Promoters of Australia’s fall four-star have used the catch phrase Sensational Adelaide, and this eighth event held in the city’s parklands, Nov. 12-14, was certainly sensational, with tough competition in the CCI****, the CCI** and the CIC**.
The fact that the Australian Team did not figure in the medals at Athens didn’t seem to lessen the support for the horses and riders.
Previous Olympic gold medals have drawn a lot of attention to the sport, and with plenty of members from Olympic teams competing, and some of them gold medalists, autograph hunters had a great time. Selectors also have plenty of up-and-coming horses and riders to keep an eye on. After all, the 2006 World Championships in Aachen (Germany) are not too far away.
Friday’s dressage didn’t produce any “wow” performances in the CCI****, with Sammi McLeod on Black Odyssey leading on a score of 51.8 from young Jessica Irvine-Brown riding Belcam Aaberdeen (54.4). Craig Barret on Staccato filled third position (55.4).
Only 10 penalties separated first and 10th so anything could happen over the next two days.
Many of the horses in the dressage weren’t concentrating on the job, and windy conditions gave them even more excuses to eye off anything that horses eye off and humans don’t notice.
Choosing a winner following the dressage phase in the CCI** was no easier than before the start of competition. The first 20 contestants (about half those entered) were only 10 penalties apart.
Megan Jones riding Win-ergy Fedwell was leading from Boyd Martin on Ying Yang Yo and Chris Burton on Newsprint, who was equal with Stuart Tinney on Oroton.
It was also tight at the top in the CIC**, led by Jessica Rosen on Bouncing Betty from Craig Barret on Mystic Magic.
Both of the two-star classes certainly gave good exposure to many horses who hadn’t been in front of large crowds and a tension-charged atmosphere.
The few showers of rain produced overnight had cleared by the start of the CCI** cross-country. British course designer Michael Etherington-Smith had asked enough questions of competitors to have a small number of refusals scattered around the course, but most completed the course. Eight of the almost 40 starters had clear rounds, and the first three in the dressage just shuffled their placings a little. Martin moved into the lead from Burton and Jones.
Jumps in and around the Rymill Lake have always been popular with spectators, and this year the CCI**** course included a new jump in the water, fences 17AB, dubbed “Leap of Faith.” This bank sitting out in the water looked very formidable.
The first rider in the four-star was Heath Ryan riding Diablo Heart. Heath is one of the personalities of the Australian equestrian scene, recognized as a mover and shaker, and whatever he does is done with flair.
Diablo Heart came up to the Leap of Faith too fast, managed to jump onto the bank, but crumpled on top, shooting Heath over his head straight into the water. Fortunately, horse and rider were able to walk away from the spectacular spill. Although Heath’s second mount Flame had two refusals on course, neither were at the water.
After a number of competitors showed this obstacle was not so formidable, it claimed another rider. Segamore Mistral, ridden by Rob Vlasschaert from western Australia, decided the whole of the bank had to be jumped in one effort. Amazingly, he succeeded except for dragging his back legs over the logs of part B when dropping back into the water. As they landed Vlasschaert was catapulted over his mount’s head. They continued on to finish the course, but Segamore Mistral, although OK, was too bruised to contest the show jumping.
The next day when he saw the photos all Vlasschaert could say was, “My horse stood up; I should have stayed on!”
Five horses were retired or eliminated during the four-star cross-country and one withdrawn before the show jumping.
At the conclusion of the cross-country, McLeod still led from Ervine-Brown. Both had outstanding clear rounds, finishing just within the time allowed.
Shane Rose showed his experience, moving from seventh to third on Beauford Miss Dior with just 0.8 time penalties and from 16th to fifth on King George with 0.4 time penalties.
The CIC** saw some changes with Craig Barret on Mystic Magic moving into the lead, Sam Lyle on Royal Marine into second and Clemintine Mann on Irish Warrior into third. Will Faudree of the United States took a catch ride on Kiwi Mystery in the CIC**, placing 16th in dressage and moving up to 11th with a clear show jumping round.
Showers greeted everyone on the Sunday morning for the show jumping, and a number of the two-star riders had to jump in the rain. The only change in the CIC** result was Amanda Coulson on L.A. Oasis moving into third place.
Rails tumbled in the CCI** show jumping to see Lauren Schodel riding Smooth Criminal take the win. Tim Boland on Phantom Pursuit came from 14th after the dressage to place second and not to be denied, Ryan, riding Loot Ta Boot, moved from ninth in the first two phases to take third prize overall.
Rails again tumbled in the four-star show jumping. Jumping in reverse order of placings Rose on Beauford Miss Dior was able to put the pressure on with a clear round. This clear round ended up giving him the win from McLeod on Black Odyssey and Irvine-Brown on Belcam Aaberdeen. Rose’s second horse, King George, came home in fourth place.
Tired and less experienced horses in all classes gained a lot of penalties in the show jumping. This is an area that no doubt will be receiving a lot of attention from instructors and selectors.
While the cross-country course was not changed greatly from last year, Etherington-Smith made enough changes to keep spectators interested and riders thinking. This was the first time that the event was run without roads and tracks or steeplechase phases. Time will only tell how much difference this will make to international eventing. It certainly didn’t make an obvious difference to this year’s Mitsubishi Adelaide CCI****.