Saturday was the busiest day yet at the 2012 Nutrena USEA American Eventing Championships, presented by Bit of Britain. While the Advanced through Training divisions headed back into the arena to test their showjumping skills in the final phase of competition, Novice and Beginner Novice tackled the cross-country. Marc Donovan’s show jumping course caused costly rails to fall, but one excellent round brought a bittersweet ending to one pair’s already legendary career.
Becky Holder got her wish for one more solid show jumping round from Tom Holder’s 16-year-old Thoroughbred gelding Courageous Comet. Becky and Comet headed into the final phase with two rails in hand, almost nine points ahead of Laine Ashker and Anthony Patch. Holder and Comet were able to leave all but one rail in the cups within the time allowed and took home not only the win in the $20,000 Merial Advanced AEC division, but also the USEF Advanced National Championship.
Holder and Comet have developed quite a fan following during their partnership together, and they received a standing ovation from spectators as they galloped through the finish flags. “He is the best gift ever,” Becky said. “I have said this before; the best thing in the world that you can ever have is a dream to wake up and work towards every single day. It is an amazing feeling to have that kind of inspiration in your life, and he has been that for me his entire career.”
The AEC Advanced division was also a part of the Adequan USEA Gold Cup Series, where Becky is currently placed first and third with Can’t Fire Me and Courageous Comet, respectively. Becky and Comet’s resounding win at the AEC and their double clear cross-country round will nearly double their current point total and put them miles ahead of the competition on the Gold Cup leaderboard.
Second place in the AEC Advanced division went to Laine Ashker and Anthony Patch. They were one of only five double-clear rounds in show jumping and the only pair in the division to finish on their dressage score.
“It has always been a head game for me, and to put all three phases together has almost never happened. I was not really happy with the dressage, but I was really happy to be able to handle the pressure of the cross-country and, most importantly, handle the pressure of the show jumping,” Laine said. “I was in a fabulous class with my own coach, Buck, and Leslie and Jon and Becky and some really big names going behind you, and they were really putting on the pressure. I was happy to be able to step up to the plate.”
Laine and Anthony Patch’s performance secured the top two placings for the off-the-track Thoroughbred. “I am a huge advocate of the Thoroughbred, and I like all the second career programs,” Laine explained. “Really, that is what the sport is all about—to take the underdog and make them something great. ‘Al’ was a second career, he ran a few races and was not so good at that. Now he has sort of found his calling, and it is all about the journey.”
Danielle Dichting and The Graduate led from wire to wire in the Open Intermediate, adding just 1.2 cross-country time penalties to their dressage score. Dichting and The Graduate are a somewhat new partnership yet are quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with. She said after cross-country that so long as she rides “Benjamin” well, he will jump his heart out for her, and he did. “I have never really led anything like this before, so each day, all I had in my mind was that it was mine to lose. I came here wanting to finish on my dressage score and I came pretty close to it, so I am overall really happy,” Danielle said. “[Winning] is so surreal. It has not really clicked yet. He is just a fantastic horse, and he has helped me get here.”
Each Preliminary division saw plenty of shake ups in the standings, making every pulled rail a very expensive mistake for those in the running for top placings. In the Preliminary Horse division, overnight leaders Doug Payne and Royal Tribute dropped two rails, opening the door for Leslie Law to sneak into first place with a double-clear round. Leslie and What Law finished on their dressage score of 25.2, less than a point ahead of second place finishers Kerry Torrey and Kung Fu Panda. Torrey and Kung Fu Panda also put in a double clean round to finish on their dressage score. Third place went to last year’s Training Horse champions, Lauren Kieffer and Czechmate, who moved up from sixth after dressage with no added penalties.
Leslie had three horses finish in the top ten in this division, with What Law in first, Billy Wiz fifth, and Domestic Dispute eighth. Incredibly, it was his first time riding each horse in competition and commends his wife, Lesley Grant-Law, for preparing them well. “I cannot take much credit for any of them, quite honestly,” he said. “She has done all the ground work at home, and I was lucky enough to step on and come away with the honors.”
Jenny Caras and Fernhill Stowaway put in a flawless round in the Preliminary Junior Young Rider division, adding nothing to their overnight total and putting the pressure on Victoria New and Fleeceworks Mystere du Val, who ended up pulling a rail and dropping to second. Jenny said AEC was the biggest atmosphere he had ever seen and handled it extremely well. “I could not have asked him to be any better than he was,” she said.
Preliminary Amateur champions Tiffany Lunney and Patent Pending climbed steadily up the leaderboard this week finishing on their dressage score of 31.8. They were fourth coming into the final phase. “He is such a great show jumper, and I always expect the most out of him, but it was a bit nerve-wracking…I just did not want to disappoint him by giving him a bad ride,” Tiffany said. “I just ride the best I could. We came here knowing that if we could get a good dressage score we would have a fighting chance, and I think we proved that today.”
Although Doug Payne was unable to retain his lead in the Preliminary Horse division, he and Lysander put in a double-clear show jumping round to secure the win in the Training Horse division, finishing on their dressage score of 22.7. Second went to Lauren Kieffer and Landmark’s Legendary Romance, while third went to Caroline Martin and Center Stage. The competition was fierce in the Training horse division; no horse or rider was willing to give an inch, resulting in absolutely no changes in the top seven placings from start to finish, and the top thirteen finishers ended on their dressage score.
While Training Horse saw little movement in the standings, mistakes by the overnight leaders of Training Amateur rewarded others, and there were significant changes to the leaderboard. Barbara Werther was superbly proud of her gelding Stafford Place, who moved up from sixth after dressage and fifth after cross-country to win the class. “The beauty of this horse is that he tries so hard and jumps so well for me because I am the quintessential amateur,” Barbara said. “This has just been so much fun. Everything has been perfect. The cross-country course was amazing; to the last detail, this has been fabulous.”
Jenna Sack and Replika added no penalties to their dressage score and moved up from eleventh to finish second, and Zehra Gundogan and Captivate were third. Carmen Schatte riding The Flying Tomato and Kelsie Bricker and Grace Under Pressure were rewarded for their consistency throughout the competition, and moved up from 22T and 25T to finish fifth and sixth respectively due to their foot perfect jumping phases. Kelsie’s mount as well as fourth place finisher Julia Spatt’s Ginnetts Manricko are owned by the riders’ school, Otterbein University.
The blue ribbon in the Training Junior division went to Bailey Moran and Loughnatousa Caislean, who experienced no shortage of adoring, cheering fans, complete with t-shirts and an ad in the program. The support from her friends and family was not lost on Bailey and her horse, who finished on their dressage score of a 30.5. “He is just an incredible horse. He is just a baby; he is six this year, and he has surpassed all our expectations,” she said. “He would jump off the edge of the world for me if I asked him to.”
Second place in Training Junior went to Christine Appling and Amelie with a 30.9, followed closely by Katie Bibeau and North Astor Beau on a 31.8.
The Novice and Beginner Novice competitors did not experience nearly the same heat conditions that the upper levels did the day prior. Instead, they were faced with the challenge of slippery grass due to rain and random gusts of wind.
Logan Elliot and Cady O’ Daly Michael are chasing their second consecutive national championship title. They were the Beginner Novice Junior division winners last year after working together for only five months. With another year of experience under their belts, they are vying to take home the Novice Amateur title as well. After a clear cross-country round today, they are in good standing to do so with a rail in hand. Second place currently belongs to last year’s Beginner Novice Amateur champions Sandra Holden and Cano Cristales, and Elisabeth Lee and Free Verse sit just one point behind them in third.
The top three remained the same after cross-country in Novice Horse. Heather Morris and Barnabus continue to lead, finishing the day with no penalties to add to their dressage score of 24.0. Two points behind is Lauren DeNeve and her horse, Cindy One, who also put in a double-clear cross-country round. Chimene Evans and Fernhill Sam also finished cross-country day on their dressage score of 26.5, keeping them in the third place position going into show jumping.
Alex Cole and Pure Revenge continue to hold onto the lead in the Novice Junior division, followed by Nicole Carolan and Top Gun, and Amy Chronis and Mr. Go Andre Britches. All three pairs finished cross-country with double clear rounds. Alex said her horse was “spot on” and that their training had paid off. “He came out of the start box forward and ready to go,” she said. “It was great ride, but I was just so proud of him.”
Alex took a moment to compliment her comrades: “It is so heartwarming to see everyone out here having a good time, even if their horses are not perfect. It really makes me love the sport of eventing even more.”
Last year’s golden girl Lauren Weil (she raked in a Championship, two reserves, and an eighth place finish) and Commit currently lead the Beginner Novice Horse division on the exact same score as second place, which belongs to Carrie Meehan and Cavalier. Both ended the day on their dressage score of 29.5, but Weil and Commit finished their cross-country course closer to the optimum time, giving them the overnight lead going into the final day of competition. Third place also belongs to Carrie Meehan and her second mount, Up In Flames, who was tied with Michelle Donlick and Casanova, but this time Carrie came out on top in the tie-breaker.
Lauren and Jennifer Tucker’s 7-year-old Thoroughbred mare Commit already have an impressive record together, finishing second last year in addition to multiple top placings throughout the year. Lauren is a local, familiar with the facility, and always quick to recognize the owners for their support. This will be Lauren’s last event with the mare before Jennifer takes over the ride, so she will be looking to go out with a bang.
The Beginner Novice Amateur division is currently being lead by Letha Calvin and Look Cody Look, who added just 2.4 time penalties to their dressage score to finish the day on 25.3. They ran around cross-country during the rain today, and after an exciting warm-up, Cody got back to work and took care of his rider on course. Tomorrow, Letha’s goal is to keep her head and leave all the rails in their cups.
Heather Schwartz and Jamocean occupy the second place Beginner Novice Amateur position on a 26.7. Gwen Patterson and Late Arrival also finished the day on a 26.7, but were further from the optimum time, thus landing in the third place position.
Kate McCrory and My Prince Charming currently lead the charge in the Junior Beginner Novice division on a 27.6, only one point ahead of second place Isabel Franklin and Fancastle’s Southern Comfort. Success in this division will be a great one, as 76 Beginner Novice Juniors moved onto the final phase.
It is hard to believe there is just one more day to the 2012 AEC. Good luck to competitors show jumping Sunday and safe travels to those heading home.
Be sure to keep up with the live scores at this link!
The 2012 Nutrena USEA American Eventing Championships would not be possible without our wonderful sponsors: Nutrena, Bit of Britain, Merial, Charles Owen, Broadstone, SSG, Wise Equestrian, Fleeceworks, World Equestrian Brands, VTO Saddlery, FITS, Auburn Labs, The Chronicle of the Horse, Omega Alpha, Dubarry, Stackhouse Saddles, FLAIR, Saratoga Horseworks, Ovation, SmartPak, Adequan, HoofWraps, Coldflex, Essex, Mrs. Pastures, andJump4Joy.
About The Adequan USEA Gold Cup Series
Now in its ninth year, the Adequan USEA Gold Cup Series is an exciting format of competition and entertainment for U.S. Eventing, encompassing seven of the top eventing competitions from around the U.S. where the best of the best vie for prize money, trophies, and the title of Gold Cup Champion.
Winners of each of the seven Gold Cup events across the country take home a trailer-load of prizes for their achievements. Winners receive an Adequan USEA Gold Cup Trophy, $500 in prize money, 7-dose box of Adequan, $200 Point Two Gift Certificate, and $500 worth of Nunn Finer Products. Second place finishers also take home a 7-dose box of Adequan and a $100 Point Two Gift Certificate.
The overall Adequan USEA Gold Cup winner will receive a hefty check for $20,000, an official Gold Cup Champion Jacket, and a huge trophy at the USEA Annual Meeting & Convention. The Reserve Champion receives $1,500 worth of Nunn Finer Products and a Gold Cup Reserve Champion Jacket.