Liz Halliday-Sharp was unbeatable all weekend at the Cloud 11 ~ Gavilan North LLC Carolina International, never relinquishing her early lead with Fernhill By Night ("Blackie"). The 16-year-old Irish Sport Horse owned by Deborah Halliday stormed around the Ian Stark-designed cross-country course this afternoon, easily finishing with five seconds inside the optimum time to complete on a dressage score of 27.9.
Halliday-Sharp had the advantage of going earlier in the division on Deniro Z, who was sitting in second heading into cross country. A fast double-clear round on the 11-year-old KWPN gelding owned by the Deniro Syndicate and Ocala Horse Properties ensured at least a second place finish. She retired her third horse in the division, Cooley Quicksilver, after he picked up a stop early on course.
"[Blackie] definitely felt great. I knew that I could probably make the time on him. He didn't need to make the time, but I kind of wanted to for myself and for the horse, because he's not really ever made the time at that level. I just wanted to see what we could do and take a few risks and do the best we could. He really was fantastic. That horse has really come into his own now that he knows he's not going to get exhausted in the long formats. He's quite a happy guy now...he comes out and fights for me, which is great."
"Deniro was a bit of a beast today. I was very surprised he was that far under the time. I sort of didn't look at my watch at all while I was going because I know the time was really tight year. I was trying to prep him for Kentucky, too, and he can be a little bit keen and onward bound because he has a giant stride. He's class and he's an incredible horse and we have an incredible partnership. He just fights the whole way through and I couldn't ask for more from him."
Hallie Coon and Celien hung onto their overnight third place position after a double-clear round. They also finished on their dressage score of 32.3.
"I started out with the goal in mind to obviously make time," said Coon. "I was a team rider for the team challenge, so we'd already finished a team and the pressure was off but I wanted to get a good, quick run before Kentucky for fitness and everything else. So I set out quickly and then I protected her a bit and just wanted to see how things were going, since there were bigger things this spring. I thought she was fantastic. She's really, really game this year and really feeling fit. I was a little bit surprised by how forward-going she was!"
The CCI3*-S also finished today, with local rider Will Faudree taking the win with Caeleste, a 12-year-old Holsteiner mare (by Contender) owned by Jennifer Mosing and Sterling Silver Stables. The pair were actually tied for the lead with Halliday-Sharp and Flash Cooley, after finishing with the same score of 28.9, but Faudree completed closer to the optimum time of 6 minutes, 29 seconds, giving him the win.
"She can be fast and she can be tough, but she can also be quite strong," said Faudree. He admitted that even though he rarely hears the announcer while he's on course, he did hear them announce Liz's time and he tried his best to get as close to the optimum time as possible, knowing whoever was closest would be the winner of the tie. "I couldn't let Liz win both," he joked.
The Advanced division concludes tomorrow with the show jumping, but after today's cross-country phase, Canadian Waylon Roberts moved up three spots to take the lead with Lancaster. "He's the kindest horse in the world. He actually slept for a few hours before cross country today!" He had 6.8 time penalties and no riders in the class finished with double-clears. If all goes well, he's planning to go to Chatt Hills in Georgia for a final run and then hopefully compete at Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event.
Buck Davidson and Carlevo remained in second place and Matt Flynn and Wizzerd moved up two positions to third.
The Carolina International is a favorite prep event for many riders gearing up for the upcoming Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event. Follow along with Practical Horseman's coverage of #KY3Day19 on Facebook, Instagram, Twitterand Pinterest. Special thanks to our sponsors, Absorbine and Dublin NA, for their support!