The scoreboard was kept working at full tilt on cross-country today at The Dutta Corp. Fair Hill International as 24 of the 41 CCI4*-L starters picked up some sort of jump penalty on Derek di Grazia’s course. The leader position changed several times throughout the afternoon as 15 penalties were handed out by the ground jury, but Waylon Roberts and Lancaster kept their slate clean to take over the top spot.
Michelle and John Koppin’s 12-year-old Canadian Sport Horse gelding headed into today in fourth place on a 31.1, and he crossed the finish line 23 seconds under the time allowed to move up in the standings. Everytime the live scoring website was refreshed the top of the leaderboard changed, which kept the riders confused just as much as the spectators. “I don’t know what has happened with the scoring,” said Roberts. “I was just so pleased with my horse that it doesn’t really matter – he was so good. If he was 30th I would be just as happy with him. We have the horse inspection to get through and the rails fall down the same for everyone, so we just need to go and do his best.”
Roberts and Lancaster had a late draw which Roberts said was a big advantage, especially with Fair Hill now livestreaming the event. “I was able to watch a lot and see how the course was riding and it definitely proved to be a tough track that Derek [di Grazia] set. The ground was fantastic, but that coffin was really tricky for a lot of horses, and I definitely got a lot of information from watching.”
Eight riders picked up penalties at the coffin at 13 which featured upright rails to a ditch to a big brush corner. “It didn’t present itself as you were coming out of the ditch, so you really had to be patient in your line and I think Derek asked that a few times on the course,” explained Roberts. “Actually at all the corner combinations, he asked you to be patient and forward out on a line which for event riders is really difficult because it is much easier to just go fast and straight.”
It was the corner combination at 21 that caused havoc on the scoreboard – all four riders assessed 15 penalties for not going fully inside the flags were at 21B. And an additional four riders picked up 20s for runouts at the second corner.
Phillip Dutton and Z would have been the overnight leaders if not given 15 penalties. Dutton said about the ground jury's decision: "The way the rule is written I do understand why the ground jury felt that this was appropriate, but I also feel that Z made every effort to jump the fence - his neck and shoulder were clearly inside the flag but his back legs pushed it out. Z was one of several horses to fall victim to the 15 penalty flag rule today. I hope that for the sake of the sport this rule will be looked at again more closely and tweaked to make it more user-friendly in the future. Until then, maybe the course designers need to find a way to work with the rules so there’s less confusion for riders, fans, and the ground jury alike."
“Derek doesn’t soften the course for any reason. I have been fortunate enough to do a lot of four-stars around the world and I put Fair Hill in the top three in difficulty,” added Lauren Kieffer who currently sits in third with D.A. Duras, Jacqueline Mars and Debbie Adam’s 11-year-old KWPN gelding (Numero Uno x Medoc). “Derek asked some really proper questions. I think he has changed some of his course design probably thinking about Tokyo – in the past he has had a lot of accuracy questions over a lot of big open strides, and here he did a lot of turning questions. You can tell he is trying to help us prepare.”
Roberts and Lancaster haven’t had the smoothest of journeys at the top of the sport, but just competed at their first five-star this spring at the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event and finished in 24th place.
“Kentucky was a thrill,” Roberts. “I am still feeling pretty green at that level, and it was very beneficial for him as an experience, but we definitely have a lot more to prove at that level. His first Advanced run after that was at [the USEA American Eventing Championships] and I had some trouble at a couple of corners – Derek again set that AEC track to mimic what he set at Kentucky for the five-star, so it was eye-opening for me because I realized I had gotten away with a few things, so I went home the last month or so and really tried to buckle down on the corners and getting him to follow me through the turns. Even though AEC didn’t go the way I wanted it was probably the best thing that could have happened for me in preparation for this event.”
“We have been chipping away at the Advanced level. I have definitely struggled to put together all three phases at an event, so we are just taking it one day at a time,” concluded Roberts who doesn’t have a rail in hand over Erin Sylvester and Paddy The Caddy, Frank McEntee’s 12-year-old Thoroughbred gelding (Azamore x Slamy).
"The course rode well, but definitely difficult in spots," said Sylvester who moved up from eighth to second. "Paddy jumped well the whole way around, and I couldn't be happier with his effort."
The overnight leader, Mara DePuy and Congo Brazzaville C, ran into trouble at the corner at 21B and then again at the final water when Congo got too close to the head of the duck and DePuy was unseated.
Alexandra Knowles fell from Morswood at the first water at fence 5A and then opted to withdraw her second horse. Buck Davidson came off Jak My Style at the road crossing at fence 19B. Both Jennie Brannigan and Fylica Barr fell at the coffin at 13. Liza Horan and Lafite fell victim to fence 15 – an open oxer. Emily Hamel got jumped out of the tack at fence 6 – the sneaky snake log. All horses and riders are reported to be fine and no one was transported off the course.
The CCI3*-L course saw 39 of the 60 pairs come home without jump penalties and 13 of those made it inside the time. Overnight leaders Alexa Gartenberg and Louis M, added 5.6 time penalties dropping them down in the standings and opening the door for Woods Baughman and C'est La Vie 135, his own 11-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Contendro I x Annette), to move up one spot and take over the lead.
“He was awesome. He is just a giant, big galloping horse and he just tore into it. He was a little wild in warm-up, so I just let him drag me around the whole way.”
Baughman, who is just 23 years old, spent all of last year in Germany working for Dirk Schrade, but returned home to his longtime trainer Sharon White this winter. “She’s been here all weekend she’s really supportive,” said Baughman of White. White’s advice before cross-country? “’Don’t get weird.’ She said just keep it zen. He gets wild, so I have to just try to stay relaxed and whisper in his ear and keep him quiet.”
“Contendro” was in the barn at Schrade’s for the whole year that Baughman worked for him, but before Baughman returned to the U.S. he decided to buy him and bring him with. “He’s such a dingus. He has to see and touch everything. He can be very stubborn but once he switches on he’s full business,” said Baughman.
Baughman competed at Fair Hill in 2016 but came off cross-country with a really different result. “This is my first time clear at Fair Hill. The farthest I had made it so far was the seventh jump, so I was pretty happy when I jumped over the corner at 7. I was pretty much ready to go home then. It made me so happy.”
Colleen Loach and Vermont, a 7-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Van Helsing x Hauptstutbuch Hollywood) owned by Peter Barry, also climbed up one spot to now sit in second – exactly one point off the lead.
There is a tie for third between Caitlin Silliman on Ally KGO, an 8-year-old Trakehner mare by Hirtentanz *E* owned by Q-Brook Stables and Holly Payne Caravella on CharmKing, an 8-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Cassito x O-Heraldika) owned by CharmKing LLC. If they both jump clear tomorrow then Silliman will take the higher spot as she finished just one second under optimum time.
The final horse inspection is tomorrow at 8:00 a.m. with the CCI3*-L presenting first. The CCI3*-L will show jump in reverse order of placing beginning at 10:00 a.m. with the CCI4*-L following at 1:00 p.m.
There were a few last-minute dramas at the first horse inspection for the Tokyo Olympics which took place in the main equestrian park at Baji Koen Equestrian Centre at 9:30 a.m. JST today.
It’s the most hotly anticipated few hours of the eventing year - the cross-country from Tokyo 2020. What will Derek di Grazia’s track have in store for the Olympic riders?
We’re nearly there! Olympic mania has taken over the world, and we’re in the final countdown to the Olympic eventing competition in Tokyo, which starts with the first horse inspection on Thursday. Our USA riders are raring to go, but let’s remind ourselves of the history that precedes them. Just how well has the US team done in past Olympics?
After Germany’s Michael Jung won the second of his two consecutive Individual Olympic Equestrian Eventing titles at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, he was asked what he had next in his sights. “Tokyo 2020, of course, and the Europeans and maybe the world title along the way!" he replied.