After torrential downpours overnight in the Tryon area, Thursday stayed mostly dry for the first day of competition at the 2020 Buckeye Nutrition USEF CCI4*-L Eventing National Championship. The first 35 of 62 total contenders for the championship title completed their tests today at the MARS Equestrian Tryon International Three-Day Event at the Tryon International Equestrian Center and Resort (TIEC).
At the end of Thursday’s competition, Marilyn Little and RF Scandalous (Carry Gold x Richardia), a 15-year-old Oldenburg mare owned by Jacqueline Mars and Phoebe and Michael Manders, topped the leaderboard by a comfortable margin, moving on to the cross-country phase with a score of 21.5.
“I believe Kitty and I both tend to produce our best performances in the most pressurized moments, so I really look forward to the butterflies,” said Little. “We know how to do weeks like this, and I believe we have come into this weekend prepared and ready to take on all three phases the way we would like . . . The fact that I have the chance to be here at all with Kitty this weekend, with all the excitement that I have is a blessing—and frankly, a miracle—produced by the many incredible people around us. Their support deserves a personal best from both of us.”
Watch Marilyn and RF Scandalous's winning test courtesy of USEF Network!
Doug Payne and Starr Witness (Chello III VDL x Carmen), his own, Laurie McRee, and Catherine Winter's 9-year-old KWPN mare, scored a 26.6 to sit in second place after the first day of competition.
Boyd Martin and On Cue (Cabri D'elle x On High), his own and Christine Turner's 14-year-old Anglo mare, round out the top three after day one on a score of 27.7.
The remaining 39 entries in the Buckeye Nutrition CCI4*-L division will ride down centerline starting at 8:00 a.m. EST on Friday, November 13.
The CCI3*-L division of the MARS Equestrian Tryon International Three-Day Event was the only FEI division to see all competitors down centerline with Will Coleman and Chin Tonic HS scoring a 25.7 to lead the division heading into Saturday’s cross-country phase. Just behind with a score of 25.9, Boyd Martin and Contessa (Contender x Esteban), the 11-year-old Holsteiner mare owned by Club Contessa, hold second, while third place currently rests with Jonathan Holling and Prophet (Tatendrang x Pennant), the 8-year-old Trakehner gelding owned in partnership with Chuck McGrath, on a score of 26.9.
Coleman and the 8-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Chin Champ x Quinar) owned by Hyperion Stud LLC recently topped the Open Intermediate division at TIEC’s Blue Ridge Mountain Horse Trials presented by EquiSafe Global, and are looking to repeat their win in the CCI3*-L division. Due to schedule changes after significant rain saturated the White Oak Cross-Country Course, Coleman and the CCI3*-L competitors will have an off day before challenging the Captain Mark Phillips course design on Saturday.
Coleman reported that their flatwork was hindered by a few bobbles, but not enough to knock them from the top position. “My horse is very talented, especially on the flat, and I think he carried me a bit today. We had some really, really good work in the test, and then we had a few moments where we had trouble. I forgot my test at one spot, which is sort of inexcusable, but does happen,” Coleman admitted, “and we had a little spook in another place. Other than that, I thought he performed well. He’s a lovely horse, and I’m just lucky to have him.”
Calling Chin Tonic HS a consistent, reliable ride, Coleman said his horse is “really comfortable with the material, and I felt like I let the horse down a little bit today. The error on my end in particular is frustrating. I think he’s been great all year and I hope he continues to get better. I think anytime you can take a horse to a venue a few times, they get more comfortable, and you’re a bit more familiar with it as well. Coming here in September [to the Blue Ridge Mountain Horse Trials presented by EquiSafe Global] was helpful in that way. He knows what to expect, to a degree, and he’s maturing a little bit. He’s still only eight, so it’s good for him to get into an atmosphere like this, as a big part of making him up into a big-time horse.”
Having already collected consistent top placings nationally and internationally, Coleman and Vicky Castregen of Hyperion Stud believe that Chin Tonic HS has Olympic potential. “His owner and I talk a lot about having a vision with all her horses,” he shared. “This is a horse we think has real international quality, and maybe even championship quality. We’re working backward from probably the next Olympic cycle, and this is a horse that I hope will be there. We’ve taken our time to this point, and we’ll continue to do what’s right by him, and we’ll carefully work backward from that goal.”
In the meantime, Coleman is eager to see the cross-country course and focus on this weekend’s phases to come. “I haven’t had the chance to see it. I will know more tomorrow morning, but hopefully it’ll be a typical Mark Phillips course, which is usually challenging but rewarding, and I hope my horse is up to it.”
Coleman concluded that despite weather challenges and fluctuating schedules, a championship environment has been maintained at the venue all week. “I think we are all very, very impressed with the sheer will that this Tryon and organizing team has put forth to keep this event running,” he emphasized. “I think a lot of events would have folded by now, but they’re out there working constantly, and it’s an amazing operation from a manpower perspective. We’re appreciative of Tryon taking this event on when a lot of other events have folded.”
Sara Kozumplik Murphy and Otta B Quality, the 7-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding owned by Edith Rameika, currently lead the Guardian Horse Bedding CCI2*-L division on a score of 25.2 with 15 pairs still to show in dressage on Friday. In second, Tik Maynard and Richard Maynard’s Galileo, the 9-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding, hold a score of 26.1, while third currently belongs to Kelly Prather and Catch Me Cooley (Clover Brigade x Loughnavatta Sabrina), the 8-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding, owned in partnership with Cooley Farm, on a score of 26.9.
Murphy has been partnered with Otta B Quality since he was three years old and called him a “really lovely horse” who “did everything he knows how to do” in dressage to claim the tentative lead. “He was very well behaved, and did his best job, so I was thrilled with him today. He did the best test he could do for where he is, and he’s well-prepared to be here.”
Murphy admitted that she’s “quite slow with my horses, so it should be fine” on cross-country Saturday. “I’m not bothered by wet ground. To me, it’s more the consistency of the terrain. It’s built on a golf course so that definitely helps! They’re working hard, and I know it’ll be designed well. He’s quite a good jumper, so I just need to make sure that he can have a bit of air time because he’s a little green, still.”
Murphy’s husband Brian was a recent winner at the venue in the jumpers, and she shared that they “always have TIEC on our calendars a few times a year, for both eventing and jumping. The rings are nice, and we enjoy the horse show. It worked out quite well to be here two weeks before the event. I like getting the opportunities to jump in this ring [Tryon Stadium] and be on the good footing. I event quite a bit, but maybe not as much as everyone else,” Murphy admitted. “I do pick and choose where I go, and I do dressage and jumper shows too. It depends on the horse and how much they need to go. ‘Otter’ was here doing the 1.20-meter a couple of weeks ago.”
Due to weather, CCI3*-L cross-country competition has been moved to Saturday, November 14, and CCI4*-S and horse trials divisions will run cross-country on Sunday, November 15. Live streaming information will be adjusted prior to Saturday, November 14. To learn more about the revised schedule, click here.
The second half of the dressage phase begins Friday, November 13, at 8:00 a.m. EST. Watch live on USEF Network.
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