Now that the dust has settled, we’re looking back on the Grand Prix Eventing Festival at Bruce’s Field for a final wrap-up. The competition was lively, with a tight race to the finish for our top three leaders. At the end of the day, Liz Halliday-Sharp with Miks Master C came in first with a dressage score of 23.8, a small time penalty for stadium, and zero cross country penalties for a final score of 24.6. Liz and Miks Master C were closely followed by Doug Payne and Starr Witness in second place, and Boyd Martin and Fedarman B in third.
The first day of dressage had some big moments, particularly from Doug Payne and Starr Witness. Doug dazzled everyone in the dressage phase, with Starr Witness scoring a perfect 10 on the first flying change and finishing on a mind-blowing score of 19.9. While this isn’t an FEI sanctioned competition, it’s still the best score of the mare’s international career. After dressage, the leaderboard was showing Doug Payne in first place, Boyd Martin and Tsetserleg TSF in second, and Liz Halliday-Sharp and Miks Master C in third.
After show jumping, Liz lost her lead by two seconds and Doug Payne had a rail down. But per usual, cross country day shook up the scores once again. While Doug Payne was the master of the dressage ring, Liz and Miks Master C, owned by Debbie Palmer and Ocala Horse Properties, were the clear champions of the cross country course. Liz was the only rider of the day to make the time, and she did it on both of her horses, Miks Master C and Cooley Quicksilver (owned by the Monster Partnership). Liz and Cooley Quicksilver came in 5th place, just behind Phillip Dutton and Z.
We can’t forget about our third-place finishers, Boyd Martin and the Annie Goodwin Syndicate’s Fedarman B. As last year’s defending champion, a back-to-back win turned out to be too much to hope for, but the pair still put in a picture-perfect performance that was just two seconds too slow to catch Doug and Starr Witness.
And, of course, the reason the event was held in the first place – the charity teams! An event like no other, the Grand Prix Eventing Festival at Bruce’s Field was organized to fund various local organizations, from the Aiken County Pony Club to the Brothers & Sisters of Aiken County. Fans made donations to vote for the most popular team, which was combined with the riders’ purses to create sizable donations for each charity.
The winning team was Team Orange, which included Liz Halliday-Sharp, Shannon Lilley, Sydney Elliott, and Woods Baughman. A purse of $2,500 will be donated to the Aiken County Pony Club, along with another $800 from fan voting.
In second place, and winner of the popular vote, was Team Blue, which included Phillip Dutton, Amanda Beale Clement, Will Faudree, and Erin Kanara. A purse of $1,500 will be donated to the Great Oak Equine Assisted Programs, plus an additional $1470 from fan voting.
Finally, in third place, we have Team Purple, which included Boyd Martin, Ryan Wood, and Sarah Kuhn. A purse of $1000 will be donated to the Tri-Development Center of Aiken, plus $215 from fan voting.
Special awards were also given out to deserving riders and horses. First up is the Richard Picken Show Jumping Style Award, which is a new award in memory of coach Richard Picken, whose career highlights included coaching Phillip Dutton to an individual bronze medal at the 2016 Olympic Games on Mighty Nice and Alexandra Baugh to individual gold at the North American Young Rider Championships. Receiving this award was Olympian Colleen Loach & FE Golden Eye for their beautiful show jumping round.
Next was the Annie Goodwin Sportsmanship Award, given in memory of rising star Annie Goodwin, who was a frequent competitor and volunteer at Bruce’s Field. Presented by Peter Goodwin, this award was won by Will Faudree.
Finally, Top Rookie was awarded to Shannon Lilley, who came in 11th place with Ideal HX, owned by Alex Lilley.
Other awards given out included High Point Thoroughbred, received by Erin Kanara & Campground; Triple Crown Best Turn Out Award, received by Grace Harris and Sallie Johnson; Leading Lady Rider, received by Liz Halliday-Sharp; and Top Young Rider, received by Amanda Beale Clement.
All in all, the Grand Prix Eventing Festival at Bruce’s Field did not disappoint with a race to the finish and a total of $9,235 donated to charity. Another year has gone by with another great start to the summer show season thanks to the Grand Prix Eventing Festival. Who will win in 2024? We can’t wait until next year to find out!