For the third year in a row, the popular $50,000 Devon Arena Eventing competition, sponsored by Douglas and Cynthia Howe and Salt Works, showcased top-level eventing in a unique class that incorporates two of the three elements of three-day eventing: cross-country and show jumping. A packed crowd looked on as a record 33 entries turned out to challenge famed course designer Captain Mark Philips’ tracks, where ultimately Boyd Martin (USA) and Denise Lahey’s Contestor took home the top prize after dominating two rounds of competition, while defending champions Chris Talley and Sandro’s Star finished with reserve honors and Buck Davidson and Carlevo rounded out the top three.
Former Olympic eventer from Great Britain, Philips designed the technical first round course, which utilized both the Dixon Oval and Wheeler Ring. The 26-obstacle course challenged horse-and-rider combinations to navigate typical elements found on a cross-country course, including skinny brushes, tables and corner obstacles, while also tackling stadium fences. Operating under a two-round format, the first round set a time-allowed of two minutes and 38 seconds, which posed an issue for 17 combinations. Following round one, the top 12 athletes returned to the Dixon Oval to complete 15 more obstacles in a jump-off round.
Entering the ring first in round two was Talley with Hannah Salazaar’s Faramund. The pair, starting the round carrying 2 time faults from round one, finished the second round with 4 faults, leaving the field wide open for the remaining 11 competitors. Entering the ring seven trips later, Martin and Contestor tackled the course with ease to take over the lead with zero combined faults and a time of 73.30 seconds. Talley, returning to the ring three trips later with his second mount qualified for the jump-off, Sandro’s Star, came just shy of Martin’s time in 73.94 seconds. As last to go, Davidson and Carlevo LLC’s Carlevo also came close to both Martin’s and Talley’s time, but missed the mark by over a second in 74.92 seconds.
Martin, a two-time Olympian, and the 12-year-old Oldenburg gelding have been partnered together since 2014. The gelding was bred and raised by longtime friend and owner for Martin, Lahey of Stony Brook Farm. First spotting the horse as a 3-year-old, Martin knew he eventually wanted the flashy chestnut gelding on his string. The pair had a successful 2018 season at the CIC2* level, winning the Bromont CIC Three-Day Event together in August 2018. The Austrailian native, who now represents the United States, looks to compete at the Mars Essex Horse Trials in Far Hills, New Jersey, in June with Contestor.
Finishing in second place was Talley and Hannah Salazar’s Sandro’s Star. The impressive 11-year-old Oldenburg is returning to the Dixon Oval as a proven champion, as the pair claimed the $50,000 Devon Arena Eventing title together in 2018. Since winning the title, the Pennsylvania native and the stallion are now competing at the CCI4*-L level. This year, Talley also made his debut at the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event with an off-the-track Thoroughbred named Unmarked Bills.
Capturing third place was Davidson aboard the 12-year-old Holsteiner gelding, Carlevo. Davidson and Carlevo have competed around the globe together, including in Aachen, Germany, at the prestigious CHIO Aachen World Equestrian Festival.
The Devon Horse Show was thrilled to offer arena eventing for the third year in a row. Since its inception in 2017, the competition has been received in the highest regard and is supported by the sport’s top athletes. The Devon Horse Show looks forward to hosting more new events in the future as well as continuing on with classic traditions that have been a part of the event for 123 years.
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
Boyd Martin – $50,000 Devon Arena Eventing winner
On his horse:
“I’ve had him for many many years. I’ve been riding for the breeder, Denise Lahey, that’s bred many horses and been a wonderful supporter for me. I spotted “Cortez” (Contestor) as a 3-year-old in a clinic she taught and teamed up. He’s sort of had an up and down career but he’s just a really good boy. I’m lucky because he’s an ultimate trier. Tonight he was a homerun and I’m thrilled with the way he went. I think it’s good having a mixture of cross-country and show jumps for him, just because he likes that forward ride. Sometimes if I get too backwards in my canter he loses his scope a bit in the jumping so I’m pretty happy with him.”
On the atmosphere at Devon:
“It’s a real honor, thrill and privilege to be here. I’ve been here many nights watching my wife ride at Dressage at Devon and also been here watching McLain Ward winning the grand prix show jumping. It’s one of those venues that just oozes with aura and it’s a real honor to have eventing here. I think Mark Phillips built a good track. It’s exciting for the crowd because it was a nice night for it and I hope they do more of this.”
On preparing for this class:
“I bring a couple of horses to this that I think could suit it. [Contestor] has been around some big tracks. He’s not a very adjustable horse so he’s a little bit quick and start-and-stop but he really came through for me [tonight]. I just gave him a jump on Friday morning at home to prepare and did a couple tight turns and a few quicker fences. It’s good for us eventers to have this class though. It’s a bit of pressure, a big crowd, warming up in the dark and the shadows everywhere. It takes us out of our comfort zone so I think it’s good for us.”
On taking the inside turn in the jump-off:
“I was sort of back and forth whether to do it or not and I couldn’t quite estimate whether it would be better to go really fast and go wide or do the tight turn. I saw the rider before me do it so I knew it could be done. [Contestor] has a really big stride so the challenge with the tight turn is that is makes the next combination quite long but Cortez has got a really big step and he walked down that line. I was pretty lucky at the last fence to be honest. He can be a little bit lazy in his show jumping and I got a good shot at it and I went flying through the air, waiting for the horse to hit the rail behind and he cleared it and I couldn’t believe it.”
On what’s next for Contestor:
“I’ll probably run him at Essex. I’ve got an advanced horse trail in New Jersey in about five weeks time. I’ll go easy on him for a bit now because he had a hard run a couple weeks ago. He’s still green and he still feels a little bamboozled out there but he’s a handy horse to have. I’m so pleased for the owners who are also the breeders. They’ve been wonderful supporters for me through good times and bad times, and stuck right by me so I’m more thrilled for them to be honest because they really love this horse. It’s like a pet to them and to win a big class like this is huge.”
$50,000 Devon Arena Eventing
Place / Horse / Rider / Owner / R1 Faults / Time | R2 Faults / Time
1. Contestor / Boyd Martin / Denise Lahey / 0 / 156.34 | 0 / 73.30
2. Sandro’s Star / Chris Talley / Hannah Salazar / 0 / 156.75 | 0 / 73.94
3. Carlevo / Buck Davidson / Carlevo LLC / 0 / 155.97 | 0 / 74.92
4. I Bella / Jennie Brannigan / Nina Gardner / 1 / 158.35 | 0 / 79.19
5. Cooley O / Julia Ennis Batters / Julia Ennis Batters / 2 / 163.19 | 0 / 83.71
6. Lukeswell / Hannah Burnett / Lukeswell Partnership / 0 / 156.89 | 4 / 78.80
7. Quinn / Missy Miller / Missy Miller / 0 / 153.67 | 4 / 78.80
8. Bendigo / Ema Klugman / Ema Klugman / 1 / 161.67 | 4 / 82.75
9. Faramund / Chris Talley / Hannah Salazar / 2 / 162.73 | 4 / 76.78
10. Gaya / Buck Davidson / Kathleen Cuca / 1 / 158.31 | 5 / 88.75
11. Snow Leopard / Elizabeth Jahnke / Light Speed Equestrian LLC / 2 / 165.60 | 8 / 78.40
12. Cristano Z / Caroline Martin / Caroline Martin / 1 / 159.86 | 14 / 93/30