The Plains, Va.—June 20
It’s pretty easy to see why Cambalda has earned the barn name “Ping”. Even though he sometimes has an unconventional style between fences during his show jumping rounds, cross-cantering and coming behind the leg, he springs off the ground, never coming close to touching a fence.
But even so, tonight at the Land Rover Great Meadow CIC***, his rider Jennie Brannigan wasn’t so sure she could guarantee a clear round over Richard Jeffrey’s course.
“I don’t think, at this point, it’s a surprise to anyone that Cambalda is a bit behind the leg. He’s the type of horse where you maybe want to have a little bit of a rub before you go in the ring and he was jumping really well,” she said. “In hindsight, I might just jump four jumps and go, whether or not he needs it. By the time he got in the ring, he felt a little bit flat. But, he goes the way he goes and that is Ping.”
In the end, with the pressure on and hundreds of spectators watching, Brannigan and Ping did deliver a clear to hold their lead heading into tomorrow’s cross-country. Of the 20 three-star riders to start, 12 jumped double-clear.
Great Meadows’ tight arena makes it a challenge to design a flowing course and a challenge to get a clear round, but riders were appreciative of Jefferys’ track.
“Richard Jeffrey is a top designer,” said Brannigan. “I’ve gotten to jump around his tracks quite a bit. I’ve gotten to jump at Twilight Jumpers here too so I know the small arena. It was a great track and I think it caused enough problems that it was influential without being overly influential.”
Buck Davidson, who jumped double-clear on both Ballynoecastle RM and Petite Flower, agreed.
“I thought Richard did quite a good job in such a small ring. He gave you lots of places to go. I thought last year [for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games final outing], it was maybe a bit twisty-turny and too tight,” he said.
Officials moved the start time of the jumping up by an hour and a half because of predicted bad weather, which rolled through a few minutes after the final horse.
Flooding rains, severe lighting and wind battered the grounds and flooded the temporary stabling, but Brannigan thinks Great Meadows’ old turf will be able to withstand the rain for tomorrow’s cross-country.
“Being someone that appreciates racing, this is quite an honor to be here,” she said. “It will personally be special to me to ride out here tomorrow because I got to watch all my jump jockey friends ride around here [at the Virginia Gold Cup]. The course is fantastic and Mike Etherinton-Smith is an amazing designer and it’s a super piece of ground. I think we’re all nervous about the rain, but at the same time, I don’t think you have better turf than this turf and it’s the best turf in this country.”
Brannigan isn’t sure how she’ll tackle the course tomorrow; either riding for herself or following team orders since she’s an alternate for the Pan Am Games team. She’s received a grant to travel to Rebecca Farm (Mont.) to contest a three-star, but had also hoped to use a free plane ride for a fall three-day that she won when she took home the Dutta Corp. Fair Hill International CCI*** (Md.) title last October.
“I will say it’s been an interesting mental deal. Maybe people don’t realize the toll it takes a little bit on a person to not get named to a list, then get an email out of the blue, no clue I was going to get vetted for the Pan Ams,” she said. “To wish well to my friends and want to do well for my country, all that’s very important to me, but at the same time, I run a business and I have hopefully a huge fall with my horses.
“I’ve been pressured to buy made horses, but I like to make my own horses, so of course, you’re going into the fall, like, ‘Alright, that’s going to be some time away.’ You’re juggling in your head, like trying to care, then trying not to care, and that’s a lot to think about,” she continued. “And you can’t plan. But how lovely is my life that that’s my problem? It’s pretty amazing for that to be my problem. I believe in Ping and I think the results are there and he deserves to be in consideration for the Pan Ams. I just want to do the best job I can and hopefully this is groundwork for the team needing me in the future. Whatever they need me to do I’ll do.”
A Dramatic Final Ride For Pan Am Prep
Pan Am team members Lauren Kieffer and Meadowbrook’s Scarlett took over the top spot with a double-clear in the Pan Am Preperatory Trial division when leaders Phillip Dutton and Fernhill Cubalawn took a dramatic fall on the flat after jumping the triple bar at fence 8.
The fall elicited gasps from the crowd, but both Dutton and “Cuba” were up quickly and walked out of the ring. Dutton later confirmed that Cuba was checked over by team vet Dr. Susan Johns and was resting comfortably in the barn.
“I thought it was great and rode well,” said Kieffer of the course. “I felt like I was out there for a long time [with such a long course]. I can’t believe what happened. Phillip would clearly be winning—the horse was jumping incredibly. I think it was just a fluke thing, but it is what it is.”
Kieffer was happy to have both “Scarlett” and her alternate horse, Vermiculus, exposed to the atmosphere with crowds and tents.
“I’m thrilled to be able to get my alternate, Vermiculus, out here and how he handled it,” she said. “He’s certainly never seen this kind of atmosphere and neither has Scarlett. But they’re both keeping very cool heads about it.”
Boyd Martin, another member of the Pan Am team, also appreciated the atmosphere for his ride, Pancho Villa. He moved up to second place with a double-clear.
“I thought it was a good twisty course, and like Lauren said, a long course,” he said. “It was good for my bloke because he can get a bit spooky and I thought it was a good experience for him to get in a small area with lots of things to distract him. He stayed focused and jumped well.”
Cross-country will start tomorrow at 9:30 a.m.
For full results, click here.