For the first time in history, the Adequan USEA Gold Cup Final was run with cross-country as the last phase. When severe weather hit the USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC) presented by Land Rover and Nutrena ® in Mill Spring, N.C. earlier in the week, the cross-country phase had to be postponed from Friday afternoon to Sunday morning due to the emergency vehicle access and allowing the footing time to dry out. This put a new twist on the Final as the top 10 pairs ran in reverse order of standing on cross-country.
Following a double clear show jumping round under the lights in the George Morris Arena at the Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC) last night, Marilyn Little and RF Scandalous were still sitting on top of the leaderboard and as a result were the last to set out on cross-country. When Little fell from the 12-year-old Oldenburg mare (Carry Gold x Richardia) owned by Jacqueline Mars, Robin Parsky, and Phoebe & Michael Manders, at fence 16, The Stick Pile, the door was opened for a new Champion.
Matthew Brown was sitting in fifth with BCF Belicoso, an 11-year-old Irish Sport Horse (Lux Z x Catcher Berezina) owned by the Blossom Creek Foundation before leaving the start box on cross-country. However, time was proving to be tight on Capt. Mark Phillips’ cross-country track which ran at the White Oak property, so when Brown earned one of only three double clear he climbed up the ranks to the top spot, and officially earned the title of Adequan USEA Gold Cup Champion.
“At the beginning of the week I joked with my wife [Cecily] that riding [Belicoso] is like riding an electric golf cart that’s slightly running out of batteries all the time – he doesn’t have much blood to him, but he always is willing to go when I ask him to, and he showed me the same things in the show jumping and in cross-country,” said Brown.
Brown had been eventing on the West Coast for decades, but decided to move east a few years ago in order to be based in the mecca of the sport. “The thing I’ve found really great about being on the East Coast after having some success on the West Coast, in order to do well at a competition like this with Doug [Payne], Phillip [Dutton], Jennie [Brannigan], Marilyn [Little] and others, you really have to be on the inside line and not give away those little points, so being back here is definitely pushing me and pushing the horses. I felt like Belicoso really stepped up in all three phases and is constantly improving, so I’m really happy with him.”
Matt Brown accepts $20,000 from Mark Bellissimo, Rob Burk, Sharon Decker, Carol Kozlowski and Allyn Mann. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.
Belicoso was the alternate for the 2015 Pan American Games and after moving up to the three-star level he sustained an injury, so Brown said he spent the last year coming back from an injury and he is taking it slow. In addition, Brown is in a transition period with his owners Bob and Valerie Fish of Blossom Creek Farm who also own his top mount, Super Socks BCF.
“This year actually we were in a position with our very generous owners Bob and Valerie having to finance and funnel more funds towards Super Socks, and we were actually in the position of possibly having to sell Belicoso, so Cecily and I decided that we were going to do whatever it took to try to keep him because we really believe in the horse as Bob and Valerie believe in the horse.”
With money being tight, the Browns decided to cut back on competing Belicoso this year and just work on his fitness and building him back up. “Our bank account was literally at $0 driving into this venue, so my bank account is going to be very happy that I can pay some bills, and I told Cecily she can get some mozzarella sticks before we left today.”
For his win in the Adequan USEA Gold Cup Series, Brown took home $20,000, the lionshare of the $40,000 prize money. He was also the recipient of the Jack LeGoff trophy as winner of the USEF Open Horse Trials National Championship.
Doug Payne and Vandiver. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.
It was a bit of déjà vu for Doug Payne and his stalwart partner, Vandiver. The 13-year-old Trakehner gelding (Windfall II x Visions of Grandeur) owned by Debi Crawley, Doug and Jessica Payne, has a bit of “always the bridesmaid, never the bride” syndrome. The pair came in second last year and second at The Fork CIC3* this spring. Last year, Mark Belissimo, Managing Partner of Tryon Equestrian Partners, gave Payne the pole that cost him the win and to continue that tradition, Bellissimo presented Payne with a dressage marker as he lost by a mere .2 to Brown this year.
“Dressage was good but it’s still coming,” explained Payne. “Where he’s lacked in the past is he just needs a little more engagement and more power, and so we had a couple little bobbles but in the grand scheme of things it was well on the right path. Looking to the future, I think it’s very bright. Jumping was good last night, and then today cross-country was excellent. He’s like a seeing-eye dog . . . you just kind of sit there and enjoy it. I was probably five seconds down when we went across the first bridge, and then the course opens up a little bit there, and his stride is absolutely massive, so I got to the last fence and had 20-some odd seconds, so I just coasted across the line. He was flying.”
Vandiver is flying out to compete at the Blenheim CCI3* in England on Wednesday and the AEC was his last run before his overseas debut. “It’s a perfect prep for the next two weeks. I’m excited to see [Blenheim] – my wife and my sister have competed there, but I haven’t been yet.”
Jennie Brannigan and her longtime partner, Cambalda, accrued 4.8 time penalties on cross-country to drop down to third place. While Brannigan has had enormous success this week at the AEC, she had a disadvantage today because she broke her hand last night after jamming it into the neck Nina Gardner’s 15-year-old Irish Sport Horse (Balda Beau x Cathys Lady) during show jump warm-up.
The Adequan USEA Gold Cup Series is a longstanding program of the USEA. Several years ago the Final was moved to the AEC and the Series has flourished at TIEC for the last two years. “We’ve really been blessed to have started the Adequan Gold Cup Series with the USEA, and to see it evolve through all types of formats,” said Allyn Mann of Adequan. “I think what we saw today was the accumulation of what really defines the championship – to have the horse and rider go out there and perform. . . when you look at the difference between first and second, it’s amazing that these horses and riders do what they do, and then it’s just a small difference between first and second or even first through fifth. I love the sport of eventing – it really defines courage and athleticism and fearlessness.”
Jennie Brannigan and Cambalda. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.
This is the second year of the AEC at TIEC and it grew into a world-class competition in just a short time. “We just love our partnership with the USEA, and hosting the AECs for the second year now is just a real honor,” said Sharon Decker, COO of Tryon Resort and Tryon International Equestrian Center. “This is one of our most special weeks of the entire season … we love eventing, and to see our advanced group today on our FEI World Equestrian Games™ course is very exciting. I was standing out there today and thinking about a year from now, we’ll have some of the same riders out there along with many from around the world. We’re thrilled with how the course held up, even in the midst of a tremendous amount of rain, and very pleased with how it was prepared for today’s competition, as well as how the field held up and how the course performed over the last two days in the middle of all the rain. So we’re just grateful for a magnificent team here that makes things happen but so thankful for the relationship we have with USEA and our partnership going forward. I want to thank Allyn and the good folks at Adequan and our friends at Land Rover and Nutrena that have made this event possible.”
The Adequan USEA Gold Cup was a part of a record-breaking AEC. “It’s hard to explain the feeling of the American Eventing Championships when you’re not here, but I think when you watch the smiles of the kids and the pros, and everybody across the board, it’s a really special experience, and I think the word is getting out. With 755 starters, that’s almost a hundred more than we had last year, and last year was the largest horse trials in the United States by starters in history,” explained USEA CEO, Rob Burk. “Last night under the lights, that for me, for the upper level division, was kind of a dream come to reality, so that was pretty amazing, and at the same time, watching the Novice division finishing up right before that with the stands packed and roaring – it’s kind of that dichotomy of the upcoming rider and at the same time these professionals and upper level amateurs that we want to put in a position of success.”
There was another fall on course today in addition to Little, Kylie Lyman and Lup The Loop, a 9-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding owned by Joan Nicholas, fell at the Adequan® Water Complex. The horse was examined by the veterinary team on-site and was led back to the stables unharmed. Lyman was transported back to the main TIEC facility by ambulance. She was conscious throughout the examination and in good spirits. A 20-minute hold was established on course during the incident. Lyman was then transported to Spartanburg Regional Hospital in Spartanburg, S.C, where she was diagnosed with a concussion and broken clavicle. She is expected to be released from the hospital this afternoon.
About the Adequan USEA Gold Cup Series
The 2017 Adequan USEA Gold Cup Series features 11 qualifying competitions throughout the United States at the Advanced horse trials and CIC3* levels. Qualifying began last fall and continues through August with the final taking place at the USEA American Eventing Championships, August 30 – September 3 at the Tryon International Equestrian Center in Mill Spring, N.C. Riders who complete a qualifier earn the chance to vie for $40,000 in prize money and thousands of dollars in prizes in the Adequan Advanced Division and the title of Adequan USEA Gold Cup Champion.
The 2017 Adequan USEA Gold Cup Series is made possible through the support of its many loyal sponsors: Adequan, Standlee Forage, Nutrena, Merck Animal Health, Broadstone Equine Insurance Agency and FITS.
About the USEA American Eventing Championships
The USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC) presented by Land Rover and Nutrena® is the pinnacle of the sport for the national levels. Held annually, this event draws together the best competitors from across the country vying for national titles from the Beginner Novice through the Advanced level. This year's AEC is being held at the Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC) in Mill Spring, N.C. August 30-September 3, 2017.
The USEA would like to thank all the AEC Sponsors, who the AEC would not be possible without: Presenting Sponsors: Land Rover and Nutrena, Gold Cup Advanced Title Sponsor Adequan, Intermediate Division Title Sponsor: Boehringer Ingelheim, Training Level Title Sponsor: Professional’s Choice Platinum Sponsor:Devoucoux Gold Level Sponsors: Charles Owen, Standlee Hay, Merck Animal Health, Noble Outfitters Silver Level Sponsors: VTO Saddlery, Point Two Air Jackets, Mountain Horse Bronze Level Sponsors: Back on Track, SmartPak, Chronicle of the Horse, Dubarry of Ireland, Stackhouse & Ellis, Auburn Laboratories, FITS, CWD, FLAIR. Contributing Level Sponsors: Horse Hydrator, Eventing Training Online, The Jockey Club, Ovation, Nelson Manufacturing, and Prize Level Sponsors: I Love My Horse, GumBits, Exceptional Equestrian, The Scoring Chix, , C4 Belts, Ride Heels Down, Ride Safe, LM Custom Boots.