Only two horses made the time on Capt. Mark Phillips’ windy cross-country track today at the $50,000 Grand-Prix Eventing at Bruce’s Field in Aiken, South Carolina, and Liz Halliday-Sharp rode both of them.
Her speedy pace with Miks Master C, who stood in second after dressage and show jumping, kept the pressure on overnight leader Doug Payne and Starr Witness. Payne had .7 penalty in hand but couldn’t quite match Halliday-Sharp’s feat, stopping the timers 5 seconds slow and adding 2.0 time penalties to their score to drop to second.
It was Halliday-Sharp’s third win at the event, having won the inaugural year in 2019 (on Fernhill By Night) and again in 2020 (with Deniro Z).
“I wasn’t sure if I was going to manage it [winning a third time], but that’s what I came here hoping to do,” said Halliday-Sharp.
It was her first time winning on Miks Master C, however. The 11-year-old Swedish Warmblood gelding (Mighty Magic—Qui Luma CBF, Flyinge Quite Easy 958) is owned by Debbie Palmer and Ocala Horse Properties.
“He is a phenomenal horse, full stop,” she said. “I think he’s probably the best horse I’ve ever had.”
“Certainly I took a few risks and jumped out of stride in some places but didn’t feel like I had any moment where I was doing something crazy, which was the goal,” said Halliday-Sharp of her winning ride cross-country. She also placed fifth on Cooley Quicksilver and 12th on Deniro Z.
“You had to be on your game, and the angles I felt were more angled than they have been in the past,” she said.
Asked when he thought he might be in trouble with time, Payne joked: “When I left the start box.”
Payne and the Dutch Warmblood mare (Chello III VDL—Carmen, Veneur), whom he co-owns with Laurie McRee and Catherine Winter, scored a 19.9 in dressage yesterday to take the lead, but they had a costly rail in show jumping. Halliday-Sharp was third after dressage (23.8) but moved into second after Boyd Martin and Tsetserleg, who scored 23.0 in dressage, had two rails and dropped to 10th.
“Time for her is a little bit harder, so I knew it was going to be a challenge, but she gave everything she could have,” Payne said of his cross-country round. “Just could have used that rail yesterday.”
Martin’s other mount, Fedarman B (Eurocommerce Washington—Paulien B, Fedor), turned in a clear cross-country round with just .8 time penalty to move up from sixth to third. “Bruno” and Martin had an emotional win at last year’s event, and Martin called this year’s finish bittersweet. The horse was developed by Annie Goodwin, who was killed in a cross-country schooling accident in the summer of 2021.
“I really feel like we’re starting to jell. I’m very, very proud to ride him and continue all of Annie’s work,” said Martin. “In years to come, he has the opportunity to be a championship horse, and what a fantastic honor it would be to just keep going the way we are now, sort of like a living memento for all of Annie’s work. It’s a real privilege.”
For the top three finishers, it was their horses’ first event outing of the year. Thirty-two horses started the event, with 22 crossing the finish line Saturday. Three faced compulsory retirement after pulling five rails in show jumping, while the rest of the horses were withdrawn before the cross-country phase.
“There were a couple of Olympic horses and [Pan American Games] horses here, so this event really attracted the top horses and best riders,” Martin said.
“It shouldn’t be a dressage competition,” said Halliday-Sharp. “It should be a fight all the way to the end, and I thought they did a great job with that.”
Shannon Lilley took home Top Rookie honors. At her first Grand-Prix Eventing, she came in 11th aboard Ideal HX, her Dutch chestnut gelding.