spring, and was 7th at both Jersey Fresh CCI3* and Fair Hill CCI3* in the fall. He’s gotten better and better on the flat thanks to Sharon’s diligence, and he’s a great little jumper. This should be a perfect preparation for Rolex for these two.
Sharon White & Rafferty’s Rules: When I saw Reggie and Sharon a few weeks ago at the Carolina International CIC3*, I couldn’t tell who was smiling more. She’s delighted to have him back at the top levels, and despite a small miscommunication on cross country, they had a great weekend. She has him entered at Rolex this spring, and I think it wouldn’t be out of the question to see these two in the top 10 here this weekend.
Sharon White & Under Suspection: Pippy is the newest horse for Sharon at the upper levels, having only just gotten the ride on her last year from Dirk Schrade in Germany. This mare is really nice; she’s smooth on the flat and accurate over the jumps. They’ve been in the top six at every event they’ve completed, including a 4th place in the Fair Hill CCI2* last fall. Relatively new to the Advanced level, they were 6th together at their first CIC3* a few weeks ago at Carolina International.
Julie Wolfert & Buenos Aires: I know Julie from way back when, and I know she will be delighted to be competing here at The Fork again! Hailing all the way from Kansas, Julie has a really phenomenal athlete on her hands with Aires. They’ve gotten three Advanced level competitions under their belts so far, and this will be by far the biggest challenge they’ve ever seen. Aires is an incredible jumper, and I can just see the grin Julie will have when she finishes the course on him at the end of this weekend.