The Plains, Va.—June 21
Jennie Brannigan was thrilled with her ride on cross-country today at the inaugural Land Rover Great Meadow CIC*** with her longtime partner, Nina Gardner’s Cambalda, which earned her the win and a check for $10,000.
But it wasn’t just the win that made her weekend. Not only was Brannigan thrilled to be running across the historic turf of the Virginia Gold Cup steeplechase race, but she got a reminder of why she loves eventing in the first place.
On Saturday night, strong storms rolled through The Plains, bringing lightning, torrential rain and wind and tornado warnings. In a matter of minutes, the temporary stabling was flooded and more than 30 riders, owners and supporters banned together to dig trenches to keep the horses safe.
“Maybe it’s the True Prospect Farm in me, but as soon as things started hitting the fan, I was just like, ‘Alright, let’s fix it,’ and went right to work so we could dig some trenches out,” she said. “People gave me some [crap] about wearing my white [breeches and shirt], but there wasn’t any time to think. Tamie Smith was wearing her show coat and tall boots for at least 45 minutes.
“If anything of what was special about this weekend besides getting to be here, that was special,” she continued. “That’s why we event. I don’t even know the Mexican team, they were all in there. We were all just trying our best to do the right thing for the horses. Owners, the president of the USEA—that’s eventing. If you’re going to take one thing away from this weekend, that encompasses what eventing is supposed to be. How cool is that? I was proud to be in there with them.”
Because of the inches of rain that fell, the cross-country course was a bit wet in spots, but Brannigan kicked on with “Ping”, adding 8 time penalties to finish on a score of 47 ahead of Lynn Symansky and Donner, who added 7.6 time penalties.
Fourteen of 20 starters finished Mike Etherington-Smith’s course. Sally Cousins fell from Abecca GS one fence from home and Justine Dutton fell from Jollybo at 4b, but both horses and riders walked back to the barns.
Fence 4ab, the angled brushes, caused trouble for several pairs including Michael Pollard and Cyrano and Maggie Deatrick and Divine Comedy, who later retired on course.
Fence 9abc, the Steps, caused Crackerjack and Boyd Martin to fault, as well as Bobby Meyerhoff and Dunlavin’s Token, who were eliminated for refusals.
No one made the time, but Colleen Rutledge came the closest on Covert Rights, adding .8 time penalties to move up to third place.
Buck Davidson, who’d been sitting in second with Ballynoe Castle RM, missed the flag at fence 9c and continued on, resulting in an unfortunate elimination.
“You couldn’t expect anything better for the amount of rain we got last night. The footing was holding, but it would be holding anywhere in the world, so we were pretty lucky that this is existing turf and is maintained so well,” said Brannigan. “My horse does not like soft ground, so I knew that going out, but I also knew I wanted to go out and win this event, so I went as fast as I could with the safety of my horse in mind and I was happy with the way we went.”
“He jumped around well and he keeps showing up to the party,” she added. “To pull it out this weekend and have the career-best dressage score I’ve ever had and have him go out and jump around and be good, I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Kieffer Leads Pan Am Prep
All four Pan Am team members filled out the top slots in the Pan Am Prep Trial.
Lauren Kieffer and Meadowbrook’s Scarlett held their lead after show jumping to take home the win. They added six time penalties to finish just ahead of Marilyn Little and RF Scandalous.
Boyd Martin and Pancho Villa had 10 time penalties to drop to third. Pan Am reserve rider Matt Brown took fourth place on BCF Belicoso and Phillip Dutton and Fernhill Fugitive slotted into fifth.
“In three weeks, if they are standing up on a podium with gold medals around their necks, that would be a great thing for the United States,” said Chef d’Equipe David O’Connor. “You could not ask for four better people to represent the U.S., including two first time team members, Marilyn and Lauren. We are really excited about going up to Canada and doing our job.”
Martin knows the pressure the team is under to bring home a medal after a disappointing finish at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games (France), but he feels prepared to tackle the challenge.
“When it comes down to it, you’ve just got to get the job done and I think the four of us have hopefully been picked because when it comes to the crunch, we can get it done,” he said. “It really comes down to, you can have the best coach, the best horse and the best training camp, but when there’s five seconds to go in the start box, you take a deep breath and get the job done.”
“I am excited about the team we’ve got and all the support staff that surround the team,” added Dutton. “We are determined to go to Canada and bring home the gold medal.”
Kieffer added that all of the riders have enjoyed working with O’Connor since he’s taken over his role as coach and credited the support of owners, sponsors and support crew.
“I think all the riders were realistic about how much we have to improve and everyone’s continuing to improve and I think a lot has changed since David became coach and I don’t think you’ll get a group of people and riders and support crew that aren’t trying any harder than these are,” she said.
For full results, click here.