June 7—Bromont, Quebec
Lauren Kieffer found herself in a spot that’s becoming quite familiar this spring: first place after dressage. This time she’s leading the Bromont CCI*** with Veronica (44.6) ahead of Will Coleman on Obos O’Reilly (50.2) after a cold, wet, rainy day in Quebec.
Kieffer took over the ride on Veronica from mentor Karen O’Connor after a bad fall from Team Rebecca’s 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare (Pacific—Kimbel, Ferro) left O’Connor on the sidelines in October. Kieffer has won her last three outings aboard Veronica, taking the Ocala CCI** (Fla.), the Jersey Fresh CIC** and the Chattahoochee Hills CIC*** (Ga.).
“She’s wonderful. She’s great with atmosphere. The ring didn’t bother her much,” said Kieffer, who just celebrated her 26th birthday. “She knows all the tricks. If I can just point her which way to go, she does really well all by herself. I adore her.”
Watch Kieffer's dressage test.
Kieffer admitted that given her choice, she probably would’ve aimed for the Rolex Kentucky CCI**** this spring instead of running so many FEI events, a byproduct of the new qualification rules.
“It was kind of a necessary thing,” she said. “You can see both sides of it. I had to run her a lot. The good side was that it benefitted her to bump down a bit, and it benefitted us both to get to know each other well. I did have to run her quite a bit in the last eight weeks. Luckily, the footing was perfect everywhere we went. If you look at how much she’s run in the last six months, it’s not that much. It hasn’t hurt anything for us to have to take a step back.”
Kieffer was also quick to point out that Derek di Grazia’s cross-country course would ensure that Bromont wasn’t a dressage competition. “It’s big, it’s bold, and the questions are right out in front of you. He’s certainly not made anything trappy, but there are lots of places for you to let your guard down and make a mistake,” she said.
Coleman agreed with Kieffer’s assessment, calling the course a 3½ star and saying it was comparable to the Fair Hill CCI*** (Md.).
“It’s really big. It’s a huge step up from last year,” he said. “[Di Grazia has] spread the stuff around the whole course. The coffin always catches some people out here. The first water is pretty technical and requires a really precise ride. You’ve got the big bank down to the two little huts that’s going to catch a person or two. You’ve got two big corners in the arena. Then you’ve got more corners, more big waters. It keeps coming; there’s no break. There’s a ton to do out there. Every fence outside the first is completely maxed.”
It will be the first CCI*** for “Oboe,” and Coleman said it would be a big test for the 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse (Obos Quality 004—Omard Clover Queen, Clover Hill).
“He has been a good cross-country horse until now,” said Coleman. “Hopefully we won’t get too much more rain. We’ll go out there and give it a crack. I’d love to come here on something with a little more experience, but this is where he is.”
In the CIC***, Phillip Dutton took the lead aboard Ben on 46.9 over Canadian rider Jessica Phoenix on Pavarotti. Kieffer sits third with RF Cosima.
Watch Dutton and Ben's test:
Dutton said he entered the CIC because Team Rebecca's 12-year-old Holsteiner (Mr. Wizard—Baroque, Latino) got injured last year and is still building up his fitness. He’s aiming for a three-day in the fall. Dutton also felt the CIC track would give the horses plenty to do.
“It’s a real endurance test. You’ve got big fences. There’s some technical stuff as well,” he said. “It’s going to be a proper cross-country test, which is good.”
Cross-country starts with the one-star at 9 a.m. tomorrow.