Jun 11, 2023

It’s the Boyd and Phil Show Following a Spectacular Cross-Country Day at the MARS Bromont CCI

Phillip Dutton and Azure. Cealy Tetley photos

Bromont, Quebec, Canada—June 10There’s just no way around it—America’s Boyd Martin and Phillip Dutton lead four of the five divisions running at the MARS Bromont CCI following a spectacular day of cross-country. And they would probably lead the U25 CCI2*-L if they were just a bit…younger.

With 10 Olympics and too many five-stars to count between the two of them, one does expect them to be "in the mix" as they say, all things being equal. And Saturday in the beautiful hills of the Eastern Townships of Quebec, everything went their way.

Of course it’s far from over—there’s still Sunday morning’s horse inspection to navigate, where horses will be presented again to the veterinary and ground jury panel to check for soundness and ensure all are fit to continue to the third and final show jumping phase of the "triathlon, "where the final outcome will be decided. But for the moment, here’s where things stand.

The biggest jumps of the day came in the CCI4*-L following this massive test of accuracy and ability set by Derek DiGrazia. Dutton and Azure, who sit in first at the moment, completed with 0 jumping faults and just 0.4 time faults to complete on a to-date score of 36.8. This resulted in a leap from 15th overnight to current first.

Sitting in second is Arielle Aharoni with Dutch Times who also added no jumping faults and 8.4 time faults to sit in second on 41.3 penalty points. They moved up from eighth. Currently sitting third is Hannah Sue Hollberg with Capitol HIM, moving from 12th to third with a clean jumping effort and adding just 6.8 time penalties to finish on 42.4. The top Canadian in this highest level is Dunham, Quebec's, Colleen Loach with FE Golden Eye who was the overnight leader going into Saturday. They too jumped cleanly but added 15.2 time faults to sit in fourth on a score of 42.8. There’s just over one rail’s worth of penalties separating the top five, so it’s still very much anyone’s game.

Dutton when asked about his 4*-L round with Azure had this to say:

“The course was difficult, with the combination of terrain, jumps and the time that was hard to get. It was a bit of an eye-opener for [Azure], and it’s certainly the toughest thing she’s done. The terrain is undulating, you’re constantly up and down which probably takes about 15 percent off your speed when you’re trying to go fast. But she knows me pretty well now, and I trust her, so I’m able to shave off time on the approach to the jumps as well. We’re forming a good partnership, and hopefully it will grow from here.”

Boyd Martin and On Cue.

The smallest division of the day, the CCI4*-S, saw just six entries, and five completions as Colleen Loach retired on course without finishing. Martin managed to hold on to his overnight lead coming in with On Cue, adding no jumping penalties and 12.8 time for a current score of 41.8. Dutton and his Tokyo Olympic mount Z added an even 20 in time to pull up from third to second, and Booli Selmayr with Millfield Lancando added 16.8 in time to move up from 4th to 3rd and a score of 54.9.

Full of praise for his 17-year-old partner, Martin was effusive in his review of her ability.

“She would have to be the best cross-country horse I have ever ridden," he said. "She’s just back in the swing of things and it was a monstrous four-star short course, and she just went around on a loose rein. She’s smart, she’s careful, and she gallops like the wind. She’s brave, easy to turn and sees a fence in a split second.”

Of Di Grazia (known worldwide for building tough, fair, and accurate tests for the level) he said: “Here at Bromont there’s coffins, banks, hills, gulleys, drops. It’s a true cross-country test. And Derek builds right at the limit for each level. It’s good for us American and Canadian riders because it’s reality. Otherwise you get a massive shock when you get to international events.”

Boyd Martin and Chiraz.

Boyd Martin also leads the largest division, the CCI3*-L with Chiraz, moving up from second overnight with a double-clear round for a score of 29.6.

“We’ve only been together a short time, and I didn’t really know what to expect,” said Martin. “He put in a fantastic round, and although we had a couple of iffy fences, he kept fighting for me, and we finished just inside the time.”

Putting in a fantastic double-clean to jump from a tie for ninth to second is Maya Clarkson with Maks Mojo C, the highest-placed MARS Bromont Rising grant recipient rider of the day. They sit in second on 32.5, less than a rail behind the leader.

“This was the hardest course either [my horse or I] have ever seen,” said Clarkson. “And I thought my horse answered every question asked by a mile. All the things I’ve worked at with my home coach Lauren [Nicholson], was all emphasized by Bettina [Hoy], which made me that much more sure as to what I was going to do at every jump. It was really nice to come to the finish knowing everything I tried to get, I got.”

Canada’s Kendal Lehari and Mitchell sit in third, with a clean jumping round and just 1.6 time penalties and a score of 33.1

Boyd Martin and Asti's Charming.

Boyd Martin held on to his overnight lead in the 2*-L with Asti’s Charming, jumping a lovely double-clear adding nothing to their dressage score of 23.0. Dutton and Shutterfly added just 0.4 penalties to their score retaining their second place on 24.9, and Martin jumped up from sixth to thirrd with Mo Chroi again on a double-clean and 26.9 penalties.

“Hats off to 'Charm;' he dug deep,” said Martin of Asti’s Charming. “He was definitely feeling some inexperienced moments but he showed plenty of grit and ended up making the time quite easily.”

This is another division where Sunday’s show jumping might really tell the tale, as the top five placings have barely a rail’s worth of points between them.

Noah Stanlaske and DHI Showman.

One of just two double-clear rounds in the CCIU252*-L, Noah Stanlaske and DHI Showman bounced from third overnight up into first by adding nothing to their sub-30 dressage score of 29.2. MARS Bromont Rising grant student (and overnight leader going into Saturday) Sara Schulman and Cooley Chromatic added an unfortunate 7.6 time penalties to their score and now sit just behind in second (29.6), and Logan Harris made the leap from seventh into thirrd by posting the only other double-clean on Omnipotent.

“My horse is a warmblood and not a Thoroughbred, but I was pretty ahead of my minute-markers for the first half of the course,” explained Stanlaske. “I felt him get a bit tired, but we had about 30 seconds left. He’s a skilled horse, and he knows what he’s doing—I just need to make sure I’m not interfering with him! So I pushed for the last combination and supported him. He’s a horse that needs a person. Our bond is really what I think made him help me and me support him.”

German Olympian and guest coach all week of the MARS Bromont Rising grant and education program administered by the USEA Foundation, Bettina Hoy, weighed in on the cross-country courses today:

“I was very, very impressed by Bromont. Full Stop," she said. "Everyone has put a huge effort into fantastic courses. You know where you are fitness wise, as well as in the education of horses and riders. I think it’s very important that this event stays up to height. What we really want is to educate riders and horses as to height, fitness, and technicality because that’s what it’s all about.”

Finally, DiGrazia gave his thoughts on how he felt it all panned out.

“The CCI4*-L—that was a challenging course with lots of different things to do," he said. "But at the end of the day, I thought there were a lot of good vibes. Obviously some people did have problems going around, but they maybe had a problem, and then they went around and finished the course, so that’s good.

“To me, I always try to believe that [the courses I build] are fair," he continued. "And that it’s something that is very possible to do. You believe that horses at the four-star level are trained to a certain level of proficiency, and they should be able to handle what you put out there. But the biggest thing really is to make sure it’s fair, that they are really able to understand what the question is and then be able to go ahead and execute.”

With cross-country now behind them, just two tasks remain before the winners are crowned and the ribbons awarded. The final horse inspection will begin at 8:00 a.m. Sunday, where horses will once again be presented to the veterinary and judges panel to ensure everyone is sound and fit to continue in competition; and then the final test of show jumping. Sunday’s rails are very light, and fall at the slightest touch of a hoof. And the scores are very close together.

It’s still anybody’s game.

For complete scores and real-time live scoring visit https://evententries.com/#LiveScoresBKBzlzjPVtaWx7vnztFOXA==

Sunday's admission is FREE. The horse inspection (which is open to the public) will begin at 8:00 a.m. and the first show jumping round is scheduled to start at 9:30 a.m.

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