Riders usually spend the week before a major competition taking some lessons, running through their tests, fine-tuning all the movements. But Ashlee Watts was out of town for work, and she didn’t even get to sit on Hampton the week before the U.S. Dressage Finals.
“I almost didn’t come because I was like, ‘How can I make this happen?’ But I was like, ‘I have to go,’ ” said Watts.
Riders faced a big choice in the second—and final—jumping round of the ASPCA Maclay Final. They could jump a three-stride bending line from Fence 8 to 9, try to land the counter-canter lead off that Fence 9 and hold it around a very tight turn, or land on the inside lead, swap to the counter lead and jump Fence 10.
The first five riders in the ring for the jump-off of the $250,000 Longines Lexington FEI World Cup qualifier went for it—raced against the clock, tried sharp turns and dashed towards long distances. Then Kent Farrington and Voyeur entered the ring, galloping—flying, really—around nearly 4 seconds faster (36.93 seconds) than second-placed Callan Solem on VDL Wizard (40.69 seconds), with a round that looked impossible to catch.
Nicola Philippaerts had the good fortune to draw the very last starting place in the $380,000 Rolex Grand Prix CSI***** with H&M Harley VD Bisschop, which meant he also got to start last in the jump-off for the class. He’d watched Jessica Springsteen blaze around the short course with Cynar VA in 41.29 seconds, and so his plan wasn’t complicated, but it also wasn’t easy. He needed to go clear, and he needed to go fast.