The final day of the Brook Ledge Great Meadow International CICO3*, presented by Adequan, and Nations Cup team competition proved to be full surprises, but ultimately Will Coleman and Off The Record finished atop the pack as individual winners. Will and "Timmy" galloped a fast, clean trip around cross country to move up from 11th after show jumping and win by just 0.1 penalties.
British rider Ben Hobday began his day at the top of 43 starters, after overnight leader Kim Severson withdrew Cooley Cross Border in preparation for the upcoming Nations Cup team trip to Aachen, Germany. Unfortunately, Ben (who was here as a member of the British Nations Cup team) and his mount Shadow Man fell victim to the bogey fences on course, Fences 9AB, a daunting pair of brush corners in the main arena that caused trouble for several riders throughout the day. The gelding glanced off one of the corners, picking up 20 penalty points, and opening the door for other riders to move up the line-up.
"It was nice to be in the position I was going into cross country," said Ben, "but he's a young horse and I think a lot of him. He just came out a little bit green and a little bit looky. As he cantered down the hill to the arena, it was a little bit of a shock for him. Hey, it happens! This is the job we're in. I'm grateful we've got him home sound and safe. It's disappointing, but we're going to hold our head high and look to the next show and hopefully that horse will do something very special soon."
With the leaders dropping out of contention, Will left the start box knowing that he had a shot of taking over the top position. "I think he's genuinely a horse who runs better when he goes out and has a crack at it. So, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't paying a little bit of attention to the scores. It was a bit easier to let him run, but he likes to go like that. I'd say that's his style--to go hard."
Off The Record ("Timmy") is a 9-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding that was imported as a young horse and has been successfully moving up the levels. "I've brought him along pretty patiently," Will said of his horse, who's owned by the Off The Record Syndicate. This year marked Timmy's first season at Advanced, and though he picked up an early win at Carolina International in March, this was his best result to date. "He's had a really, really good 18 months--his record has been pretty outstanding. I'm very pleased and happy for his owners. He's got an amazing group of people behind him."
Will is right on course with his goal of an international event this year with Timmy. "My plan is to run some of these big CICs this summer and potentially take him to Boekelo [CCI3* in The Netherlands] in the fall." Will is also on the alternate list for the U.S. Eventing team squad for WEG with two other horses, Tight Lines and Obos O'Reilly.
Georgie Spence and Halltown Harley were also competing as part of the British Nations Cup team, and a second-placed individual finish helped boost the team to the top position. She was the second competitor of the day, and though she didn't get to see any riders go before her, she didn't consider that a disadvantage.
"I think for me," said Georgie of her chestnut gelding whom she owns with Suzanne Doggett, "I was quite lucky as I went out early. I know my horse well and trust him 100-percent and he was good to me. I think sometimes you can overanalyze how people were riding things and how they should jump it and how you should jump it, so going out early can be a benefit."
With their third-place result, Canadian Olympian Jessica Phoenix and Pavarotti added another impressive finish to their resume. The pair have had a long partnership and includes top finishes at numerous FEI events, including a gold and silver individual medals at the 2011 and 2015 Pan American Games.
Jessica went later in the day with both of her horses and utilized the time to analyze the course, especially tricky combinations such as the double corners in the arena. "It was helpful to be able to sit and watch everyone all day long and kind of perfect the line."
Impressively, Jessica earned double-clear rounds with both Pavarotti and Bogue Sound (who was her ride in the Nations Cup team competition). "It sure was awesome to leave the startbox and really have a crack at it for the team. [Bogue Sound] really stepped up to the plate and he feels like a big-time horse. I'm excited for him that he got this experience." Bogue Sound's cracking round boosted him from 41st after show jumping to 12th place.
Michael Etherington-Smith's cleverly designed course at the picturesque historic venue was a true test for the riders. Ultimately, only five of the 43 starters for the day finished without jumping or time penalties and just 16 jumped clear rounds. There were a handful of falls throughout the course, but no horses or riders had reported any serious injuries.
"I thought the course was fabulous," said Will. "We're lucky to have Mike [Etherington-Smith] do the track here. he's one of the best we've ever seen designing cross-country courses. I thought it had enough for an older horse, and it had a lot for a greener horse. But you could see how they finished--they finished with a good taste in their mouths. If they had a run-out or problem, there was plenty of time to get them confident again and feel like you gave them a formative experience. And that's really all you can ask for.
In the Nations Cup team competition (which featured just three teams: United States, Canada and Great Britain), the Brits earned top honors. This year marked the third year that riders have made the trip across the Atlantic to compete at Great Meadow, which hosts the sole Nations Cup competition for eventers in the U.S.
The British team (featuring Ben Hobday, Georgie Spence, Sophie Brown and Florida-based Leslie Law) had a good lead heading into the final phase, but as more and more riders picked up penalties throughout the day, it became obvious that the competition wasn't quite over yet.
The Brits and U.S. team were neck-and-neck as the final riders got ready for their trips over the tough course. It all came down to one final ride--the last ride of the day, Buck Davidson and Park Trader, to determine the placings. If Buck went clear, the U.S. team would win--however, it was not to be. Sadly, Buck suffered the same fate as many at the double brush corners in the arena, picking up a run-out, which cost the U.S. team the win.
The U.S. team (which also featured Phillip Dutton/Sportsfield Candy, Caroline Martin/Spring Easy and Sydney Elliot/Cisko A) had to settle for a third-placed result behind Canada. The Canadian team (Waylon Roberts/Kelecyn Cognac, Jessica Phoenix/Bogue Sound, Shelby Brost/Crimson and Lisa Marie Fergusson/Honor Me) were delighted with their runner-up position.
"It was a really important team competition for Canada," said Jessica. "It's the first competition that we've had our full support staff at, and just to have that level of confidence and level of supportiveness is huge."