No one was surprised to see Allison Springer and the Arthur Syndicate’s Arthur end the day squarely atop the Adequan USEA Gold Cup CIC3* standings after the first phase of competition at the Cloud 11/Gavilan North Carolina International CIC & Horse Trials. Defending champions, the pair handily earned 40.7 penalty points from judges Christina Klingspor (SWE) and Robert Stevenson (USA), a three-point improvement from their winning test in 2016.
With a smile, Springer fondly refers to Arthur as the, “longest steady thing in my life,” and together they are one of the most experienced pairs in the group, having completed 37 FEI events together since their international debut at the one-star level in 2005.
“I’ve been really lucky. It’s a pretty blessed thing to have a four-star horse period. It’s really hard to get horses to the top level, so to keep practicing and doing it and keeping yourself sharp as you’re producing horses is really important,” Springer beamed.
Allison Springer and Arthur. USEA/Shelby Allen Photo.
“He definitely keeps me on my toes,” Springer continued of the historically spooky 18-year-old Irish Sport Horse by Bradenburg's Windstar. “This morning he came out and he knew it was show day. He spooked at a letter in the practice ring and almost got me off. That’s Arthur.”
The question on everyone’s mind though is will Arthur return to contest the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day event for an eighth time? The jury is still out, Springer said. “That’s the million-dollar question. It’s the same thing everybody asked last year. Assuming he comes out of this great like he did last year, he’ll go,” she confirmed.
Potentially aiming for the North American four-star, she agreed this weekend’s course is a will be a great run in preparation. “The cross-country is legit. Totally legit. I think this is a really good Kentucky prep. The water is really solid and they put in a proper Kentucky-esque coffin, and that’s something we really struggle with,” Springer mentioned of The Landmark Hollow [19abc].
Clark Montgomery and Loughan Glen. USEA/Shelby Allen Photo.
Following in second is Clark Montgomery and his own, Jessica Montgomery, Kathryn Kraft and Holly & William Becker’s Loughan Glen. Proven and consistent on the flat, today's score of 41.3 was easily achieved for the 14-year-old Irish Sport Horse (Limerick x Tattymacall Mustard) despite a bit of tight movement throughout.
Coming back to competition after retiring on cross-country at the Rio Olympic Games and subsequently undergoing surgery to have a bone chip removed, “Glen” already scooped up a three-star win this winter at the Pine Top Advanced HT, and now joins the competition here at Carolina as a final prep before Kentucky.
“He’s feeling super. He’s peaking easier than he ever has. Finally, at the ripe old age of 14 or 15, he’s got a depth of fitness that’s easier to peak him back each time. He seems super healthy in his body this spring after last summer, so that’s really really nice to feel. It’s just keeping the wheels on the wagon at this point,” Montgomery commented.
Spending a few years abroad, show jumping on grass tomorrow should be no issue for this seasoned pair, but Montgomery is aiming to make the round educational. “He’s kind of become this one rail horse at CICs, so I’ll be trying to iron that out. I’m not hugely concerned because he’s got a great Sunday show jump record, so that’s what I’m really concentrating on, but I still would like for him to jump clean,” he continued.
A score of 41.5 was enough to keep yesterday’s leaders Jennie Brannigan and Cambalda in the top three at the end of the first phase of competition.
“I went out and walked the course yesterday and I haven’t been to this competition in a few years. It looks proper! I remember watching this event last year and thinking, ‘this is not a dressage show,’” Brannigan remarked of Ian Stark’s three-star track. “The footing is amazing! I have not walked footing that good in a long time. They have done a great job. They have improved a lot since I was last here.”
Aside from the cross-country, she doesn’t discount the added difficulty of show jumping on terrain. “I always think show jumping on grass is really influential. It’s nice to have Ping here as far as past experience and results in the CIC’s are concerned.”
Buck Davidson and Carlevo. USEA/Shelby Allen Photo.
Liz Halliday-Sharp and Fernhill By Night saw success in the sandbox today, slotting into fourth place with a 42.5. In fifth place is Will Faudree and Hans Dampf, who earned a personal best at this level (42.7). The first and final rider in this division, Buck Davidson also landed a position in the top ten with Carlevo. Their rhythmical test gave the pair a result of 43.8.
There’s a five-point spread in the top ten and scores get even tighter down the leaderboard, so poles and other penalties in the upcoming jumping phases could prove to be influential.
Three-star competitors move to show jumping tomorrow beginning at 1:00 p.m., while the Adequan Advanced Gold Cup division gets underway with the dressage phase.
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The 2017 Adequan USEA Gold Cup Championship features 11 qualifying competitions throughout the United States at the Advanced Horse Trials and CIC3* levels. Qualifying began last fall and continues through August with the final taking place at the USEA American Eventing Championships, August 30 – September 3 at the Tryon International Equestrian Center in Mill Spring, North Carolina. Riders who complete a qualifier earn the chance to vie for $40,000 in prize money and thousands of dollars in prizes in the Adequan Advanced Division and the title of Adequan USEA Gold Cup Champion.
The 2017 Adequan USEA Gold Cup Series is made possible through the support of its many loyal sponsors: Adequan, Standlee Forage, Nutrena, Merck Animal Health, Broadstone Equine Insurance Agency and FITS.