The Brook Ledge Great Meadow International CICO3* leaderboard is looking very different following the conclusion of cross-country as Mike Etherington-Smith’s course shook up the overnight standings. Clear rounds were few and far between (only 16) with double clear rounds even rarer – just five of the 40 horses who left the start box crossed the finish line inside the time of 6:33. In the end it was a 9-year-old competing in just his second CIC3* who bested many more experienced horses.
“I think he genuinely is a horse who runs better when he goes out and has a crack at it,” said Will Coleman about his winning mount, Off The Record, the syndicate-owned Irish Sport Horse gelding (VDL Arkansas x Drumagoland Bay). “I would be lying if I said I wasn’t paying a little bit of attention to the scores and when I saw that maybe there was an opening it was probably a bit easier to let him run. He likes to go like so I would say that is a bit of his style to kind of go hard.”
Coleman got “Timmy” from Richard Sheane of Cooley Sport Horses as a 4-year-old and has patiently brought him along since then. Timmy just moved up to Advanced in the spring and in all of 2018 he never finished below third place. Coleman focused on CICs so far this year, but is aiming for the Boekelo CCIO3* in the fall. “He was pretty hard as a young horse, but we have formed a bit of a partnership now and he has had a really, really good 18 months,” said Coleman. “His record has been pretty outstanding so I am pretty pleased especially for his owners.”
Watch Will Coleman and Off The Record's winning round.
With 18 pairs faulting at the brush corners in the main arena (9ab) the combination was definitely the bogey fence and was the talk of the course, but Coleman didn’t let the problems take away from his thoughts of the design. “He was a little green in the arena, but I think as the day went on this question got a bit harder,” said Coleman who was in the last group of riders to run. “It is a little disorienting when you run into the bright sand and sometimes it was hard to get the horses to focus on where they needed to go and I just thought it was a hard question, but besides that he was pretty honest everywhere. It probably wasn’t the smoothest round, but when you are trying to win sometimes are you just doing what it takes and I am a bit prone to perfectionism and it was kind of nice for the two of us to say let’s just get this done.”
“I thought the course was fabulous,” continued Coleman. “I think we are lucky to be able to have Mike [Etherington-Smith] do the track here. I think he is one of the best we have ever seen designing cross-country courses. I thought it had enough for an older horse and it was a lot for a greener horse, but they finished with a good taste in their mouths even if they had a run out or a little problem there was plenty of time to get them confident again and really feel like you gave them a formative experience and that is really all you can ask for – you can’t ask for easy cause that doesn’t do you any good. I thought it was just about right for what you wanted this time of year for these horses.”
Georgie Spence and Halltown Harley. USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.
Just 0.1 below Coleman was Georgie Spence and Halltown Harley who made their long journey from England well worth it with a second place finish. Suzanne Doggett’s 12-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Harlequin du Carel X Cummer Beauty) was only the second horse on course and made it look like child’s play to move up from 13th place overnight. “For me I was quite lucky I went out early and I know my horse well and trust him 100 percent and he was good to me,” said Spence.
Spence thought her early draw was a benefit when it came to the tricky corner line. “I think sometimes you can over-analyze how people are riding things and how they should jump it and how you should jump it, but to go out early sometimes is a benefit. Around the rest of the course I thought they had done a good job with the ground it was fantastic and obviously it has worked out well for all of us.”
Jessica Phoenix and Pavarotti. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.
The top three individuals represented all of the FEI Eventing Nations Cup as Jessica Phoenix from Canada finished in third – although not on her team horse, but her longtime partner, Pavarotti, the 16-year-old Westfalian gelding (Pavarotti Van De Helle x Fidelia).
“Looking forward to the fall it was the right decision [not to have Pavarotti on the team],” said Phoenix. “It just gave Pavarotti a little bit more leeway on how we ran him and how fast we ran him. It sure was awesome to leave the startbox on Bogue Sound and really have a crack at it for the team. He really stepped up to the plate and feels like a big time horse, and I was excited that I could just go out with Pavarotti and cruise around with him.”
Allyn Mann of Adequan and Chair of the Great Meadow Foundation, Cate Magennis Wyatt, present the top three individuals with their ribbons and share of the $30,000 in prize money. USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.
There were two horse falls and one rider fall, but all horses walked off the course and are resting comfortably in the stables. Savannah Fulton went to the hospital to be checked out after her fall from Captain Jack at fence 13, but is reported to be okay.
Full results are available here.
It’s the turn of the world’s best Eventing athletes to stand under the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games spotlight over the next few days as all but one of the horses presented at this morning’s horse inspection at Baji Koen Equestrian Park were confirmed for action by the Ground Jury.
And they're off! Eventing kicks off today in Tokyo (Thursday, July 29 – 7:30 p.m. ET), with the first of three Olympic dressage sessions. Competitors from 29 nations will go head to head, vying for a spot on the coveted Olympic podium.
There were a few last-minute dramas at the first horse inspection for the Tokyo Olympics which took place in the main equestrian park at Baji Koen Equestrian Centre at 9:30 a.m. JST today.