Mill Spring, N.C.—May 13—Liz Halliday-Sharp had nearly 4 points of time in hand as she headed out onto Mark Phillips’ CCI4*-L cross-country course at the Tryon International this morning, and she had to use most of it as she heard Cooley Nutcracker’s shoe come off when he took off from fence 7.
Since the 9-year-old Irish Sport Horse (Tolant R x Ballyshan Cleopatra) gelding is green at the level, Halliday-Sharp made sure to take care of him, easing off when needed.
Despite adding 3.6 time penalties over the 10 minute, 14 second track, she held onto her overnight lead ahead of Jacob Fletcher and Fabian. Fourteen pairs finished out of 18 to start.
“He’s still quite a green horse at this level,” said Halliday-Sharp of “Bali,” who she owns along with Deborah Halliday and Ocala Horse Properties. “It was really important for me to set him up for the future; that was my biggest goal. He’s a powerful, big-engined horse, so I was just trying to make sure to jump all the jumps really well. That’s probably where a little bit of that time came from when he lost that shoe early on because I didn’t know if he was going to slip anywhere. I was thrilled with him. He’s an amazing horse for the future and had plenty of engine at the end, which was excitement.”
Halliday-Sharp’s been partnered with Bali for about a year since he came from Astier Nicolas’ barn in France. The pair contested the Tryon CCI4*-L last November, but a rider fall on course ended their weekend early.
Since then, they've had strong finishes in the TerraNova CCI4*-S (Myakka City, Florida) and the Cosequin Lexington CCI4*-S (Lexington, Kentucky).
“We have a great partnership,” she said. “He’s a very sharp horse, and he’s a very powerful horse, and he changes all the time, so I’m still kind of fine-tuning my brakes. I think he’s a sensitive horse too, so it’s making sure I have the right [bit] without going too strong for him. He does need to feel like he can pull you a little bit. He’s a very honest horse, and he enjoys the job a lot. Hopefully he’ll come out feeling great tomorrow.”
Fletcher and Fletcher Farms’ Fabian, a 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood (Up To Date x Ineke), were one of three pairs to make the time on the course. They’re now sitting on 31.2, just .2 behind Halliday-Sharp heading into tomorrow’s show jumping.
“He was amazing,” said Fletcher, who’s based in Arkansas with his fiancée, five-star rider Cornelia Dorr. “We lost a shoe pretty early on, at the Boathouse in the water, so I had to slow down more than some people for a few combinations through the turn to be safe, but he galloped amazing and was really fast. He jumped everything great. He’s got a bigger stride than I realized. I found the distances way easier than they walked.”
Fletcher credited Dorr and his childhood trainer, Mike Huber, who’s been coaching him at shows recently, for their input. He also gets help from British-based Australian rider Kevin McNab, who he based with a few years back.
“It was good to have Mike Huber back with me at the shows. Him and Cornelia were very helpful,” he said. “I was so nervous before the cross-country! I’ve made time on the four-shorts on a lot of horses, but it’s been a long time since I’ve made the time on a four-long, so that was really exciting.”
Fletcher said Huber is good at managing the couple on their top horses and gives great pep talks.
“He just kind of lights a fire under me to be competitive and gives me confidence,” he said. “He’s a very good hand-holder. He went out and timed a lot of the horses at the beginning and said I needed to be at this marker by X time or I’d be slow.”
Boyd Martin headed into cross-country with Yankee Creek Ranch’s Commando 3 tied for third, but .8 time penalties gave him the advantage over Kaylawna Smith-Cook and Passepaartout.
“I was absolutely blown away by the power and stamina and scope that ‘Connor’ showed out there,” he said. “It was a huge test for him, and in our short partnership this was a massive accomplishment. He’s brave, and he gallops like the wind, so I’m very excited for the future with him. He flew around the course like it was nothing and really gave me that five-star feel. I’m pumped for the future and very grateful to Yankee Creek Farm for getting behind him.”
Martin’s been partnered with the 10-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Connor 48 x R-Adulgunde) since late last year when he came across him in Germany with Swedish rider Louise Romeike.
Martin also picked up a win in the competitive CCI4*-S on the Annie Goodwin Syndicate’s Fedarman B, a 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood (Eurocommerce Washington x Paulien B) and was second on Christine, Thomas, and Tommie Turner’s 16-year-old Trakehner gelding Tsetserleg TSF (Windfall 2 x Thabana). The Luke 140 Syndicate’s Luke 140, a 12-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Landos x Omega VI) was fourth.
All three geldings will head to the Luhmühlen CCI5*-L in Germany in June. Tsetserleg TSF will be rerouting from an early cross-country glance-off at the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event, and Fedarman B and Luke 140 will be making their five-star debuts.
“He keeps going from strength to strength,” said Martin of Fedarman B. “I really felt the CCI4*-S course would have a lot of similarities to Luhmühlen. He gave me a great round, and he’s getting faster and faster and just loving his job. I’m really thankful for Erik Duvander who’s been helping me with the cross-country training on him because he’s like a bullet now.”
The final horse inspection is tomorrow at 8 a.m., followed by show jumping at 11:25 a.m.
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