Reddick, Fla.—Nov. 26
When the final scores of the CIC*** were announced after cross-country at the Ocala Jockey Club International today with Jonathan Holling and Downtown Harrison taking the win, Matt Brown and his wife Cecily decided to double-check his dressage test with Super Socks BCF one last time since Holling had taken the win by just .1.
It turned out that Matt’s original score of 46.4 had been incorrectly calculated, and his actual score was 46.3, putting him on the same finishing score as Holling, who’d added 1.2 time penalties on cross-country. Since Matt jumped double-clear over Mike Etherington-Smith’s course, he broke the tie by being closest to the optimum time of 6 minutes 9 seconds and was named the winner.
“It’s rough either way because it’s so close. I wish we had run it up earlier after dressage. Jon says he wouldn’t have done anything differently on cross-country, but who knows? The fact that it was so close, and we were just off by one tenth of a point. I’ve gotten second before when I should have won, and I didn’t check the test until after I’d gone home. Cecily was like, ‘you know, let’s just double check the test.’ Neither one of us thought in a million years that we would find another mistake,” he said.
Matt Brown and Super Socks BCF. Photo by Lindsay Berreth.
Ever humble, Matt said he was excited when he realized he’d taken the win, but felt bad immediately.
“But then he got a check for 15 grand so he felt better!” said Holling with a laugh. “When that all happened, obviously I was pumped I had won, and Matt came up to me, and the first thing he said to me was, ‘make sure you double check your test,’ which is a huge credit to Matt for coming to me and making sure I did. [The score] was calculated incorrectly, so Matt wins, and that’s the sport. Everybody comes here to win.”
Regardless of who took home the blue ribbon, both riders were thrilled with their horses today over Etherington-Smith’s brand new course, which received high praise from many riders for it’s open, flowing track.
Matt decided to forgo a fall CCI with “Flaxen” and wanted a solid round after a disappointing trip to the Aachen CICO*** (Germany) where they incurred a run out on cross-country.
“To be honest the prize money was a part of it, but the bigger part was we didn’t have a great result at Aachen. I was pretty disappointed in that, and I felt like I needed to take some time to figure out—I think it was more my mindset going into the event. I think I wasn’t mentally prepared enough, and so I didn’t want to just after that event jump back in and get ready for the next event,” he said. “We took a little bit more time and went back to the drawing board a little bit. I have to give credit to Cecily, because I sort of go up and down as far as being really confident one day and then the next day feeling like I can’t ride, so she really helped to sit down and talk about why maybe I wasn’t as confident as I should be and come up with a plan that paid off training-wise for us.”
The 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding, owned by Bob and Valerie Fish, seems to prefer muddy going according to Matt, but he went well over Ocala’s sandy soil.
“It’s an amazing property. I didn’t know what to expect coming down here, and I’m totally blown away with what they’ve done with the property. They’re obviously very capable at planning and getting things done. It was really nice to run around a big, gallopy, fair course for the horses,” said Matt. “I think the sport is going in a direction of very turny, tight, smaller courses, and so to be able to go out and gallop and gallop through questions really felt good, and Super Socks likes doing that. He likes to gallop, so I thought the course really suited him. He felt good at the beginning, and he felt good at the end.”
Jonathan Holling and Downtown Harrison. Photo by Lindsay Berreth.
Holling was coming off a disappointing fall season in which he cancelled a trip to the Pau CCI**** (France) after “Will” had an issue in show jumping warm up at the Stable View Advanced Horse Trials (S.C.) and was withdrawn.
“For me it looked like it was going to be a really gallopy course, and it was. I think that track to me was as close to feeling like you were jumping around a CCI while being at a CIC that I’ve ever felt, which I think is a testament to the property and Mike ES and to Richard [Trayford’s] vision of finding the place and to the Nygaards for letting us be here. I can’t think of a better place in America to have a big event, it’s just incredible,” he said.
“My horse is a pretty experienced horse, and all the questions were very understandable. They were big and bold and fair questions. When you’re eventing horses, as they’re young horses you always say, ‘Well a course is supposed to teach them and make them better when they finish,’ but I’ve found that at the advanced level that doesn’t always happen.
“Quite often you go out and it’s tough. It’s difficult. You finish the course, and are like, ‘Oh my gosh, I got away with one here and one there.’ Maybe it was because my horse was spectacular today, which he was, but I would say at 12 years old, he went out there and became a better horse than when he started, which for an advanced horse to do that on course—I’d love to say it’s because he’s a special horse, and I gave him a decent ride, but I think the biggest credit is to the design and build of the fences and the property,” he continued.
Of 20 starters, just Matt and Boyd Martin on Steady Eddie made the time. Martin finished third. Leslie Law and Charleston IV were eliminated for refusals and Sara Kozumplik Murphy fell from Rubens D’Ysieux at the double brushes at 12 and 13, but she walked home with the gelding. Buck Davidson retired Petite Flower after one stop.
Hannah Sue Burnett and Cooley Dream. Photo by Lindsay Berreth.
Hannah Sue Burnett and Cooley Dream held their dressage lead in the CCI**, adding 2.8 time penalties to their score, and they’ll have a 6 point lead going into tomorrow’s show jumping over Jennie Brannigan and Cool As Ice.
Burnett dropped the 8-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding down a level after a fall at the Rebecca Farm CCI*** (Mont.) this summer, and he’s been gaining confidence ever since.
“I am trying to be very sensitive to what he needs from me, encouragement wise, and being nice to him and letting him have his time and be confident. It’s a fine line with an Irish Horse, especially, as I’m learning with the Cruising line. They need to know what they’re good at and feel that confidence from you, but also not be pushed past it,” she said. “He’s so talented, and for me, I’ve learned a lot this year because I’ve struggled with just pushing him past his confidence and learning the hard way. I’m so happy I’m getting smarter and figuring this out because now it’s obviously going well.”
Twenty riders completed the course with just second-placed Boyd Martin falling from Kyra, but neither were seriously injured. Three riders made the time.
“I was so impressed with the course. It’s so hilly. Clayton [Fredericks] and Mike ES used the terrain beautifully I thought, and it was such a confidence building course. Not that it was easy or anything, there was plenty of trouble, but it was spread out,” said Burnett. “It felt like you were at a little [Rolex] Kentucky. There’s plenty of galloping, and there’s good ground. I had a great time, which is kind of hard to say. This whole year has been so tough cross-country. I feel like everyone’s trying to make a difference in their course design, and sometimes it goes the wrong way. I understand sometimes you want to make a mark or try to prove something, but it’s been hard. I’ve been a lot of places across the world this year, and this is the most fun I’ve had the entire year.”
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Curious about the new Ocala Jockey Club International? We’re on site to bring you coverage of the CCI*, CCI** and CIC*** and lots of photos! Check out a full report in the Dec. 12 print edition of the Chronicle.