March 8—Tallahassee, Fla.
Marilyn Little will be racing herself on the cross-country course tomorrow for the win in the Red Hills CIC*** , as her two entries, RF Smoke On The Water and RF Demeter, are just .3 points apart in first and second, respectively.
“Smoke” impressed the dressage judges enough for a mark of 44.7 to tie for third this morning, but his double-clear show jumping round (Red Hills has reversed the order of the jumping phases in its CIC divisions this year to conform with the Fédération Equestre Internationale’s new mandate) boosted him into the lead.
“I think everyone’s always hoping for this [kind of performance], but this is Smoke’s first outing this year—his first outing since he was second at Fair Hill [CCI*** in Maryland] last fall.  He didn’t even get shoes on until a little over a month ago,” said Little, Frederick, Md., of the 8-year-old gelding. “So I thought he might be quite fresh for dressage, which he was. It’s always a risk coming to an FEI event [for your first outing of the season], and he could have gone either way today, but I did trust the horse, and I’m glad I wasn’t wrong.”
Little said she’s delayed Smoke’s debut this spring because, although she’d originally planned to take him to Kentucky in April for his first four-star, new U.S. team coach David O’Connor recommended she shoot for the Saumur CCI*** in France at the end of May instead.
“I’m still new at this—this is only my second full year in eventing,” said Little. “So I’ll likely defer to what he thinks is appropriate.”
Little, who still competes in grand prix show jumping, plans to take about 12 of her horses—both eventers and jumpers—to Europe for the summer. She’ll be based in the Netherlands, near the German border.
RF Demeter, who finished ninth at Rolex Kentucky last year, showed her experience today by scoring a 45.0 in the dressage for fifth place and then posting a clear round.
“Dressage is always a work in progress for me,” Little said. “I’m feeling, as David said today, that I’m ‘within range.’ I wanted to come away from today feeling it was more solid than it had been, and it was.”
Little also stands fifth and sixth in the CIC** with RF Azarah and RF Black Pearl, respectively. She was scheduled to ride Mr. Medicott in the advanced division for Karen O’Connor, but the gelding didn’t make the trip to Red Hills after all.
“His off-season started very early, right after the Olympics, so the plan was always for the horse to come to Wellington [Fla.] for the winter, because Karen really wanted to focus on her show jumping,” Little said. “Then when Karen got hurt , she wanted him to start getting fit for events. It’s a little up in the air. He’s not my horse, and he has a syndicate that is in place to make these decisions. But he’s fit, well, and ready to go.”
- After placing 1-2 in dressage, one rail apiece in show jumping dropped Jennie Brannigan (Cambalda) and her boss, Phillip Dutton (Mighty Nice), into third and fourth in the three-star. But time is notoriously hard to make on Hugh Lochore’s cross-country track at Red Hills, so don’t count either of them out for a win.
- Little’s tie-mate for third in the CIC*** dressage, Jon Holling, had an especially rough showing in the second phase. He and Proper Timing added seven rails worth of penalties to their dressage score of 44.7. Holling pulled two rails early in the undulating grass course, but then he reorganized the Throughbred gelding and seemed to be hitting his stride. But things unraveled at the end, and they left a trail of rails behind them through the triple combination and the final oxer. The 28 faults dropped them all the way to 33rd place out of 37 entries.
- Aussie veteran Clayton Fredericks is wasting no time in making his mark on the North American eventing scene, snatching the lead in the CIC** from the get-go aboard Sorrento. The pair added nothing in show jumping to their dressage score of 47.1, and they’ll have a cushion of several seconds over Brannigan and Indie (second on 52.4) tomorrow. Fredericks also stands seventh in the division aboard Pigrela Des Cabanes.
- With 56 starters, the CIC* division was simply too large to schedule dressage and show jumping in one day, so these riders will head to the grass ring tomorrow morning and then tackle the cross-country course in the afternoon. Julie Richards and San City will be the ones to beat, having scored the winning mark of 35.9 in the dressage.
Check back tomorrow for all the thrills and spills of Red Hills' cross-country phase, including the crowning of our 2013 CIC winners! Action starts promptly at 8 a.m. with the intermediate division.
For full provisional results, visit Event Entries.