Elkton, Md.—Oct. 14
Tamra Smith admitted she wasn’t sure what to expect on cross-country today with Sunsprite Syrius at the Dutta Corp. Fair Hill International CCI**.
The 9-year-old Trakehner gelding owned by Sunsprite Warmbloods is new to the two-star level, but he’s never finished outside the top 2 of any FEI event he’s completed so far.
So Smith was thrilled he rose to the challenge over Derek di Grazia’s course this morning, maintaining his dressage lead ahead of Cornelia Dorr on Louis M, who jumped double-clear to remain in second place.
Will Coleman and Off The Record moved into third place from fifth with a double-clear.
In all, 25 pairs made the optimum time of 8 minutes 57 seconds, and 53 of 59 pairs completed.
“I didn’t know what to expect because he’s never been in an environment like this before. He’s only competed a little bit at the intermediate level on the West Coast,” said Smith. “When you come here, it’s why we brought him. He was super. He didn’t question one thing. He was spot on everywhere. He was really rideable and really good. He wasn’t tired at the end. He kept pulling and was actually kind of feisty going to the last water. I was worried I wouldn’t get him back, but he’s not like that. He just didn’t put a foot wrong anywhere.”
Smith, who came from California with four horses to compete at Fair Hill, is a fan of di Grazia’s courses.
“The coffin rode way better than I expected [in the three-star.] I thought it was going to be much more difficult, but the horses read it great,” she said. “That’s a typical Derek thing. You go out and you have no idea what to expect and he’s a master at making it so the horses understand their job.”
Dorr brought her FEI North American Junior and Young Rider Championship silver- and bronze-medal winning mounts to her first Fair Hill. Louis M, a 12-year-old Rheinlander gelding, has lots of experience at the three-star level with his former rider and is newer to Dorr, but Sir Patico, an 11-year-old Zweibrucker gelding, has been with Dorr for several years. She went out on him first.
“‘Hugo’ was amazing. He and I have a wonderful relationship and know each other inside and out, so it was nice to go out. I felt super confident with him. He was straight and keen to do anything,” she said. “It was nice to go out and feel all of that on him and be able to do tighter lines on Louis to help with the time. They were both great and super fit. I’m happy with them.”
Coleman was happy with Off The Record, who finished second at the Pedigree Bromont CCI** (Quebec) in June.
“It went pretty much according to plan. He was feeling nine minutes by the time we got to the finish, but that’s part of the reason we bring them here—to progress them and bring up their level of fitness. I was proud of him,” he said of the 8-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding. “He’s been consistent, and that’s what we’re going for with all the horses this year—consistent performances across all three phases.”
Coleman was a fan of the course as well, adding that the extensive galloping is good for developing two-star horses.
“I don’t think we need to take their heart out at this level, but it was a nine-minute track. You still had to go out and attack it and get it done,” he said. “I thought this two-star was every bit as technical as last year, maybe even a bit more. I thought it was a proper test. I don’t think the results are misleading or imply that it was easy. There was a pretty good group of two-star horses if you look through it there were most experienced horses. There aren’t many people that bring 7-year-olds here because it is a stiff test. This gets billed as a 2 1/2 –star, so they come ready.”
Overall there were three eliminations for refusals, two retirements on course and one rider fall, Allison Springer, who fell from Fernhill Casano at the first water, but later rode two other horses in the division.