Allentown, N.J. - May 10
Phillip Dutton and Fernhill Fugitive came to this year’s Jersey Fresh CCI*** with something to prove.
Last year, the pair suffered a fall on cross-country, and Dutton realized the gelding needed a little more time at the three-star level before pushing to be competitive.
This time around, “Jack” was brimming with confidence, and he jumped around John Williams’ tough track with one of just three double-clear rounds, moving up from sixth after dressage to take over the lead.
“The horse went great,” said Dutton, 50. “He tried all the way around and jumped well and kept galloping all the way until the end. It wasn’t an easy three-star. He’s not a Thoroughbred, but I tried to keep the speed. He’s pretty easy to the jumps now, and he doesn’t get strong, so he’s able to be efficient.”
Dutton, West Grove, Pa., noted the course at the Horse Park of New Jersey was unique because of the smaller tract of land it winds through.
“I think more than anything, it’s mentally tiring for riders and horses because you’re constantly turning and going back again,” he said. “The horses have to go past the start box a couple of times and come back to the same area a couple of times.”
The course proved difficult with only 12 of 23 completing, but Dutton was confident heading out on the 9-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Lux Z—Barnadown Ramiro), who’s owned by Tom Tierney and Ann Jones.
“He’s fairly seasoned at this level now,” he said. “He had a year at the two-star level, then he struggled at the beginning of last year [at the three-star level] so it’s good now that he’s very capable at this level.”
He’s hoping for the best heading into tomorrow’s show jumping because he doesn’t have a rail in hand over Buck Davidson and Copper Beach.
“He jumps well, and I’ll hopefully get him to stay focused the whole way around,” he said.
Davidson couldn’t have been more thrilled with Sherrie Martin and Carl and Cassandra Segal’s Copper Beech, who retained his second place after dressage by adding 7.6 time penalties. He also slotted into third with The Apprentice.
“I thought The Apprentice went very well,” he said. “Copper Beech was a little green, but I didn’t expect anything different.”
The 8-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding of unrecorded breeding just moved up to the advanced level this spring after steadily climbing the levels.
“I didn’t know what he was going to do today,” said Davidson. “He was really good. He trucked around the whole thing. He was a bit green at the beginning, but he stayed the whole way, and I was really proud of him. This is way more than he knows how to do, and he just kept answering everything I asked him to do.”
Davidson, Riegelsville, Pa., joked that “Sean” tends to stay a bit chunky, so he’s worked extra hard on his fitness.
“Honestly, he’s been doing all the gallops with the four-star horses,” he said. “I know he’s not a clean-bred horse. He’s always chunky! I left Florida and went to [the Rolex Kentucky CCI****], and Sean went from Florida to Pennsylvania and when I got home, I walked in the barn, and I’m like, ‘Geez!’ It’s like he took on water. He just got bigger and bigger.”
Davidson has no expectations for the show jumping tomorrow, but he hopes he has a horse for the future.
“I always think with horses that are young, you really want them to sort of gain experience and like it," he said. "It’s really important to me to have these horses not for this year, but for eight years down the road. If I won this event and wrecked him for the rest of his life, that doesn’t make any sense. This is just in the training process.”
Up, Down, Trot, Twist, Turn, Gallop, Win
Williams’ cross-country course snaked and overlapped enough to throw off the rhythm for many CCI** competitors, but Emily Beshear used the changes of pace to her advantage. She took the lead on a fairly new ride, Shame On The Moon, who appreciated a few slow moments to check out the more complicated questions.
Three minutes into the course came the steepest grade, fence 9AB, a drop to a skinny wedge, and “about two thirds of the way up the hill I felt her slow, and I took my leg off,” said Beshear, 36. “She actually trotted at the top of the hill and caught her breath, and I just used that to let her have more time to see the question and then she was fine. That’s why I ended up behind the clock, but I feel you can pick and choose places on course to let them have a breather and that can go a long way in how they feel at the end of the course.”
Beshear, of Somerset, Va., and “Delta” were one of only five of 23 starters to finish without time faults cross-country, thanks to some serious efficiency later on.
“I tried to be very aware of landing and getting my gallop back so that I didn’t feel that I had to chase her through all the twists and turns,” said Beshear. “And I also realized that I was probably going to be down on the clock after the initial part, and I was, but fortunately she kind of found her inner Thoroughbred blood and had a great gallop. It was pretty effortless sort of to catch up on the clock at the end. I didn’t feel like I had to ask a lot to get it done, which is great. I had plenty of horse left.”
The 8-year-old mare (Sonset Sieger—Indy) who’s also one quarter Trakhener was facing the longest and most challenging track of her career at Jersey Fresh. Amanda Wilson, who competed Cool Decision in the CIC***, developed Delta to the two-star level before Beshear took the reins.
This spring, they were successful at the CIC** level, picking up second at The Fork (N.C.) and eighth at Pine Top (Ga.) among other completions.
“Somehow the horse stayed under of the radar of a lot of people, and I just happened to find out about her, and it just worked out, and I couldn’t be happier,” she said, praising the mare but also acknowledging that she needs further improvement as far as strength and stamina.
Beshear knew she could lower their 43.90 score in dressage because she knows there’s more potential.
“She can be a little bit spooky and easily distracted,” she said. “There was one moment in the test when something rattled in the pavilion, and I definitely felt her tense up, and that was one of the areas where we got marked down, because she did tense up for a movement or two.
“She’s just a lovely horse and is very rideable,” Beshear continued. “The exciting thing for me is that I feel like there’s a lot more I can keep building on.”
CCI*** Cross-Country Tidbits
- Emilee Libby and Nonsensical traveled all the way from California as the alternate for the H.E. “Tex” Sutton Forwarding Company travel grant after the original recipients, Helen Bouscaren and Ben, weren’t able to attend.
- Libby and her off-the-track Thoroughbred gelding jumped all the way from 20th after dressage to fifth with one of three double-clear rounds.
- Dressage leaders Michael Pollard and Ballingowan Pizazz retired at the top of the hill on the way to fence 23ABC, a drop to two angled tables, when the gelding appeared tired.
- Several riders fell at The Jersey Shore water complex, which had riders going through twice. Holly Payne fell from NeverOutfoxed at 8A, a corner in the water, while Liz Riley took a tumble off It’s The Truth at 15AB, a bounce bank out of the water. Bobby Meyerhoff fell from Utah B at fence 8A, and Barbara Crabo fell at 14B, a brush drop into water, while Lizzie Snow fell off Coal Creek at 14A, a brush before the water.
CCI** Cross-Country Tidbits
- The day got off to a rough start when the first out, Lillian Heard and FYI, had a mandatory retirement at fence 9AB. FYI got up and walked on to the horse trailer to be examined, and Heard was taken away in an ambulance with a broken collarbone.
- Sixteen of 23 combinations completed the course, and there were six rounds inside the time.
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