This past weekend, the footing of the new arenas at the Fair Hill Special Event Zone saw its very first hoofprints as competitors in the CCI3*-S at Fair Hill International also participated in the Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill Test Event. The new Fair Hill Special Event Zone, which has been specially designed with the Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill in mind, consists of three brand-new arenas on the infield of the recently upgraded iconic turf track and a new cross-country course designed by Ian Stark. The CCI3*-S ran alongside national Novice, Training, Preliminary, and Intermediate horse trial divisions, although only the CCI3*-S made use of the new facilities at the Fair Hill Special Event Zone.
Originally, the Test Event was scheduled to take place at the Fair Hill International Horse Trials this past April, which was to offer CCI2*-S, CCI3*-S, and CCI4*-S divisions alongside national horse trial divisions for Advanced, Intermediate, Preliminary, and Training. When COVID-19 hit in mid-March and forced the postponement of competition, the Test Event was put off. Ultimately, the Fair Hill Organizing Committee (FHOC) announced in early June that the Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill, which was due to premiere in October of 2020, would be postponed to 2021.
The decision was made to use this weekend’s CCI3*-S competition, which was added to the offering of the August Fair Hill International Horse Trials, as the Test Event instead. The purpose of the Test Event is for the Federation Équestre Internationale (FEI) to assess the newly constructed venue which is necessary for the five-star designation. The CCI3*-S was the perfect opportunity to test out the new Fair Hill Special Event Zone and cross-country course.
Fair Hill International, a 501(c)(3) which has been organizing events at the Fair Hill Natural Resources Management Area since 1989, including the Fair Hill International Event held in October, is a separate entity from the FHOC. The organization was created by an entity of the Maryland Sports Commission called the Sports and Entertainment Corporation specifically to organize the new Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill. With 30 years of experience organizing events at Fair Hill, Fair Hill International will be working in partnership with the FHOC to provide guidance for putting on the Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill.
“We’re very pleased with how the Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill test event turned out this past weekend,” said Jeff Newman, CEO of the FHOC. “We received a great deal of positive reviews and feedback from the competitors about the newly constructed Fair Hill Special Event Zone and its new cross-country course along with helpful areas for improvement and advice in preparation for the big event next October 2021. This is an exciting step forward.”
“It was wonderful to include a CCI3*-S level competition serving as the Maryland 5 Star Test Event as part of our annual August Fair Hill International Horse Trials,” said Mary Coldren, Competition Director for the Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill and Executive Manager for Fair Hill International. “The new Fair Hill Special Event Zone is indeed special, and we look forward to working with the FHOC and their efforts toward next fall's inaugural event.”
In terms of how the actual competition played out, Phillip Dutton had four rides of the 39 rides in the division this weekend and took home the win aboard Fernhill Singapore (Singapore x Riedellia), Annie Jones, David Vos, and Thomas Tierney’s 11-year-old KWPN gelding. Dutton and Fernhill Singapore, who have completed several events at the four-star level, made easy work of the weekend’s competition. They scored a 22.5 in dressage to sit in second place and moved up to the top spot after adding just 2 cross-country time faults to their dressage score. A double-clear show jumping round this morning secured them the win.
Dutton also finished ninth with the Sea of Clouds Partnership’s 9-year-old Thoroughbred gelding Sea of Clouds, 18th with Lee Lee Jones’s 9-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding Fernhill Pick Pocket (Chacco Blue x Bracklin Mystique), and 24th with Christine Turner’s 13-year-old Trakehner gelding Tsetserleg (Windfall x Thabana), who is normally ridden by Boyd Martin. “Obviously, I’m really pleased with my horses,” said Dutton, “but I’m also so excited about this venue for the eventing world in the future. I think, for a test event, it couldn’t have gone off better.”
Ariel Grald and her longtime partner Leamore Master Plan (Master Imp x Ardragh Bash), Anne Eldridge’s 11-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding, scored a 24.9 in dressage and posted two double clear jumping rounds to move up from fourth to second. Maya Black and Laurie Cameron’s 8-year-old Swedish Warmblood gelding Miks Master C (Mighty Magic x Qui Luma CBF) were eighth after dressage on a score of 26.4 and added just one second of cross-country time to their score to jump up the leaderboard to third place.
The cross-country track for the CCI3*-S at Fair Hill International, which was designed by Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill course designer Ian Stark, rode quite well with only four combinations incurring jumping faults. Time, however, proved hard to make, with only three combinations coming in clear and inside the time. Twenty-four of the 36 pairs who show jumped this morning did so without knocking a pole.
US Equestrian Managing Director of Eventing Jenni Autry and High Performance Director Erik Duvander were both on site at Fair Hill this weekend to observe the competition and the new facilities. “All who attended the Test Event for the Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill saw a promising snippet of what this event will be when it comes to fruition,” said Autry. “The new arenas have world-class footing that received very positive feedback from the riders, and Ian Stark’s cross-country course brings an entirely new feel to this venue. The Fair Hill Organizing Committee is incredibly dedicated to producing a competition of the highest caliber. We are confident that, once approved by the FEI, the new CCI5*-L will attract the very best in the world to compete here in the U.S.”
“I believe having the Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill in the fall will contribute to the continued development of our future championship teams,” Duvander added. “It is a competitive time of year to hold a CCI5*-L with both Burghley and Pau also running in the fall. However, this venue has superior arenas, both for training and competition, and with the unique, galloping layout of the cross-country, it should attract foreign competitors.”
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