Apr 06, 2024

No One Can Catch Commando 3 at Stable View CCI4*-S

By Lindsay Berreth - USEA Staff
Boyd Martin and Commando 3. USEA/Lindsay Berreth photos

Aiken, S.C.—April 6—There was a feeling of excitement in the air today at Stable View as some of the country’s top riders took a spin around Helen West’s CCI4*-S cross-country course in their final preparations for the Defender Kentucky Three-Day Event in three weeks’ time.

West, who’s designed courses in the U.K. and Ireland including Bicton and Nunney, has taken over from longtime designer Captain Mark Phillips, though Phillips served as an advisor for the course this weekend.

The scores after yesterday’s show jumping were tight, and it was down to the final group of riders to determine a winner. Crowds assembled at Stable View’s pavilion to cheer, and Boyd Martin got the loudest cheers of all when he and overnight leader Commando 3 galloped through. They finished with 6.8 time penalties to stay on top.

“'Connor' was absolutely brilliant,” said Martin. “He’s a very, very brave horse that was galloping and just ate up the course. It was a challenging track, and he really showed his class around the whole way. I was lucky I rode Bruno [Fedarman B] around earlier, and he gave me such a smooth ride so I had a very confident feel going in. Both horses have been training really well. I just think Connor’s such an exceptional athlete. I knew if I gave him a good ride he’d jump around well. He’s pretty experienced at this level and is just a high-quality horse.”

The 11-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Connor 48 x R-Adelgunde) owned by Yankee Creek Ranch LLC, is heading to Kentucky to run in the CCI4*-S along with Fedarman B, who finished fifth, as Martin eyes selection for the Paris Olympics this summer. He met with West earlier this year to make some suggestions to the course as he knew many riders would be using it as a final prep run before either the CCI5*-L or CCI4*-S at Kentucky.

Boyd Martin and Commando 3.

“Kentucky’s such a big challenge, and we know that Derek [di Grazia] will use a bunch of brush; there will be a challenging coffin; there’s usually big hedges into water,” he said. “I suggested [to West] it would be ideal for the horses to see some of these questions in the lead up here. I couldn’t commend her enough. We had the brush corner in the water, angled hedges out of the water, and she really studied the last couple of Kentucky events to try to emulate what Derek has built there. I think it was a huge bonus to be able to bring the horses here and show them what they’re going to be faced with in a couple of weeks’ time.”

Stable View is home turf for Martin, who bases here for the winter season. While he admits winning is nice, he was just happy to have two happy and confident horses heading into Kentucky.

“I feel like I didn’t go to the well on either horse and got a good fitness run for them,” he said. “I’ve got my tail up coming into Kentucky. The ground wasn’t perfect, and it was a bit of a twisty track, and there’s a top group of horses here, and I think everyone’s keeping their eye on the prize and looking after their animals and making sure they peak at the right time.”

Will Coleman and Chin Tonic HS.

Will Coleman and Hyperion Stud LLC’s 12-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Chin Champ x Wildera) Chin Tonic HS were tied for second place with Liz Halliday and Cooley Quicksilver coming into cross-country and finished there, adding 7.6 time penalties. Halliday took a tumble at fence 9c, the second of two severely angled brushes out of the first water, but no horse or rider injuries were reported.

“Chin” is also heading to Kentucky for the CCI4*-S along with his stablemate Off The Record, who finished fourth.

“I was happy with [Chin],” said Coleman. “I didn’t go crazy on the clock, I just tried to give him as nice a round as I could. It was a little bit of a twisty, turney course. I thought he answered the questions well, and he feels like a mature horse. I was proud of him, and hopefully he comes out good and we look on to Kentucky. Timmy was a handful. He was very happy to be here! I would say he maybe needed this run to take the edge off before Kentucky. He was a little keen, but he’s just such an experienced horse. I’m happy with both.”

Coleman thought the questions on West’s course, particularly the new coffin at 14abcd, were good but a bit repetitive. “I do like some of the wrinkles that she did in the course, but it lacked flow,” he said. “I thought Mark had set the best track he’s ever had last year. Obviously, Helen’s brand new to this facility, and she’s got tons of experience, but it maybe wasn’t one of my favorites.”

Doug Payne and Quantum Leap.

Doug Payne and his own and Jessica Payne’s Quantum Leap, a 13-year-old Zweibrucker gelding (Quite Capitol x Report To Sloopy), are known to be fast, but even they couldn’t catch the optimum time of 6 minutes 23 seconds. They were the fastest though, adding .8 time penalties to jump from a tie for 20th after dressage to third.

“Quantum” is heading to the CCI5*-L at Kentucky along with Camarillo, who finished 18th.

“We’re trying a new strategy with the flatwork which I think is really paying off,” said Doug. “He has a tendency to get tight, so I’ve been trying to be really riding him forward and actively, and he’s been consistently improving each time out. The scores are heading in the right direction. I’m pretty excited going into Kentucky with that. The jumping side, he’s been very, very reliably good. The show jumping he was wonderful, and cross-country, you couldn’t pick an easier, more genuine horse to ride. You hardly have to do anything. You don’t really have to set him up much, so there’s not much in the way of time-wasting moments. He’s pretty incredible.”

Doug was a fan of the course, adding, “It was a nice change. I think Mark does a great job, but having a fresh set of eyes was just stuff we hadn’t seen before. I think the coffin will be helpful for horses going into Kentucky. We did the [$100,000 Conceal Grand Prix Eventing] Showcase, Carolina [International], and then here, so it was a nice change in that each one had a different designer and a different feel. I think they’re about as prepared as they can be.”

Thirty-eight pairs started today’s cross-country. There were four withdrawals before the start. Thirty-one pairs finished. Halliday was the only rider fall, and there were four pairs who retired on course after refusals. One pair was eliminated for refusals and one was technically eliminated for missing a fence.

West, who also designed the CCI2*-S, said she was “chuffed” with the results, especially in the four-star, in her first effort. “Overall I’m really pleased. In the four-star, the cream rose to the top. As is often the case, the real top guys made it look very easy. It’s been great for me to see and get a better feel and decide what I’d do differently,” she said.

She was surprised how the first water at 9abc rode. Riders had a big brush drop in, then five strides to two angled brushes with one stride in between.

“A lot of them jumped quite high, landed dead flat, and then struggled to get that first stride,” she said. “If they missed that first stride they just didn’t get to that first angled brush shoulder, and that rode more difficult than I’d envisaged it would. I thought they’d be able to keep coming on the five strides to the one-stride. Those who landed and were traveling on the line made it look like an exercise in the arena, and those that didn’t really struggled.”

Problems were scattered throughout the course, which West considers the sign of a good course. There were no horse falls, and most issues were just glance-offs.

“It did test them, but I think that’s a good thing. I think a lot of the riders going to Kentucky were really happy and appreciative they had some of those questions,” she said. “I’ll take that. Twenty penalties, glance-offs; it’s safe, and it got a result. It was exciting and kept everyone on the edge of their seats. It was a good picture. It was a safe day and an educational day, and they’ve learned from it. I think they’ll all be better horses and riders next time out.”

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