With a clean and fast trip around the White Oak cross-country course at the Tryon International Equestrian Center on Saturday, Liz Halliday-Sharp and the Ocala Horse Properties’ 12-year-old KWPN gelding Deniro Z (Zapatero x Zonne-Trend), added just 1.60 time penalties to their score in the 2020 Buckeye Nutrition USEF CCI4*-L Eventing National Championship, moving from second place to first after the second day of competition.
“Deniro is amazing, and I have a really great partnership with him, which makes a big difference,” said Halliday-Sharp. “He was phenomenal. Every combination rode the way I planned and he didn’t make it feel hard. I feel like it was a really great day because he finished feeling like, ‘oh, that was easy!’ He was super fresh when we finished, and I’m thrilled with it.”
Watch Halliday-Sharp's cross-country round:
Looking forward, Halliday-Sharp noted that Deniro Z is “more than capable” of a clear show jumping round tomorrow, pointing to the strength he’s gained in the last year. “He’s a phenomenal horse, and a very good jumper. He feels 10 times stronger this year and like a different horse compared to what he was before Burghley last year. I think it taught him a lot. I’m hoping for a clear round tomorrow, and he’s more than capable of that. If I ride him the right way, I know that’s possible. I just need to look after him tonight, put our plan in place, and then execute said plan!”
Boyd Martin and Christine, Thomas, and Tommie Turner’s 12-year-old Trakehner gelding, Tsetserleg (Windfall x Thabana), also added just 1.60 time penalties to stay close on Halliday-Sharp’s tail, moving from second to third on the leaderboard. Martin has three horses in the CCI4*-L, and his ride with Tsetserleg was his final go of the day.
“I had a couple of trips around already with On Cue and Blackfoot Mystery, so I sort of knew the spots that were quite deep and muddy and I really chose to slow down and protect Thomas in those dodgy areas,” said Martin. “He’s such a seasoned veteran now and he actually did the course quite easily. We haven’t really had these marquee events to go to, so it’s fantastic coming to Tryon and giving it a good crack yesterday in the dressage and having a nice run today.”
While the weather conditions on Saturday were ideal for cross-country, rain in the days leading up to the MARS Tryon International Three-Day Event brought questions about how well the track would hold up. Martin credits the grounds crew at the Tryon International Equestrian Center for putting in the work to make the course run as well as it did.
“The amount of effort that has gone into making this course rideable today is unbelievable,” said Martin. “It’s just brilliant seeing how many people care about the horses’ health and do everything they can [to make the course safe]. It’s greatly appreciated because it’s nice to win these competitions, but it’s more important that the horses are healthy afterwards. I think all the riders should buy [the grounds crew] a beer tonight.”
Phillip Dutton and Z, a 12-year-old Zangersheide gelding (Asca x Bellabouche) owned by Thomas Tierney, Simon Roosevelt, Suzanne Lacy, Ann Jones, and Caroline Moran, turned in one of the few double clear trips of the day in the CCI4*-L, sending them up from a tie for 12th place after dressage to third place heading into the final phase.
“Z was absolutely a superstar and jumped it all pretty easily,” said Dutton. “It’s exciting that he’s able to get the time when the conditions weren’t that ideal at the end . . . He’s a good athletic horse; he loves the cross-country.”
Watch a cross-country recap:
A total of eight combinations in the CCI4*-L turned in double clear cross-country rounds, and only eight pairs added jumping penalties to their scores. However, Captain Mark Phillips’ course did prove influential, with several riders opting to retire after difficulties on course, opening the door to some big shifts on the leaderboard heading into the final phase.
Competition in the 2020 Buckeye Nutrition USEF CCI4*-L Eventing National Championship will conclude on Sunday with the show jumping phase beginning at 10:30 a.m. EST.
Will Coleman and Chin Tonic HS cleared the White Oak Course to hold their CCI 3*-L lead, and he called Chin Tonic’s run “the best of the day for me” despite challenging his first CCI3*-L with the 8-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Chin Champ x Wildera) owned by Hyperion Stud LLC. The duo sits on a score of 25.70 heading into the final phase. The remainder of the podium also remains unchanged: with a score of 25.90, Boyd Martin and Contessa, the 11-year-old Holsteiner mare (Contender x Veritas) owned by Club Contessa, hold second, while third place currently rests with Jonathan Holling (USA) and Prophet, the 8-year-old Trakehner gelding (Tatendrang x Pennant's Valentine) owned in partnership with Chuck McGrath, on a score of 26.90.
“This was his first CCI3*-L. He’s just an 8-year-old, but he’s a really magic horse. You know, the light was a bit funny [by the afternoon] – he came out of the box a little looky and he felt almost green, but he’s just so honest and got better and better as he went. I was thrilled with him; his conditioning felt great, and he really jumped the jumps all very easily.
“I thought the courses rode well,” Coleman continued. “The cross-country course here is not just about how the lines walk or how the jumps present themselves. The terrain itself is one of the biggest challenges – it’s all the little dips and nuances. Mark set a really nice track, but those little intricacies are really what make it kind of hard. I think that’s why the time is so hard to get, but my horses performed great, and I’m very lucky to have them. And, I have a great team behind me led by my wife.”
Coleman admitted that while he and his team are happy to have an Olympic qualifier to attend, he laughed that he “never want[s] to be eventing in November again! Obviously, it was amazing for Tryon to host this. There was really no opportunity otherwise [for qualification], so we’re all hugely appreciative of that. It’s just a very long year for the horses, and really difficult for a lot of us because with COVID, you never really knew where your target is.”
Coleman elaborated that he had originally aimed his horses to peak for Morven Park’s national championship and qualifier divisions, “so six weeks later with an event horse is a very big deal. So for me, I felt like my horses, and maybe my team in general, were all a bit weary by the time we got here and we’re just glad that hopefully we can finish the weekend strong and get the year behind us.”
Sara Kozumplik Murphy and Otta B Quality, the 7-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding owned by Edith Rameika, maintained their hold on the Guardian Horse Bedding CCI2*-L Division after their double-clear Cross-Country round, carrying forward their score of 25.20. Dani Sussman and Jos Bravio, her own 9-year-old Argentinian Warmblood gelding (Jos Fapillon x Remonta Guinea), improved from fourth to second and sit on a score of 27.30 after a clear cross-country round, with third belonging to Tik Maynard and Galileo, the 9-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding owned by Richard Maynard, who added 2.00 penalties for time to hold a score of 28.10.
“The course rode super well,” Murphy shared. “The footing was really good, and they worked so hard on it. Otter went out at 8:20 a.m., so I went out and walked [the course] as soon as it was light out, and I was really happy with the ground. I was curious as to how it was going to ride going down the hill and things like that, but it was all lovely,” she reported. “There was a good balance going down there. As I said yesterday, the course was really appropriate for the level. It was all exceptionally well built with good designing. You had all of the questions that you needed, but it was appropriate for the level, so it encouraged the young horses or younger riders with older horses.”
For Murphy, she knew in advance that her young jumper tends to have more hang time in the air, and chose to be cognisant of her time as much as possible on course. “ I knew I was going to have to go a little bit more on these courses that are a bit winding. He’s a good jumper so he has quite a bit of airtime, so I just wanted to make sure that we weren’t going to give points away because all of our dressage scores were so close. He cruised across the ground, and still had plenty of play left at the end. He’s very proud of himself!”
“Otter” has jumped up to 1.20m at the venue this summer, so the 1.15m height shouldn’t be a problem, Murphy shared, but she’s interested to see how he will take to jumping in the stadium following the cross-country phase:
“He’s a very nice quality horse and good show jumper, so I just need to make sure I ride properly. At the two-star level they jump 1.15m on the final day, and it’s always different after riding a horse it’s on cross-country versus the horse trials, where we do the show jumping before. Since he’s a young horse, we haven’t done it a lot, so we’ll have to play it by ear, but he’s fit, happy, and jogged really well just now,” she concluded. “I’ll still have to ride properly and not be silly!”
Jenny Caras and Trendy Fernhill, the 9-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Ars Vivendi x Cruising Girl) owned by Elyse Eisenberg, jumped clear to maintain their lead on a score of 27.00. Lillian Heard and CharmKing, the 9-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Cassito x O-Heraldika) owned by CharmKing LLC, still hold a score of 27.40 to keep second place, with Will Faudree and Caeleste, the 13-year-old Holsteiner mare (Contender x HappyGoLucky) owned by Jennifer Mosing and Sterling Silver Stables, sitting on a score of 30.60 for third. The division will contest cross-country beginning at 10:00 a.m. on Sunday to round out the weekend.
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