Reddick, Fla.—Nov. 15
Mara DePuy didn’t have the end to her season that she wanted when she parted company with Congo Brazzaville C at the Dutta Corp. Fair Hill International CCI4*-L (Maryland) in October, just a few fences from home and leading after dressage.
She returned to Virginia and turned the gelding out for his break, but “Congo” decided he wasn’t quite ready to lounge around.
So, DePuy cautiously started to hack him, then tried a little flatwork and a cross-country school and decided he was still fit enough to head to the Ocala Jockey Club International CCI4*-L.
“What made the decision was that he was squealing and running around his field. Normally he would be having naps after a hard event, but he was definitely not ready to be done,” she said.
DePuy is in a familiar position this weekend, leading the CCI4*-L on 28.5 ahead of Phillip Dutton (29.0), who’s catch riding Long Island T for Boyd Martin.
“The test was good enough. I still think it can always be better,” said DePuy. “There’s a lot of atmosphere here walking down the hill into the main arena. My horse was good. He didn’t do anything wrong; I just didn’t feel he was quite as through as maybe he was at Fair Hill, but still very correct.”
At Fair Hill, DePuy came to grief when her leg hit the head of a wooden duck jump in the water, but up until that point, she said Congo, a 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood (Tangelo Van De Zuuthoeve—Mexico M, Highline) felt great.
“That was certainly one of our better rounds,” she said. “He’s a very genuine horse, and he’s a great cross-country horse, but I’ve always protected him, and for the first time not protecting him—you never know what’s going to happen. He was great, but it caught up with us in the end.”
DePuy feels ready to tackle Clayton Fredericks’ cross-country course tomorrow, having tried for the time at Fair Hill and been on her minute markers.
“This venue is amazing. I’ve never been to this event before. It’s so not typical of what you’d think of Florida. It’s a proper, proper four-star,” she said. “I think there’s certainly enough to do. I think there are fair questions, and there’s a lot to do out there, and it’s even longer than Fair Hill. The ground is perfect of course too. I didn’t come down here just to canter around. I need to think about what the horse can do and how he feels, but I’ll give it a shot.”
Dutton is riding “Ludwig” this weekend since Martin is recovering from surgery for a torn muscle that stemmed from a fall at the Plantation Field International CCI4*-S (Pennsylvania) in September.
“I was ecstatic with Ludwig this morning; he went really well,” said Dutton. “Silva [Martin] and Boyd have done a great job with him. He just gets in the arena and understands what he has to do and goes about it in a pretty matter-of-fact way. There’s obviously a bit of improvement there, but overall we haven’t been together too long, so I was really pleased.
“It was helpful having Boyd here for my final warm-up,” he added. “He told me Ludwig sometimes gets a little nervous in the halts and that he thought he would come down a little lower in front once he got in the ring so that was useful to know as every horse reacts differently.”
Dutton rode Fernhill PickPocket to the top of the CCI3*-L, scoring a 28.9. Owned by his stepdaughter Lee Lee Jones, who suffered a head injury in 2016 in a fall at home, Dutton’s been bringing along the 8-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Chacco Blue—Bracklin Mystique, Solitair) since then. This fall they’ve racked up CCI3*-S wins at Morven Park (Virginia) and the Virginia Horse Trials.
“It’s a little bit of an emotional relationship because it was actually Lee Lee’s horse, and she bought him originally from Ireland,” Dutton said. “So it’s kind of sad, but it’s also exciting to have him.
“We’re really excited about his future,” he continued. “He’s a little bit of a volatile horse; he’s not the most laidback horse you’d ever see, and so everybody’s in agreement we’re going to take our time with him and slowly produce him. He’s got the makings of a really top horse. He can move and operate on the flat, but he’s also a good jumper as well.”
This will be the gelding’s first CCI3*-L. “It’ll be the longest course he’s done, but it should be well within his capabilities at this stage of his career,” said Dutton, West Grove, Pennsylvania. “There are some quite decent proper jumping efforts there, and there are also some jumps there that are a bit small compared to some of the course. The course varies a lot. He can be a bit of an aggressive jumper, so I’ll just have to make sure that he doesn’t get too flat and low at the smaller stuff so that he’s at his best for when the harder stuff comes.”
Follow along at COTH.com all weekend for more from the event and check out the Dec. 2 print edition of the Chronicle for more.