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Cross-country was the name of the game today at The Fork Horse Trials in Norwood, North Carolina. Although the top of the leaderboards remained relatively unchanged, the spots below the leaders underwent a major reorganization with some riders in the CIC3* able to move up 30 places or more while others descended due to glance-offs, rider falls, and time penalties.
The competitors sung the praises of Captain Mark Phillips’ course design as well as the incredible footing that was produced to the highest standards by the Cogdell’s and their staff despite the troubles in the CIC3*.
“We are so grateful for the measures that Jim and Bernadette Cogdell take to put on this event,” said Karen O’Connor. “The footing was phenomenal as well as the property and attention to detail. It is a really wonderful competition. The volunteers were helpful, the crowd and the course builders were great. The leadership here is second to none.”
“The course design I thought was really great,” added Marilyn Little-Meredith. “I know that there were a lot of problems in the three-star, but I think that the problems came in a variety of different places which was nice to see. It was a really nice build-up for Rolex. It had a great flow, was imposing enough at certain moments, but technical enough that made you slow down and think.”
“In our sport there is a tough balance,” said Phillip Dutton. “Let’s say you want to go into Kentucky with a confident horse then the course here can’t be that easy because Kentucky isn’t going to be easy. You have to test yourself and if there is a little bit of trouble it is a little bit more of a wake-up call and that is sort of why you come here. The people at the bottom of the leaderboard will go back and concentrate on what went wrong.”
“This is the biggest day in the spring season,” concluded Karen. “Cross-country at The Fork – you get a wake-up call or your horse is good, you are still like ‘what did I miss?’ You still need to finish your preparation for Rolex and this is probably one of the most important days we have.”
Adequan USEA Gold Cup Advanced B
The Adequan USEA Gold Cup Advanced B Division was the final class of the day out on cross-country and after hearing that only 40 of the 60 CIC3* riders came home and of those only 26 without jump penalties, the competitors surely thought they were in for a tough ride. However, all 20 pairs who left the start box crossed the finish line without a single jump penalty – a very impressive feat considering the Advanced B division jumped nearly an identical course to the CIC3*.
Advanced B Slideshow. Check out the complete photo gallery here.
Advanced A Slideshow. Check out the complete gallery here.
CIC3* Slideshow. Check out the complete photo gallery here.
Overnight leader, Allison Springer finished the course a mere two seconds under optimum time with her longtime partner, Arthur, to sit on their dressage score of 22.7 heading into tomorrow’s show jumping phase.
“I was pretty busy this morning show jumping my Preliminary horses,” said Allison. “So, I didn’t ride him this morning, and he is very fit so I was in a bit of trouble in the warm-up. He was super at all of the jumps though – a little tough cantering in some of the areas, but he was really excited to be out there and jumped super. Just did everything as planned, and I was really happy – a good last run before Rolex.
Allison doesn’t have a rail in hand over second-placed pair Sinead Halpin and Manoir de Carneville so will need to jump a clean round to take home the Adequan USEA Gold Cup.
“I think that show jumping has been my weakest phase with Arthur,” continued Allison. “But I have been working really hard – I used to be really horrible, but it’s definitely better, so I am excited for it. I used to dread show jumping, so at least now I am excited to take on the challenge. We still don’t have all of the answers, but he has been really good. I think we are growing old well together.”
Becky Holder and Courageous Comet swapped places with Sinead after adding 3.6 time penalties to their score to settle for third.
The Advanced A division jumped a slightly less difficult course than the Advanced B, but the riders did not fare as well especially with the Sunken Road where many riders were unseated or picked-up stops. Michael Pollard emerged the leader with his Pan-Am partner Schoensgreen Hanni, a nine-year-old German Warmblood mare owned by his wife Nathalie.
“This was a big course for Hanni – she did the CIC3* at Red Hills, so I had already gotten my qualification there,” said Michael. “I just wanted to run her in an Advanced before Jersey. I thought she was a star. She was fantastic. Everytime she needs to go a bit faster, she just keeps stepping up to the plate. I am really looking forward to Jersey, she is a lot fitter. She made the jumps feel really easy today which was exciting.”
Kate Samuels riding Nyls du Terroir and Danielle Dichting aboard Tops were the only two pairs to finish inside the time in the Advanced A, which allowed them to move into second and third respectively.
PRO Tour Series CIC3*
In the CIC3* Phillip Dutton and Mystery Whisper were able to claim the top spot for himself when his co-leader, Will Faudree had a run-out with Pawlow at the Sunken Road – a combination that caused problems for multiple pairs throughout the day. Although Phillip was not planning on going for the time with the Wildasin Family’s 12-year-old Warmblood gelding (Richmeed Medallion x Socialite), he found himself crossing the finish line only 10 seconds over the optimum time of 6:14.
“I was a bit surprised to be in the lead because I didn’t set out to be,” explained Phillip. “But just through circumstances with Will and Michael having a bit of trouble, I ended up leading. I just gave him a good run without trying to push him too much. I did go a bit quick at Red Hills so I didn’t know how he would come out – if he would be a bit too aggressive or not, but he was easier to ride today as he was at Red Hills.”
“This is probably our biggest course we do in the spring, and we had quite a few technical questions as well. That all adds up to put pressure on the horses and riders, but I was a little bit surprised – I didn’t think the course would cause that much trouble. In fact I think I told Mark [Phillips] that I thought it was a bit soft.”
This is only Mystery Whisper’s fourth event since he arrived from Australia late last year, but he and Phillip looked perfectly in-sync on today’s course. “I think we are actually clicking pretty well,” said Phillip. “He is just such a nice, level headed horse. He is real sensible. I think he really likes to do [cross-country], he really enjoys it.”
Marilyn Little-Meredith and RF Demeter are also contesting only their fourth event together, and after a bit of trouble in the water at the Red Hills CIC3* last month, the 10-year-old Oldenburg mare (Rubin-Royal x Patricia) and Marilyn seem to be figuring each other out.
“I did set out to go a bit quicker with her because I wanted to feel how easy she would make the time as this is only my fourth run with her,” explained Marilyn. “She is a real fighter – she is the same horse in the beginning as she is in the end which is really nice to see especially with some of the long gallops here.”
“Eventually in your partnership there is a plateau where the learning curve slows down,” continued Marilyn. “We are not even close to that, and so I look for the partnership to grow exponentially each run out. There are a lot of great things coming for the mare, so I am excited to see it going this well this early on as it is certainly not always the case.”
Moving up from eighth to third with a double clear round was Rebecca Howard and the Canadian Sport Horse gelding, Riddle Master. Rebecca, who is based at The Fork Stables, said that she thought Riddle Master was great especially because he has only done one other event this year which was at the Intermediate level.
The CIC3* jogs at 8:00 AM tomorrow before heading into the show jumping ring at 10:00 AM.
The CIC2* was the first division out this morning, and Karen O’Connor was the trailblazer aboard Joan Goswell’s 12-year-old Irish Thoroughbred gelding, Mandiba (Master Imp x High Dolly). This position suited them well as they added only 5.6 time penalties to maintain their overnight lead. Karen’s second ride of the day, RF Amber Eyes, also came home clean to sit in second place.
“[Riding Mandiba is] hugely emotional; it has been tough – all I want is for the horse to have a life and a purpose,” said Karen O’Connor. “I don’t have any designs on what I want the horse to do, yesterday was stunning and today on cross-country I was so proud of him. He stepped up – he is just really good guy and very happy tonight. It gives you tribute to the sport that these horses come back from injury and they want to do this sport and they want to do it well. When the do it well they feel very good about themselves on Saturday night.”
“RF Amber Eyes was another horse Marilyn [Little-Meredith] found for me. She is not very experienced at this level, but she doesn’t care because she is tough and shows up for work every day. She is a really wonderful horse. I am very excited about her.”
Marilyn Little-Meredith lies in third with her Red Hill CIC2* winner, RF Smoke on the Water on a 53.9.
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.