Oct. 19 – Elkton, Md.
Jennie Brannigan couldn’t even watch cross-country leader Boyd Martin as he jumped his show jumping round with Master Frisky at The Dutta Corp Fair Hill International CCI***.
She’d laid down a clear with Cambalda and just had to wait, and when Master Frisky ticked the last fence in the triple giving her the win, several years of heartbreak and near-misses washed over her as she celebrated the biggest win of her career.
“I’m just thrilled for the Gardners,” she said of owners Tim and Nina Gardner. “I wouldn’t be anywhere without them. They’re amazing people. I’m just really greatful and thankful that I was able to pull the trigger three days in a row. I didn’t even want to watch Boyd’s round because you don’t want to wish one on one of your friends. I was just happy to jump clean. It’s great to win, but I’m just happy that he jumped well.”
Brannigan admitted that galloping around the main arena at Fair Hill was emotional for her as that’s where her star young rider horse, Cooper, injured his leg, ultimately leading to his euthanization due to complications.
The win also brought an end to a streak of misfortunes that included a run-out on last year’s Fair Hill CCI*** cross-country, a fall at the 2013 Luhmuhlen CCI**** (Germany) and a technical elimination at the Rolex Kentucky CCI**** this spring.
“I’m a bit overwhelmed to be honest,” she said. “I think with [Cambalda], when he first moved up to advanced, I was on a bit of a hot streak and kind of thought, ‘Alright, here we go,’ and then it’s been a couple years of some disappointments. I think at this point, I was pretty lucky to have some of the horses I’ve had and have realized this is obviously a heartbreaking, tough sport, and everybody’s got to pay their dues, and hopefully for the next 30 years I’ll be doing this.”
Brannigan and “Ping” jumped one of five double clears out of 37 horses to jump in the three-star.
Although he rubbed a few, show jumping is Ping’s strong phase, so Brannigan was cautiously confident heading into the ring.
“I thought the course was going to be a bit tough for me,” she said. “He’s not a very forward horse, and he cross-canters, which is comical because he has fantastic flying lead changes. I was nervous because it was so twisty. That being said, he’s a very careful jumper and usually if I don’t do anything too drastic, he wants to leave the rails up, and he jumped his heart out for me today. I still get nervous going into the ring in good standing, but he was super.”
Martin dropped to second with Stephen Blauner’s Master Frisky, who was contesting his first CCI***.
“I was pleased with my bloke today,” he said. “He jumped very, very well. Obviously I was praying for a clear round, but he’s green. He’s new to this three-star level, and I knew this would be our hardest phase. I would have loved to win it, but I was pleased with the way he jumped. I’m still very proud of him and happy for Jennie. I think he’s going to be a good horse for the future, and this is an event that I think proves he’s a four-star horse in the future.”
Martin noted the importance of winning Fair Hill (he won in 2009 with Neville Bardos and 2011 with Ying Yang Yo) and has said before that it’s the hardest three-star he’s jumped across Europe, Australia and North America.
“The best horse wins here,” he said. “The best horse and the best rider. Champion combinations come out of Fair Hill, where as some of the other CCI***’s you may not hear from them again. For me and now Jennie, I think it’s something you carry in your life. It’s a big deal.”
Allison Springer finished third with Copycat Chloe, jumping a double clear. Springer has been riding “Chloe” since last year but has struggled to form a partnership on cross-country. She was thrilled to jump clear with just .4 time penalties yesterday and have a good finish.
“I think the biggest change was this summer I talked to [veterinarian] Kevin Keane about the best way to get a warmblood type horse fit, because she’s a Trakehner-Thoroughbred,” she said. “I stuck to his plan, and I got a heart rate monitor. I knew coming into this she was definitely fit enough. She’s not a fast horse, and my plan was to go out and stay on my minutes and just ride the tar out of her at every fence. She’s a very careful horse. She would rather stop then have a rail and that goes for show jumping and for cross-country. She jumped beautifully all the way home. I just kind of kicked it around as quick as I could today, and she just kept moving up.”
Springer works with Phillip Dutton as often as she can.
“I think cross-country riding is my weakest phase, just going out and attacking,” she said. “And I’ve slowly gotten a lot better; I think you get better with age! I can’t say our relationship is perfect yet, there’s so much more to improve, but I was thrilled, especially with yesterday.”
Full results are available on EventEntries.com.
Don’t miss a minute of the Dutta Corp. Fair Hill CCIs—stay informed on all the news, behind-the-scenes stories and stunning photos with the Chronicle’s dedicated Fair Hill CCI page of online coverage. And make sure to read even more details in the Nov. 3 issue of the print magazine The Chronicle of the Horse. You might know who won, but we tell you why and how they won.