Elkton, Md.—Oct. 20
As Oliver Townend rode through his warm-up with Cooley Rosalent at the Mars Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill, he felt like he was a bit behind schedule. He hadn’t gotten the mare completely relaxed before heading up the ramp to the main arena, but once she was on her way down centerline, she was right on form.
“When she came in here she pricked her ears, lifted her head, and I could ride her forward,” he said. “I was really happy with the way she coped with things, and any little mistake was probably me trying to over-tell her that something was happening—like the last flying change, if I had just cantered across and asked for a flying change, she’d have done one, but I kind of said, ‘OK, one more, one more movement left’ sort of thing, and then she anticipated. But I loved the way she coped with it. She gave me a really nice feeling in the trot. I’m just thrilled that we’re in the position we’re in. We’re very proud of her.”
Even with the mistake in the final change, “Rosie” managed the difficult task of knocking Piggy March and Brookfield Cavalier Cruise (24.2) out of the top spot by scoring a 23.1.
“I thought Piggy’s mark would be tough to catch as well,” he said, praising his mare, a 9-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare (Valent—Bellaney Jewel, Roselier) owned by Paul Ridgeon. “Obviously she’s still very young and inexperienced at this level, but she’s done everything that we’ve ever asked of her at the level below, and I love coming here to Maryland. I’ve had good experiences the last couple of years, so I was excited to bring her here and see how she coped.”
Though Rosie is just 9, this is her second five-star. She competed at Luhmuhlen (Germany) in June, where she picked up 20 penalties on cross-country, but she rebounded to win the Blenheim CCI4*-S (England) for 8- and 9-year-olds in September.
“We’ve had her since she was 4, and we’ve always thought she was very, very good, but obviously she’s arriving at these big events a little bit ahead of being established,” Townend said. “She’s got enough experience to be here obviously, and she’s got great form … it’s very, very positive so far.”
Watch Townend’s test, courtesy of USEF Network and ClipMyHorse.TV:
Like March, Townend brought his young mare here thinking it’d be a good experience.
“I’ve got to say the tracks have probably been a little more kind the last two years, and I was kind of expecting the same but didn’t get the same,” he said. “But look, we know the ground’s great. It’s a big atmosphere without being a Kentucky atmosphere, and I just thought this would be a great stepping stone for her career going forward. We’re trying to prepare her to go to some very special places because we think she’s probably one of the best we’ve had, so this is just a nice stepping stone.”
While March retains a hold on second, five-time Olympian William Fox-Pitt, also of Great Britain, took over third on Grafennacht on a 26.1.
“Honestly delighted with the horse,” he said. “She’s a trier; she’s fun to ride. She’s quite frisky today. Once or twice I couldn’t quite get her on the bit, but she’s still showing off well, and I was very pleased with her.”
Amanda Gould’s 11-year-old Oldenburg mare (Birkhof’s Grafenstolz—Nachtigall, Narew) is Fox-Pitt’s only five-star horse at the moment. After her Badminton debut, Gould tried embryo transfers with her, so “Lillie” lost some fitness and wasn’t ready to do Burghley (England). With that in mind, he decided it was time to head across the Atlantic to check out Maryland.
“I’ve heard fantastic things about Maryland from riders the previous couple of years, and I thought it’s really one I would love to come to before I finally hang up my shoes,” Fox-Pitt said. “I thought I should tick this box. Certainly not disappointed—wonderful venue, great arenas and fantastic ground on the cross-country course—so hopefully a good, good course that my horse will enjoy, and the competition is very exciting to be at.”
Boyd Martin had the third best test of the day with Contessa, slotting into fifth behind New Zealand’s Monica Spencer and Artist (28.4) on a 28.8.
“I was quite thrilled with it,” he said. “We just changed the warm-up quite a lot. I’ve noticed this week [that] the more I ride her, the worse she gets. I gave her a good long warm-up about two hours ago, and then put her away, and my buddy Rubee gave me a massage and a stretch, and then I hopped on 15 minutes before the test, and it’s a bit risky because they get excited. They can really get hot, but she stayed very calm and relaxed and did a great test.”
In the CCI3*-L, Caroline Pamukcu took the lead with HSH Connor (25.4). Lauren Nicholson and Larcot Z (28.2) are in second while Taren Hoffos and Regalla (28.6) are third.
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