Monday, May. 27, 2024

Boyd Martin Splashes Into The Lead At Fair Hill

Boyd Martin made the best of bad conditions today in Elkton, Md., Oct. 17, and bounded up the standings from 16th to first place with the only double-clear round in the Dansko Fair Hill CCI*** aboard Neville Bardos (51.0).

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Boyd Martin made the best of bad conditions today in Elkton, Md., Oct. 17, and bounded up the standings from 16th to first place with the only double-clear round in the Dansko Fair Hill CCI*** aboard Neville Bardos (51.0).

Continuous steady rain left the ground sodden, and the ground jury decided to remove 10 fences from the course of 40 jumping efforts and reduce the optimal speed from 570 mpm to 510 mpm. Although 21 of the 66 starters withdrew, including second-placed John Williams and Sweepea Dean, this is the only CCI*** in North America this fall, and many riders needed a qualifying score.

“He’s a real Thoroughbred, so he’s quite suited to these kinds of conditions,” said Martin of his 10-year-old ex-racehorse. “He really galloped on top of the mud and did it quite easily, to be honest. I didn’t feel like I was pushing him much.”

Martin wasn’t the only one to take advantage of the difficult conditions.

His mentor, Phillip Dutton, moved up from 17th place with Kheops Du Quesnay into a tie for second place with Karen O’Connor and Mandiba (55.2). O’Connor had led the dressage, but 15.6 time penalties knocked her down a spot.

For all three riders, a good go around cross-country meant more than a chance at a top placing. Neville Bardos placed fifth at Fair Hill two years ago in his first three-star, and then he jumped to ninth place at the Rolex Kentucky CCI**** the following year. However, two minor injuries at inopportune moments meant that he hasn’t been able to go to another major three-day since.

Although Dutton has ridden Kheops Du Quesnay for more than a year, the experienced 11-year-old Selle Francais hasn’t been easy to figure out.

“One of the highlights of my career is seeing this horse turn around,” said Dutton in a rare show of emotion. “I think the horse frustrated me a bit too much, and I had to let that go. I’m quite excited about him because he went bloody well today, and he’s the type of horse that isn’t suited to this kind of ground.”

Dutton’s plan was to start out quietly on course and try to make up time later on if the horse still felt fresh. Martin followed this advice as well, but O’Connor wasn’t able to.

She consulted with Dutton about Mandiba because he’d evented the 9-year-old Thoroughbred twice for O’Connor prior to Fair Hill when her shoulder injury prevented her from riding.

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“My shoulder got really tired at the end, so I didn’t hammer him home like Phillip suggested—I slowed down a bit,” said O’Connor. “But he was very, very straight for me at the accuracy questions, which has been a weakness for both of us.”

O’Connor likened riding at Fair Hill in the sloppy conditions to doing a long-format three-day.

“I think the horses had to soldier on,” she said. “You had to work very hard at keeping the horse together, just like ‘way back in the day.’

“The people that went out there today and had that experience [in the difficult conditions] are better riders for it,” she continued. “There was a ton of work in the second half of the courses to put them in a balance and make sure they were moving their feet. The mud has a way of delaying their reactions, and when that happens the riders have to be quicker in their reactions.”

No one fell off in the CCI***, and there really wasn’t a bogey fence, although 23B, the Duck Blind in the last water jump, did cause a number of run-outs. Jil Walton retired there with My Sedona after she had her second stop on course. Katie Willis and Polar Storm collected their third stop on course there as well and were eliminated.

Mara Dean, who sat in third place after dressage with Nicki Henley, retired after a stop at 15B, the skinny out of the Chesapeake Water. Tiana Coudray decided to take Ringwood Magister home after a refusal at the Farm Yard Corner, 6B, and another at the 18B corner. Officials pulled up Nate Chambers after his horse broke to trot and stopped at fence 18B.

Burnett Bounds To The Top

In the two-star it was another member of the O’Connor Event Team who finished in the lead. Hannah Burnett and St. Barths jumped up from 15th place to first with one of only two double-clear rounds in the division (51.9).

Rebecca Howard, the dressage leader, moved down to second place with Roquefort after accruing 11.6 time penalties (53.8). Doug Payne, the first rider of the day, proved that mud was no deterrent to him. He and Running Order put in a lovely clear with 4.8 time penalties to move up from eighth place to third (55.1).
 
The two-star saw even more withdrawals than the three-star. Of the 72 possible starters, 32 withdrew, including second-placed Leslie Law with Hugo Fast and fifth-placed Jennie Brannigan with Cambalda. However, another CCI** is scheduled to run at Poplar Place (Ga.) in November.

Officials removed fences 2, 3, 4, 6A, 9B, 14B and 22AB and also reduced the optimum time from 9:03 to 7:58 to match the shorter course.

“I was a little discouraged that they did pull off so many jumps from the course but later I was grateful. My horse is quite good cross-country, and I was hoping to move up,” said Burnett.

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The 23-year-old started riding St. Barths a year ago, after he recovered from EPM. Dick Thompson’s 8-year-old off-the-track Thoroughbred had been O’Connor’s ride since 2007, but Burnett helped in his rehab and really clicked with the horse.

“Dick’s new focus is to help some of the new generation,” said O’Connor.

Howard wasn’t sure how “Rocky” would take to the conditions, especially since she rode last in the division.

“Even though he was at the end, being right up against the galloping lane ropes, I felt like I found some good ground,” she said. “He did jump very well. I was really proud of him. He got tired at the end, but he kept jumping through it. He’s been a bit of a wiggly horse, but he was just dead straight.”

Payne figured his ex-steeplechaser from Ireland would feel right at home in the wet turf, and that proved to be true.

“He’s awesome—absolutely the real deal, especially after today,” said Payne.

There was one fall of horse and rider on the two-star course—Alexandra Blyskal and Briar Fox Mundungus tumbled at fence 15, the Parallel Oxer, but they both got up after the accident.

Colleen Rutledge parted company with Dillon at fence 17, the Chesapeake Water, while Audrea Johnson came off Articat at the Elk Chapel Rail at 8. Ashley MacVaugh fell off Tactiek at the same obstacle. Kelli Temple missed fence 6 with Veelion to garner a technical elimination.

Maya Studenmund on Poetic Justice and Laura Vello on Winning Facts were eliminated for stops at the Chesapeake Water.

For live results, visit www.evententries.com.

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