With cross-country running in reverse order of placing for the top 10 it made for an exciting finale to the 2021 MARS Great Meadow International (GMI) CCI4*-S. Overnight leader Marilyn Little fell from RF Scandalous at the first water which opened the door for second-placed Phillip Dutton and Fernhill Singapore to gallop away with the win. Fernhill Singapore, a 12-year-old KWPN gelding (Singapore x Riedellia) owned by Ann Jones, Tom Tierney, and David Vos, added 3.2 time penalties to his overnight score, but it was enough to best the field.
Dutton has produced Singapore since he was a 4-year-old and the pair won their first international outing in 2015 at the CCI1* (now CCI2*-L) level. They would go on to win the CCI3*-S at Fair Hill last summer and made their five-star debut earlier this year, but this is Singapore’s first four-star win.
“I've got nobody else to blame except myself because I've had him since he was a 4-year-old,” said Dutton. “He's been a slow developer, but I've always in the back of my mind that he's got plenty of movement and plenty of jump – he wouldn't be the fastest horse that I've ever had. Today our conditions were good, and I was in a competitive position, so I thought, ‘now's the time to really work and try to pull the trigger on him and make him go quick.’ I was impressed with him today.”
Dutton is aiming Singapore at the Maryland 5 Star this fall and is looking for a more competitive finish there than the 27th place at Kentucky this spring. “He's probably 17 hands and very leggy. He has a very short attention span, but is a very careful jumper and a good jumper. He hasn't been that straightforward to train, but hopefully, we started to get to the places now where it can be pretty enjoyable and fruitful. He's done the one five star Kentucky, and I didn't try to go too quick there. I think by Fair Hill time he should be ready to be really competitive.”
Will Coleman had two horses in the top 10 so went earlier in the day with fourth-placed Off the Record, who is a previous winner here and finished second in 2020. Off the Record (VDL Arkansas x Drumagoland Bay), the Off the Record Syndicate’s 12-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding, added 3.6 time penalties to his dressage score to add another red ribbon to his GMI collection. ‘Timmy’ has found so much success at GMI as time is always tight and he loves to go fast.
“I didn't even wear a watch – I forgot it,” explained Coleman. “I realized it and Katie just said ‘well you’re riding him.’ He's a fast horse by nature, it's how he wants to go. Coleman and Timmy are headed to represent the U.S. at the nation’s cup competition in Aachen, so GMI was just a prep run for them and the second-place finish was a bonus.
“Aachen is pretty frenetic – in the beginning, it usually hits you in the face hard,” continued Coleman. “So in the beginning, I just wanted to make sure that he was listening and that he was a little bit more relaxed. He just tries really hard. He gives you everything that he has. So, I never want to extinguish that, but I just tried to let him go out there and be himself.”
Coleman was sitting in third place heading to cross-country with Chin Tonic HS, Hyperion Stud’s 9-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Chin Champ x Wildera), but 7.2 time penalties dropped them to fifth place – still an impressive finish for the horse’s Advanced debut.
Lauren Nicholson rounded out the top standings with her pair of Jacqueline Mars owned horses. Vermiculus, the 13-year-old Anglo Arabian gelding (Sazeram x Wake Me Gently) added just 0.8 time penalties for third and Landmark’s Monte Carlo, the 15-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Formula One x Glamour) finished bang on optimum time for fourth.
“At this point, they've done so much and I kind of have nothing to lose with either them,” said Nicholson. “So, I went out to kind of have a crack at it.”
In addition to Nicholson, only one other pair made the optimum time of 6 minutes 15 seconds on David O’Connor’s course – Ema Klugman and Bendigo, a 19-year-old Trakehner gelding by Refuse to Lose, owned by Jeni Klugman and the rider. Their cross-country round moved them all the way up from 26th to sixth place.
Six riders picked up 20 penalties at the skinny brush in the final water with other problems scattered around the course. Twenty-six of the 34 starters were able to finish the course.
Caroline Martin and her own Redfield Dexter, an 8-year-old KWPN gelding (Dexter R x Zyreina Weering) won the CCI3*-S on a 26.2 after a double clear cross-country round. Dexter was bred by Paul Hendrix in the Netherlands – the same location as four-star winner Fernhill Singapore.
“The biggest thing is most these horses I had here this weekend, I've pretty much produced and done all the eventing with,” said Martin. “So I've known them from their first cross-country log all the way through where we are now, so I know they know me inside and out, so it's definitely a different ballgame.”
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