Oct 14, 2023

Commando 3 Conquers Morven Park International CCI4*-L Cross-Country

By Lindsay Berreth - USEA Staff
Boyd Martin and Commando 3. USEA/Lindsay Berreth photos

Leesburg, Va.—Oct. 14It can often be an unknown when a rider buys a horse produced by someone else, and top riders like Boyd Martin aren’t immune to that.

When he tried Commando 3 late last year, the gelding had competed through his first CCI4*-S with Swedish rider Louise Romeike, and while Martin had high hopes for “Connor,” he knew he wouldn’t really find out what kind horse he was until he tackled a tough CCI4*-L course.

Martin didn’t have the start he wanted to the day after setting out on Derek di Grazia’s cross-country course at the Morven Park International. His first ride, Miss LuLu Herself, ticked the back of fence 2, a MIM Table, and he was unseated, so he didn’t have the luxury of getting a feel for the 10 minute 21 second track before getting on Connor.

Luckily for him, Connor, a 10-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Connor 48 x R-Adelgunde) owned by Yankee Creek Ranch LLC, stepped up to the plate in his second CCI4*-L.

“When we bought the horse, I really had a gut feeling he was this good, but you never know. It's sort of a relief for me that he's exceeded my expectations,” said Martin.

The pair came home just outside the optimum time and clear over the fences to carry a score of 29.4 into tomorrow’s show jumping—more than 8 points, or two show jumping rails, ahead of Caroline Pamukcu and She’s The One.

“LuLu was a bit feisty and wild and clicked the back of fence, and I had a tumble early on, but luckily for both of us it was nice, soft ground, and it's all good,” he said. “Then I hopped on Connor, and you know, deep down I had complete belief in Connor—he’s already had a very successful four-star early this year, but this course was a different animal than what he experienced at Tryon [Mill Spring, North Carolina]. It was a true four-star long track, and it rode a little bit harder than what it walked. But Connor is a champion athlete and dug deep and really gave me a fantastic trip around.”

Martin said he learned more about Connor over the track as the gelding showed true grit and toughness on a course where only half of the 14 starters completed.

“He really dug deep for me and was just awesome and fighting for me all the way and had plenty of juice left at the end and proved to me that he's ready for some big events next year,” he said.

“I've been lucky enough to ride around a number of Derek's championship tracks this year from Kentucky to Bromont [Canada] to Burghley [England], and definitely the combinations are big, forward distances, and they're better off with a bold ride and trying not to cheat and sneak in extra strides,” he said. “The great thing with Connor is he's got a big step, and he's a he's a bold horse, so this was well-suited for him.”

Caroline Pamucku and She's The One.

Pamukcu had a stellar day with her two young horses, She’s The One and King’s Especiale, both contesting their first CCI4*-Ls.

She’s The One, or “Gemma,” is an 8-year-old Anglo European mare (Jaguar Mail x One To Watch) owned by Pamukcu, Sherrie Martin, and Andy and Mollie Hoff. She jumped up from fifth after dressage to second with 6.8 time penalties.

With the mare’s age and development on her mind, Pamukcu wanted to tick off each jump first, then as she settled in the first few minutes, she was able to start to make up some time on the clock.

“She just kind of nailed it,” she said. “She was she was great. And I could have gone 10 times faster. When I pulled her up, I felt like I could have gone another two times around the course she did not even puff. It's just easy for her. I wish I were a little bit quicker in the beginning, but part of me is like, I don't think I would have had such a nice round because I settled her in the beginning, and then I can fly at the end. I'm over the moon.”

Caroline Pamukcu and King's Especiale.

Compared to the diminutive, 16-hand Gemma, “King” is 18-hands with a huge step. The 8-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Connect x Cha Cha Cha Special) is owned by Redfield King HX’s Group and had only done three FEI Advanced events before coming to Morven. He dropped from second to third today with 11.2 time penalties.

“With him, I set out, and I just I kept one pace the whole time because he's only done one three-star long, which was Ocala, which is like a two-and-a-half star. I wanted to make sure I gave him a good ride and just kept a nice pace and didn't push him too much. And with him, it was same thing; he pulled up and felt like he could go around another time. I'm over the moon with him. He’s a special horse. He’s gonna win something big.”

Both Pamukcu and Martin lamented the lack of entries in the CCI4*-L, acknowledging that the Pan American Games (Chile) and the Maryland 5 Star probably contributed, but singing di Grazia and the Morven Park Equestrian Center's praises.

“This course really shows you if you're ready to go five-star or not,” said Pamukcu. “But it's like Bromont [CCI4*-L], which didn't have enough entries for whatever reason, and it's a bit the culture that you’d rather go and win rather than push yourself, and the people that came to practice here, hopefully, you see those horses and riders going on to win championships. It’s definitely disappointing because you can't ask for a better course. That was one of the best four-star longs I've ever done in my life.”

The rain at the beginning of the division didn't seem to be an issue for horses and riders, but di Grazia's track thinned the field by half.

Ariel Grald withdrew Diara before the cross-country after a tense and high-scoring dressage test on Friday, leaving 14 to start.

Lillian Heard Wood retired Dassett Olympus after refusals at 4c, the Two Ponds, and 7a, the Double Corners. She also retired Chilly after two refusals at 9b, the Leaf Pit.

Samantha Tinney retired Cutty Sark after two refusals at 9d, and Allison Springer retired Van Dyke after refusals at 7b and 9c. Shannon Lilley and Ideal IX retired after refusals at 4c and 17a, the Quarry View Mansion Lawn. Madison Temkin retired with MVP Madbum after two refusals at 9b.

No one made the optimum time of 10 minutes 21 seconds, but Martin came closest.

The final horse inspection kicks off a 9 a.m. tomorrow, followed by show jumping at 2:25 p.m.

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