Allentown, N.J., May 13
Mystery Whisper might need a new name before the Olympic Games. After winning his past three FEI events, the horse is much more of a known quantity than a mystery, and his greatness isn’t the kind of thing you want to keep quiet.
The horse laid down another superb weekend in the Jersey Fresh CCI***, adding only 1.2 time penalties on cross-country, and 1 time penalty and a rail in show jumping to his dressage score to finish on 38.8 penalties. But even with his exceptional record, Dutton is eyeing the summer’s Olympic Games as Mystery Whisper's main event. Jersey Fresh was a crucial step in his plan; the pair needed the three-star as a qualification for a four-star.
“It’s a big relief and not just to win,” said Dutton. “The first thing was to get the horse qualified. It’s icing on the cake to win it as well. Well, every time we do something a bit more he steps up better. The biggest thing I learned this weekend is that he can gallop for 10 minutes with no problem.”
Dutton, West Grove, Pa., and Whisper have already topped the Red Hills CIC*** (Fla.) and The Fork CIC*** (N.C.) this spring. But with more than two months to go before the Olympic Games in London, Dutton isn’t getting ahead of himself.
“I’ve been in this a long, long time, and I know that you just take it week to week,” he said. “But I have to say that I’m really enjoying the horse.”
Phillip Dutton and “Whisper” had three rails in hand heading into the show jumping, but they only needed one. (Their one rail down was the first for the pair this year.)
“It was my fault. I should have put in eight [strides] going into the combination and given him more time to see it,” said Dutton. “He felt particularly good in the warm-up, and I felt confident going in.”
The show jumping course proved tricky, with no one completing a double clean and only two horses putting in jumping clears. Michael Pollard and Jude’s Law also had one rail to move up from third to second (47.6 penalties) after Karen O’Connor’s Veronica took down three fences and dropped to fifth. Canada’s Selena O’Hanlon on the 18-year-old Colombo slotted into third place with one of the two jumping clears of the day and only 2 time penalties. Ronald Zabala-Goetschel and Wise Equestrian Master Rose was the only other pair to leave all the rails up, and they picked up 8 time penalties to finish 12th.
Whisper, a 12-year-old Australian-bred Warmblood (Richmeed Medallion—Socialite, Salute) gelding, is owned by Jim Wildasin and was imported for Jim’s daughter, Arden, to ride. Dutton will hand over the reins to his student after the Olympics.
“I’m lucky to have the ride on him now,” said Dutton. “That’s part of the game. We don’t own the horses. We just ride them. I’m going to make the most of it while I do have him.”
Watch a video of Phillip Dutton's show jumping ride:
Pollard, Dalton, Ga., and Jude's Law, a 12-year-old Irish-bred horse (Coevers Diamond Boy—Coolreagh Lady), made the trip to the West Coast last fall for the Galway Downs CCI*** (Calif.) but retired after picking up two stops on the cross-country there. Pollard was thrilled the horse had such a successful outing in New Jersey.
"I was annoyed with myself in the show jumping," he said. "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."
O’Hanlon is also looking toward the Olympic Games with the veteran Colombo. The two were members of the silver medal-winning Canadian team at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games (Ky.).
“I always think that you have to jump clean first and worry about time second,” she said. “I had a hard time turning to the Swedish oxer, and I think that’s where I lost my time. I added a stride between [fences] 3 and 4. You could ride eight [strides], and I did nine, and every time you add a stride you lose a couple of seconds.”
Howard And Riddle Master Take Home Their First CIC*** Win
After a dramatic finish in the Jersey Fresh CIC***, Rebecca Howard emerged the winner on Riddle Master with 52.8 penalties. It was their first three-star win as a team.
The top three riders went in less than 1 point apart. Will Faudree and Pawlow, second after cross-country, took two rails down to drop to third, and Sinead Halpin's one rail on Manoir de Carneville moved them up to second (53.6). Howard rode into the ring with a small margin for error, just one rail in hand with no room for even a single time penalty.
When Howard and Riddle Master pulled one rail early in the course, the spectators started holding their breath. But "Rupert" pulled it off to finish just .8 points ahead of Halpin and Manoir de Carneville, a 12-year-old Selle Francais (Gaub—Carneville, Matador du Bois) owned by Carrig LLC.
“It was a challenging course, for sure,” Howard said. “He’s a tough horse because he’s so different at home. The atmosphere and the rings change him quite a lot. He’s become quite a schoolmaster at home, and he adds a dramatic flair in the competition ring.
"But the rail was my fault," she added.
Howard, 33, rides for Canada and said she’s excited about her future with Rupert, an 11-year-old Bavarian Warmblood (Rodero—Legacy 3rd, Eyes to Rule) owned by Blithe Hill Farm. Rupert was Howard's partner on the silver medal team at the 2010 WEG.
“Once he gets comfortable in his job, whether that’s doing a shoulder-in in the dressage ring or cantering down to a fence, he can be quite consistent,” she said. “I think he’s just going to continue.”
In second place, Halpin, 31, said Tate felt a little tired during the course. “I gave him a little ride before the trot-up, and maybe I shouldn’t have,” she said. “When I got on him this afternoon, he was a little tired, a little flatter.”
However, Halpin said she was thrilled for Howard, a close friend.
“You always want to win, but this is such an independent sport. You just want to go in and not look like an idiot. You want to do the best you can,” Halpin said.
Crackerjack Clinches CCI** Title
Boyd Martin has priorities, and one of those priorities is winning three-day events. So Martin was especially pleased to top the CCI** at Jersey Fresh aboard Crackerjack, finishing on his dressage score of 48.5 penalties.
“Winning any three-day event is a huge high for me,” said Martin. “That’s the focus of what I do—really trying to have these horses peak at the CCI events, be it a two-star, three-star or four-star. It’s satisfying to have the horses peak at this big event and do well in all three phases.”
Crackerjack, a 9-year-old Thoroughbred (Aberjack—Satan’s Slave, Raise A Native) gelding, jumped one of four double-clear show jumping rounds in the division. Kelley Williams and Brazen Bomber jumped around with one rail and 1 time penalty, moving them up from a tie for fourth after cross-country to second (58.5). Two felled rails for Holly Payne and Santino dropped them from second to third on 58.6 penalties.
“it was a good, twisting, technical show jumping track. It was tougher than it’s been in previous years, and you had to move along to make the time. He's a very, very energetic athlete. He reminds me of Neville a bit. The biggest thing is keeping him quiet and relaxed. He’s one of those that’ll keep going and going. It’s a very good thing about him, but it’s also a challenge for his training," said Martin.
Martin’s win was even more meaningful because Crackerjack was formerly owned and ridden by the late eventer Colin Davidson, who died in a car accident in late 2010. Davidson’s mother, Lucy Boynton, bred Crackerjack and now owns the horse in her son’s name, and she was on hand for this weekend’s event.
“[Crackerjack] came to me first because the family had to unload all of Colin’s horses after his death,” said Martin, West Grove, Pa. “Initially he was to be sold, but I got to know Lucy, and she came to a couple of events, and I think enjoyed the idea of watching her son’s horse compete. Slowly but surely she put the idea of selling him off. I’ve really got a great friendship with her now, and I believe it’s given her a wonderful way to remember her son."
Brazen Bomber and Williams, Brookeville, Md., made a steady move up the leaderboard this weekend. They were tied for sixth after dressage, and a double-clear cross-country trip yesterday helped their progess.
"He went fast and clean yesterday, and he was wonderful," said Williams of the 12-year-old Thoroughbred gelding (Bombardier—Something Brazen, White Rammer). "Today he came out feeling really good. I expected him to feel more tired than he did, but he felt great. It was a good weekend all in all."
O’Connor Sweeps The CIC**
Karen O’Connor went one-two on her two CIC** mounts at Jersey Fresh.
Mandiba, a 13-year-old Irish Sport Horse (Master Imp—High Dolly, Chair Lift) owned by Joan Goswell, kept his place in first with a faultless show jumping trip, and RF Amber Eyes, an 8-year-old German Sporthorse (Libery Son—Natascha, Glistan) owned by Richard Thompson, slipped into second place with another smooth double-clear round.
“Today (Mandiba) was more confident in the show jumping than he was at The Fork,” O’Connor, 54, said. Mandiba won the CIC** at The Fork (N.C.) earlier this spring. “I’m just so happy that he’s happy.”
O’Connor’s second-placed mare is a relatively new mount for O’Connor, who is based in The Plains, Va., but she placed second at The Fork CIC**.
“She’s a very nice horse to take into the show jumping phase because she’s a very careful horse,” O’Connor said. “She’s a great horse to start the day on because she makes me very calm.”
Young Rider Connor Husain jumped around the course with Piece Of Hope, a 13-year-old Swedish Warmblood (Feliciano—Unqolata, Royal Conductor), with a double-clear round that moved him up from his spot in fifth place after the cross-country phase to third overall. About half (six out of 11) competitors jumped clear trips in the division. Will Coleman and Zipp, second after cross-country, had three rails and 2 time penalties to drop into sixth.