Oct. 18 – Elkton, Md.
Victoria Jessop had been grooming for friends at the Dutta Corp Fair Hill International for years, and when she finally came with her own ride, Desert Mystery, to contest the CCI**, she made her name known.
Jessop was lying second after dressage behind Californian Matt Brown and Happenstance, and when they picked up a runout early on course, Jessop knew she needed to lay down a clear ride.
“We have a great partnership,” she said of the 11-year-old Thoroughbred gelding. “We’ve taken a long time because he needed it mentally, so it was a real reward today to actually sort of put it all together. He gave me a great ride. Cross-country is his forte—he loves it. He’s got a great gallop, and he was not tired—that feels good. It was a great day.”
Jessop lives in Middleburg, Va., but is a British citizen. She’s had Desert Mystery since he was 3, taking him on as a project from his breeder, steeplechase trainer Jonathan Sheppard.
The gelding raced twice over fences before Jessop took him on. They’ve steadily climbed the levels, winning the CCI* at the Virginia Horse Trials in 2012 and winning the Richland Park CIC** (Mich.) this summer.
The pair competed in their first advanced at the Plantation Field Horse Trials (Pa.) in September, so they came to Fair Hill feeling confident.
“I wanted to be ready for this because I knew it’s usually a pretty big test,” said Jessop, 40. “I felt pretty confident coming in here, but you never know. Cross-country, we both love it, and he was ready.”
Jessop admitted she was nervous for show jumping because that’s their toughest phase. She won’t have a rail in hand over second-placed Julie Richards and Urlanmore Beauty.
“That is not our forte,” she said with a laugh. “He’s not the most careful, but we work on it. That would definitely be our crux, but it’s definitely getting better, and I think we’ll give it our best shot. I’m kind of riding the wave right now and enjoying it. I’ll be proud of my horse whatever happens tomorrow.”
Richards’ last trip to Fair Hill was in 2003 with her 2004 Athens Olympics partner Hyde Park Corner, but she knew she had to make the trip with the talented Urlanmore Beauty.
The Atlanta-based rider took the ride on the 11-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding in July after his owner, Asa Cooper, decided to focus on college.
In 2011, Urlanmore Beauty won the individual bronze medal in the CCI** at the Adequan North American Junior and Young Rider Championships (Ky.) with then-owner Sarah Kamensky, but then he sat idle when she went to school.
Richards was asked to sell him and Cooper’s family bought him.
The pair moved up from a tie for fourth after dressage with a double-clear cross-country round over Derek di Grazia’s course.
“He’s not fit really for this and I was thrilled with him that he finished strong,” said Richards, 44. “He’s a real big, Irish guy. You don’t know how they’re going to be. He hadn’t done this in a long time and he did it at the young rider level, so I was thrilled with him and we’ll see what he can do.”
Richards noted that she spent the summer working on the gelding’s rideability and really started to push his fitness after a good finish in the intermediate division at the Nutrena/U.S. Eventing Association American Eventing Championships (Texas) in September.
“He needed rideability because he’d been ridden by a young rider,” she said. “He didn’t have a lot of skills, which is mainly what I’ve been working on since July. You never know until you come here. That’s why I drove 17 hours to get here to do this course. Now I feel like he can keep going forward.”
Two-star by the numbers
110 starters on cross-country
16 double-clear rounds
76 riders finished
3 rider falls
19 riders retired
12 riders eliminated
Fences that caused the most problems:
7ABC The Foxes—17 riders ran into issues here, although no one fell off at this fence. Riders who retired or were eliminated here included: Kevin Baumgardner/Wembley, Kelly Beaver/Sempre Fino, Holly Jacks/More Inspiration, Lauren Kieffer/Landmark’s Monte Carlo, Dasha Ivandaeva/Autorytet, Briggs Surratt/Hat Trick, Susannah Lansdale/Buck Naked, Kari Briggs/Lawman, Elinor MacPhail/Rendezvous With Charly.
20ABC The Springhouse Water—22 riders ran into trouble here, with 21 refusals total. Marilyn Little parted company with RF West Indie at this jump. Riders who retired or were eliminated here included: Michael Pollard/Kyra, Molly Kinnamon/Puttin On The Ritz, Marley Stone/Kilrodan Ambassador, Michael Pollard/Halimey.
Victoria Long fell off All That Jazz at 11AB, the Cedar Cabin and Angled Brush.
Jessica Shull fell off Calysta MWF at 9B, the Red House in Derek’s Line at 9ABC.
Full results are available on EventEntries.com.
Don’t miss a minute of the Dutta Corp. Fair Hill CCIs—stay informed on all the news, behind-the-scenes stories and stunning photos with the Chronicle’s dedicated Fair Hill CCI page of online coverage. And make sure to read even more details in the Nov. 3 issue of the print magazine The Chronicle of the Horse. You might know who won, but we tell you why and how they won.