Sep 24, 2023

Grald and Diara Persevere to Win CCI4*-S at Plantation Field

By Amber Heintzberger - Edited Press Release
Ariel Grald and Diara. Amber Heintzberger photo

Unionville, Pa.—Sept. 24The Plantation Field International CCI4*-S concluded today with the cross-country phase, and the final standings were nearly a matter of “last one standing.” As Tropical Storm Ophelia brought a torrential downpour to the area, a number of riders decided to opt out: of 39 competitors, only six completed, and 17 withdrew before the start of cross-country.

Ariel Grald and Annie Eldridge’s Diara were one of the last combinations to tackle the course and jumped clear with 20.8 time faults to move into the winning position. Caroline Pamukcu and HSH Vamonos, who were 13th after dressage and jumped clear in the show jumping yesterday, moved up to second overall. Third place went to Canadian combination Colleen Loach with FE Golden Eye, and New Zealander Monica Spencer, who’s here in the U.S. preparing for the Maryland 5-Star, finished fourth with Artist after adding 32.8 time faults.

Grald said, “The ground was holding up really well through the morning, and then it kept raining, and I think that was the last straw for a lot of people. Honestly that worked in my favor because I was still able to find the good ground for the take-off at a lot of jumps. For me, it was really important for this mare’s future that she learn to run in the mud. Diara is a super cross-country horse and super powerful but she tries too hard and jumps too big. It’s been a real learning year; I ran her at the four-star at Bromont in August, and she was uncertain about it at the beginning, so I felt it was important to run today. And the course was so good; any time I get to run a Derek [di Grazia] track I’m so excited. Once we were out there she felt great. After I jumped the first few jumps, I knew she was fine, and now I have that confidence going to big events.”

Eldridge, was unable to attend the event this weekend, but Grald said, “She is the most wonderful supporter! She’s thrilled with Diara, and I couldn’t do any of this without her.”

After taking the top three placings in the CCI3*-S yesterday, Pamukcu said that that she felt good going into the four-str cross-country today. “I spent six months in England, so this was pretty normal weather there, and I felt pretty confident,” she said. “It’s hard to win four-stars, so I have to take advantage of it when I can! My horse felt great. He’s had about 20 months off, and this was only his third Advanced ever. I spent a lot of time rehabbing him after he got hurt last year, and he felt unbelievable; he’s a scopey jumper, and I don’t have to worry about him slipping and falling. I also practice a lot at home without studs on similar terrain, and I know he’s very catty, so I wasn’t very worried. Where I saw people had falls, I took a little extra tug, and where the rain was bad and in my eyes I went a bit slower, and when I could I went a little quick. I need practice; I need to think about my future doing team stuff, because if you’re at the Pan Ams or Olympics in weather like this you still need to run.”

Canadian rider Colleen Loach, who finished third overall with FE Golden Eye, commented, “I feel like I was lucky to be second out of the box today. I had fresh ground, and 'Goldie' was ticking the boxes all the way around.”

The combination is heading to the Pan Am Games in Chile in a few weeks. “It was a little bit nerve-wracking running him in the mud, but I don’t want to go to a championship unprepared," said Loach. "I want to be on our A-game, and he had a good solid run. It was a good, solid course.”

After a fall from Contessa at a frangible oxer, dressage leader Boyd Martin withdrew hit other two entries, Fedarman B and Luke 140, who are both aiming for five-star competitions this fall. Overnight leader Jennie Saville also withdrew both of her entries, FE Connory and Twilightslastgleam.

“This is the first time I’ve ever scratched,” said Saville, who is flying to the Netherlands on Thursday to represent the USA with FE Connory in the Nations Cup at Boekelo. “I was about to go in the start box with Twilightslastgleam and decided the risk wasn’t work the reward.”

For full results, click here.

About Plantation Field

The 16th annual Plantation Field International will take place Sept. 21-24, 2023 in Unionville, Pennsylvania. Featuring CCI4*-S competition, the event is a favorite of a number of Olympic level riders including Buck Davidson, Phillip Dutton, and Boyd Martin.

Attractions include a ringside VIP tent, an extensive trade fair, and tailgating on Saturday and Sunday overlooking the CCI4*-S and CCI3*-S cross-country courses. Spectators can pack a picnic or enjoy local food trucks and quench their thirst with a stop by our beer garden. Charitable beneficiaries are the Chester County Food Bank and Cheshire Hunt Conservancy.

The event will take place rain or shine. General admission is $25 in advance and $30 at the gate. Sponsorship opportunities are available. More info & tickets on the website:

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