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Time was the name of the game today on Derek di Grazia’s cross-country course at the Fair Hill International CCI2*/3* in Elkton, Maryland. With only four double clear rounds in each of the divisions, the leaderboards shuffled quite a bit. Overnight CCI3* leader, Hannah Sue Burnett rode Jacqueline Mars’ 9-year-old Irish Sport Horse, Harbour Pilot, to the fastest finish of the day in order to maintain a tight grasp on that top spot.
“I have been really picking on my horses and being tough on them so haven’t really made time all year,” said Hannah. “So my goal was just to go out and get a rhythm and not take back in front of the fences. Harbour Pilot was really excellent and answered every question I asked him so I was really excited. William’s gallop is loftier so I don’t feel like I am going that fast on him which is I guess why I went so fast. He has never made time at Advanced before.”
“He recovered really, really well. He can run a bit hot sometimes and I was really impressed with him. I came back and he was actually dragging me around in the D box. David came over and was like ‘so when do run – have you gone yet?’”
The Jacqueline Mars bred gelding was campaigned by David O’Connor from the Novice to Preliminary level before Hannah Sue took over the ride and brought him up to CCI3* including an individual silver and team gold at last year’s Pan American Games. “Four years ago we weren’t so sure about this horse,” said Hannah Sue. “But every time we move him up he just keeps going and impresses us every time. He is a really special type.”
Marilyn Little and RF Smoke on the Water, a Wurttemburg gelding owned by Raylyn Farms, finished nine seconds over the ten minute optimum time in the CCI3* giving Hannah Sue Burnett a bit of breathing room going into tomorrow’s show jumping phase.
“My horse is only 7-years-old, so I started out a little slow,” said Marilyn. “It wouldn’t have been my first pick but David O’Connor said to make sure you give him some time in the beginning so I did, and it was pretty hard to make it up at the end of the day.”
“The footing did get pretty torn up, but they got plenty of purchase. I don’t know who’s been working on the footing but it was really good considering the amount of rain we have been having.”
“I thought that the horses were coming out of the course quite a bit more confidently then when they started which is a fantastic thing for a three-star. At this time of year it is great to leave the horses confident, but challenged especially for us in the states who are trying to build horses for the future. I was really pleased with today.”
Three was the lucky spot for Phillip Dutton today as he finished in third in both the CCI3* and CCI2* divisions. In the three-star Phillip moved up from eleventh with a double clear round on Team Rebecca LLC’s Fernhill Eagle, a 12-year-old Irish Sport Horse.
“Fernhill Eagle is quite experienced,” said Phillip. “He has done a couple of four-stars and he did today pretty easily as I would have expect him to do.”
“I thought the course rode pretty well. I thought the two-star course was a great test – a great education for the horses. The three-star was great as well, but I wasn’t a big fan of the roll top to the turning hedge, but apart from that I thought it was a great course. Overall a good learning day for horses and riders; the footing held up great and Fair Hill should be really proud and pleased with themselves.”
Jennie Brannigan and Indie Bound Up The CCI2* Leaderboard
Competitors entered in the CCI2* also had the opportunity to leave their dressage tests behind and tackle the challenging cross-country track set forth by Derek Di Grazia. While many horse and rider pairs were able to negotiate all the obstacles the first time and finish without jumping penalties, time became an influential factor, with just four horses coming through the finish flags inside the optimum.
Jennie Brannigan and Indie, a 7-year-old Dutch gelding owned by Nina Gardner, rose to the challenge today, not only negotiating the obstacles accurately, but also coming through the finish flags with a full five seconds to spare. The pair added nothing to their dressage score of 43.9, moving them from fifth place into the lead. “He is actually a quick horse so I found the time pretty doable for him,” said Jennie.
Although Jennie and Indie had a fault-free go through the tough two-star track, Jennie had to fight her way through the course with a high level of attack to compensate for her greener partner. “He can be a bit spooky so it was nice that Phillip [Dutton] was in the warm-up to really help me get him in front of my leg,” said Jennie. “Indie is green and needs an aggressive ride to set that tone from the very beginning.”
But, despite Indie’s lack of experience at the international level, Jennie had nothing but praise for the horse’s attitude and work ethic. “He was really wanting to do the right thing,” she said. “I don’t know what he’s going to end up being, but I can’t say enough good things about his personality and his willingness to please.”
Coming off of a recent trip to Boekelo, Jennie said she got a good, strong look in the mirror in regards to her riding and where she wants to go from here. “I am more motivated than ever to do this sport and try to be a good rider, and I am at the best place with one of the best people in the world to do it, so I think I am pretty lucky.”
Sitting in second place is recent North American Junior Young Rider CCI2* champion, Connor Husain, and Piece of Hope, a 13-year-old Swedish Warmblood gelding. The pair had a clean go around the course, adding just 0.8 time penalties to their dressage score and finishing on a 44.7. Being a bit newer to the CCI2* level, Husain admitted he was a bit unsure of the slightly stickier footing after yesterday’s deluge. “It was a little muddy and I haven’t really ridden him in anything like that before,” said Connor. “But he kind of just held my hand through it and he was just really, really awesome.”
Being one of just a few Young Riders in the CCI2* field this weekend, Husain said he was simply aiming for a good end to the season, and perhaps a decent Young Rider placing. However, Connor is standing strong as a commanding presence in the division among some of the strongest event riders in the country. “It’s unreal,” he said. “To be at the top of the leaderboard after cross-country is a dream come true.”
Phillip Dutton jumped up four places in the standing with Ann Jones and Tom Tierney’s Fernhill Fugitive, a 7-year-old Dutch Warmblood, who he has been riding for a little over a year. The pair added only two time penalties to their 44.2 dressage score.
“It is Fernhill Fugitive’s second two-star,” said Phillip. “He did the Bromont CCI2* in June so he just clocked around. He has to get the idea of going a little bit quicker; he ended and he wasn’t that tired, but he was content to go at the speed that he went at he wasn’t that ambitious about going any faster. I need to work on that for next year.”
The second veterinary inspection kicks off the final day of competition at 8:00 AM followed by the CCI2* show jumping at 10:00 AM and the CCI3* show jumping at 1:00 PM.