Fair Hill, MD - October 17, 2015 - Favorable conditions and experienced riders bolstered the leaderboard in the cross country phase of both the CCI2* and CCI3* at The Dutta Corporation Fair Hill International Fall Eventing Championships on Saturday.
Tamra Smith of Murrieta, Calif. maintained her lead in the CCI3* with a stunning performance on Mai Baum, owned by Alex Ahearn. The pair went 14 seconds under the optimum time on the Derek DiGrazia-designed course to enter the final phase of the competition on their dressage score of 38.5 penalties. Smith was impressed by the young 9-year-old German Sport Horse gelding's first time in a CCI3*.
"He was fantastic, I went out of the (start) box and he was a little bit sticky to the first two. I gave him a little encouragement after that. He was right in my hand and galloped around the course phenomenal," said Smith. "His stride just kept getting bigger and he is so rideable that I just let him stay in a rhythm."
Despite a challenge by an exuberant Mighty Nice while attempting to get into the start box, and a subsequent brief hold on course, Phillip Dutton of West Grove, Penn. skillfully piloted the Irish Sport Horse around the track without penalty. The pair was asked to stop just before the eighth obstacle, a combination of houses, as Holly Jacks had fallen at the ninth fence just before Dutton approached. The gelding was unfazed by the hold, and finished with a two-day score of 43.5 penalties, moving them up to second place.
"Once I got out of the start box it was good," said Dutton. "I had a little trouble getting out of the start box. There was a delay, unfortunately, which was a shame because you can't get a better cross-country horse than him, but the conditions were pretty perfect for the horses."
Boyd Martin of Cochranville, Penn. and Blackfoot Mystery were the last combination on course as the brisk autumn weather continued to get chillier, but an efficient gallop just under the optimum time of 10:00 minutes moved them up to from fifth to third on 44.6 penalties.
"He's a class horse and I was so impressed with him today. He's got unbelievable endurance and I felt like I was coasting around pretty easily, so it showed me that he's a proper 4 star horse we are still getting to know each other a little bit because we weren't quite in sync on a few fences," said Martin. "I think the ground was very fast. I also do think Derek softened up a wee bit, which I'm not complaining about because it was still very, very difficult. I thought last year he made it a 3 ½ star and this year he made it a proper 3 star, I think if you had a good galloper, the time was pretty easy to make"
In the CCI2*, William Coleman III of Gordonsville, Va. on Tight Lines (pictured right), owned by the Conair Syndicate, will head into Sunday's show jumping phase on a score of 42.5 penalties, adding nothing to their overnight lead. Dutton and his CCI** mount 'Z' moved up from third in dressage to second with 45.3 penalties following a quick and fault-free cross country round. Alison Springer and Cascani moved up from fourth to the top three with a combined score of 46.1 penalties.
Coleman thought "Phish" as he is affectionately called, was a true superstar.
"He was great. He's an incredibly fast horse," said Coleman. "I never had one that builds in speed the whole way around like he does. He truly gets faster as he goes, which is good and bad. He was great, he settled down a lot, he's much more rideable than he was earlier in the year and he just seems to be getting better and better. I'm thrilled with him. I thought he was just a star."
The course proved to be challenging for a number of competitors but Coleman thought it provided a nice foundation for the horses.
"I thought it was a good test," said Coleman. "The time wasn't a huge issue, certainly not for me but it seemed like for everyone it wasn't an issue, but I thought he [DiGrazia] had really good questions. I think it does prepare your horse for the next level and if you are planning on moving up in the spring, which I am with him, I think it does set you up well and I think that's the point of what he tries to do with this course every year."
Springer, hailing from Upperville, Va. celebrated her birthday on Saturday with a double clear on Cascani, owned by Mary Ann Ghadban.
"It was fantastic, I am really excited. He's a new horse for me this year. I got him in March," said Springer. "I am so excited about him. He's just changed so much over the summer and he's a great horse. It felt really nice, just a fun ride around. He felt full of gallop at the end and jumped well and really stepped up."
Sunday's schedule begins with the CCIw* Horse Inspection at 8 a.m., followed by the CCI3* Horse Inspection. Show Jumping will begin at 10 a.m. with the CCI2* competitors riding over Sally Ike's course in reverse order of standing. The CCI3* riders will compete after the two star awards, at approximately 1:30 p.m. Numerous awards are on the line including the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) National Fall Championship for U.S. riders.
Visitors to the Dutta Corp. Fair Hill International Festival in the Country can once again look forward to the fashionable Country Shops, which feature over 40 vendors selling tack, jewelry, artwork, pet needs, exceptional apparel and fine gifts for the approaching holiday seasons. The VIP Tent offers fine dining, while visitors seeking a more casual snack or meal will find pubs around the Fair Hill grounds serving classic Maryland crab cakes and other treats. On Sunday, the Riverside Carnival Band, one of the mid-Atlantic's leading New Orleans jazz bands, will be performing throughout the day.
The always popular Kid's Corner is located just inside the main gate, offering a variety of activities for the younger set.
The crowd-favorite canine demonstrations will be highlighted with some new and exciting opportunities for dog owners. Dog Agility demonstrations and free mini-lessons will be offered Sunday.
The Dutta Corp. Fair Hill International Festival in the Country benefits Union Hospital of Cecil County, in Elkton, MD. The hospital, whose mission is to enhance the health and well-being of the residents of Cecil County and its neighboring communities, has been caring for area families and neighbors for more than 100 years.
For more information on this year's Fair Hill, including how to purchase tickets and complete schedule information, please call (410) 398-2111 or visit www.fairhillinternational.com.