The singular goal that Phillip Dutton has been working for all season is now officially accomplished; he and Mystery Whisper are now qualified for this summer’s Olympic Games. And as a cherry on top of that accomplishment they also handily won this weekend’s CCI3* at Jersey Fresh in Allentown, New Jersey.
“It’s a big relief actually – not just to win but to get the horse qualified,” said Phillip. “I knew that he was more than good enough to win, but although that wasn’t the object it was icing on the cake. Every time we do something a bit more he steps up a little bit better. I guess the biggest thing I learned this weekend is that he can go for ten minutes very easily, and that is a great sign for the future because he will be even that much fitter if he gets to run London. There is not much the horse doesn’t have as far as being a three-day event horse.”
The 12-year-old Warmblood Gelding (Richmeed Medallion x Socialite) was purchased from Heath Ryan last year by the Wildasin family for their daughter Arden to ride. However, Arden generously agreed to allow Phillip to have the ride through this summer’s Olympic Games.
“I have been in this a long, long time,” said Phillip. “And I know that you just take it week to week. I have to say that I am enjoying the horse. Being a part of a really incredible horse, it’s pretty neat. He is going to be Arden’s horse, so I just really appreciate the opportunity.”
Not a single pair in the CCI3* jumped a double clear show jump round, and Mystery Whisper even had his first rail down of the season, so when Karen O’Connor and Veronica had three rails down it opened the door for the placings to shuffle, and Michael Pollard with Jude’s Law stepped into the second spot despite having a rail down themselves.
“I was annoyed with myself in the show jumping,” said Michael. “He tried to jump clear. He's a special horse, and it's an honor to get to ride him. Today he felt just like he did in the show jumping for a horse trials. He's a beast. He tries really hard, and he's a wonderful horse.”
Selena O’Hanlon and Colombo were one of only two pairs to keep all the rails in their cups, but they had a costly two time penalties that kept them out of the second spot by a mere .10 of a point.
“I think where you had to choose your distance was making the course really tough, and since there weren’t many horses in the division to see how it was riding early on,” explained Selena. I always think that you have to jump clear first and time second, and I know where I lost my time.”
In addition to his yellow ribbon, Colombo was also awarded the Traveler’s Award for the oldest horse in the division. Elaine Davies’ Thoroughbred gelding is an impressive 18-years-old.
“My plan for this year was always to ride and try and make the team. If I had one stop I was going to retire because he doesn’t owe me anything. I don’t want to stop competing him just because he has turned a certain age. He has never been happier or fitter or more sound, so I am really pleased just to enjoy the ride. If he doesn’t make the team, he doesn’t owe me a thing and I will retire him. Even if this was his last go, I am so happy.”
It was a nail biting finish in the CIC3* with the top placed riders all within a point of each other. Not a single rider had managed to keep the rails in their cups until eighth-placed Meghan O’Donoghue entered the arena aboard Pirate. The feat was then accomplished again when Boyd Martin and Trading Aces added a clean round. Will Faudree and Pawlow dropped two rails to bump down into third and then Sinead Halpin and Rebecca Howard both had rails, but were still able to be the top two.
Overnight leader Rebecca Howard and Blithe Hill Farm’s Riddle Master (pictured right) were the final pair in the ring for the entire day, but didn’t let the pressure get to them as they held onto their lead.
“It was a challenging course for sure,” said Rebecca. “And it is exactly the stuff I have been working on because I tend to get stuck in the turns with him. He was full of himself and just a bit dramatic in between the fences. The rail was my fault, I should have changed my plan.”
“He is a tough horse because he is so different at home – the atmosphere and the rings change him quite a lot. He has become quite a schoolmaster at home and adds a dramatic flair in the competition ring.”
“I am just so excited for his owners and breeders; I am sure they are just bouncing off the walls. They set out to breed a Canadian horse, competed by a Canadian rider, and to ride for Canada. They are thrilled for sure, so it is just really exciting.”
The last minute entry for Sinead Halpin and Manoir de Carneville proved to be a good one as their single rail down allowed them to take the second spot behind good friend, Rebecca.
“I am excited. I am very pleased with the weekend. I thought that he is getting more rideable, and I am getting more comfortable being at these competitions. You are sitting there and you are walking around listening to the rails falling and you know how much one rail mean. I feel like we are both coping with that more like professionals.
“He looked fantastic after cross-country, and he feels good in his head,” said Sinead. “Just a couple little mistakes that I made over the weekend that I think are ones that are very good ones to make because they are ones that I can fix. He came back a sound happy horse.”
Will Faudree and Pawlow had to rails down, but enough other combinations had problems that it only dropped them one spot in the standings to finish the weekend in third position.
CCI3* Slideshow Below. Complete photo gallery available here.
CIC3* Slideshow Below. Complete Photo gallery here.