Allentown, N.J.—May 10
Sometimes the sport loves you and other times not so much. Today, eventing was a fan of Michael Pollard’s. The Dalton, Ga., rider topped the CCI** at the Jersey Fresh International today with Cyrano with no rails in the show jumping to finish on their dressage score (36.90).
In previous years, Jersey Fresh hasn’t always been friendly to Pollard. Last year he was leading the CCI*** with Ballingowan Pizazz when he retired on cross-country once he realized the horse had nothing left to offer.
“It’s great to be back in the winner’s circle here,” Pollard said. “It either seems to go really well here for me or really badly so I’m glad we chose this weekend to have an up weekend.”
Unlike many horses coming to compete in New Jersey, Cyrano has plenty of experience, giving Pollard an advantage. The 14-year-old Zangersheide competed in the 2012 London Olympic Games with Pollard’s father-in-law Carl Bouckaert before taking a few years off, only coming out for a few show jumping competitions.
Though they’ve only been paired together for a short time, Pollard said it didn’t take him long to find a rhythm with the gelding.
“I really find him to be a great horse to ride—he’s very athletic. I think because he’s a little bit game and my style of being a little quiet suits him very well. It was kind of like that from the very beginning,” Pollard said. “I rode one show jumping round at Longwood in Florida at a decent height and immediately I was ‘Man this is like driving a racecar.’ “He’s got a huge amount of scope, and you have a thousand different options for distances.
“He was a little bit funny coming around the corner coming to the liverpool and took a funny step right before and jumped that well, and I decided because he took a step back there that I wanted to just wait,” he continued. ‘You can pretty easily fit the extra stride in the line, and he still jumps great and makes it easier.”
Pollard, a Pan Amercian Games gold medalist, made a good case for himself with today’s win in the final selection trial for the games this summer. However 20 jumping penalties at the Ocala CCI** (Fla.) may not work in their favor.
“It’s still a ways to go, but I’m hoping they’ll want to look at him and put him on the short list,” he said. “At the two-star level he’s a hard horse to beat anywhere in the world and actually he’s got a lot more than that in him so we’ll see.”
Tamie Smith of Murrieta, Calif., started the afternoon in a good spot—with Mai Baum in second and Fleur de Lis standing third. But as the day unfolded, her weekend took a dramatic turn.
Fleur de Lis came out of the corner to fence 2, an upright blue vertical with hanging gates and reared, earning a quiet hush from the crowd.
“He’s kind of funny at liverpools, and fence 2 he thought was a liverpool,” said Smith. “He’s never done that in the show jumping before.”
Ever the professional, Smith got the gelding back on track until the liverpool—a fence “Milton” has taken exception to in the past. They made it over, but the gelding tripped coming out of the triple combination when his left-front shoe got caught in the carabiner on his belly guard, causing him to trip on landing.
The trip unseated Smith, and she incurred a refusal when she pulled out of the line to the next oxer.
“Somebody once told me that ‘If you don’t slow down your horses will slow down for you.’ He’s a green horse, and this is his second CCI**, and I thought ‘Oh if he’s great this weekend then I’ll move him up to three-star, but now I’m not going to do that.”
Mai Baum, who Smith has been riding this year since the horse’s owner Alexandra Ahearn went to college, turned in a double clear round to finish on his dressage score of 41.50 penalties.
“It was my lucky day that day she picked me to ride him, so I’ve been really fortunate,” Smith said.
Smith is also gunning for a spot on the Pan American Games team and decided to bring her horses east to be considered. She was short-listed for the last games but was ultimately awarded a grant to Boekelo, so she’s eager to get a chance to ride for the United States.
“I decided that I really needed to get out here with all the selectors and against everybody who was trying to make the team and tried to show I was as good,” she said.
“They just asked to evaluate him, so I think that’s a good sign,” she said with a sigh of relief.
Thirty-three returned for the show jumping—Madeline Backus and P.S. Arianna were the only pairing to not return after completing cross-country after the horse was held and not accepted upon re-inspection at this morning’s jog. Thirteen pairs went double clear with the top 10 all jumping fast clears. Only Mélissa Boutin and Guy’s Elegant Miss had time penalties.