Aiken, S.C.—March 2
Each of the top three horses at the $50,000 LiftMaster Grand-Prix Eventing Invitational had something different going for them. For winners Liz Halliday-Sharp and Fernhill By Night, it’s a long time partnership with her “old man” of a horse that carried them to the top of all three phases and the overall win in the inaugural event.
“He was magic,” Halliday-Sharp said. “I’m so proud of him; the horse felt incredible. He hasn’t had a run this year, but he knows his job, and he just fought for me the whole way. I just couldn’t be more pleased with him.”
Halliday-Sharp had been a bit worried about having enough in the tank to tackle Capt. Mark Phillips twisting and turning cross-country course with the 16-year-old gelding, but “Blackie” powered through for her.
“I loved how he just operated off the turns for me; he can be a bit slow in his mind sometimes, but today he was fully on it in every way,” Halliday-Sharp said. “The horse was class; every fence was spot on, and he felt like the pro he is. He deserves this as much as I do and the team does.”
It’s the first year Bruce’s Field has hosted an eventing showcase, and the giant checks divvying up the $50,000 in prize money put a smile on everyone’s face at the end of the day.
“I think it’s fantastic, what a brilliant event; I think we need more of it in our sport,” Halliday-Sharp said. “Especially for the old boys like Blackie, so he can come out and be a winner and not have to run really long distances anymore, and it was so great to have such a big crowd, it was awesome.”
Taking second to Halliday-Sharp was Doug Payne on Vandiver, a horse he describes as a “bad ass.”
“He’s a pretty special horse really; he makes easy work of it, and honestly it’s just a hell of a lot of fun,” Payne said.
There was some concern that because of the way the track was designed to be in sight of the spectators, it made for a really winding course without a lot of places to find a rhythm, but the twisting and turning agreed with Payne.
“I think Mark [Phillips] did a great job. Walking it it seems pretty twisty and turny, but it was actually pretty smooth and flowed well,” Payne said. “It was very good for the horses.”
William Fox-Pitt picked up third place on a catch ride, Chris Talley’s horse Sandro’s Star.
“We jumped the jumps; it wasn’t always pretty but it worked, and I think the poor horse had to put up with quite a bit of shock,” Fox-Pitt said. “With a different rider and charging around all these fences, it was a bit of a wake-up call, but he was a lovely horse wasn’t he? He did the job well, and I’m not the quickest rider, so I was quite surprised that I ended up being quite quick.”
Of the 34 horse and rider pairs who started the competition only 19 opted to run cross-country, with Nilson da Silva retiring with Muggle. There was only one stop on course for the day and no horse or rider falls. Click here for full results.