Halliday and Bellissimo in Lead After Kentucky CCI4*-S Dressage

Liz Halliday with Miks Master C and Lucienne Bellissimo with Dyri tie for lead at the Kentucky Three-Day Event CCI4*-S.
Halliday and Bellissimo Tie for Lead
Liz Halliday (USA) and Miks Master C tied for the lead in the Cosequin Lexington CCI4*-S after two days of dressage. ©Amy K. Dragoo

Two 12-year-old geldings with different personalities tied for the lead in the 2024 Cosequin® Lexington CCI4*-S at the Kentucky Three-Day Event. Seventh in the order of go Friday, Lucienne Bellissimo (GBR) rode Dyri to the top of the leaderboard early in the event. Then she waited for 21 horses to go to share the spot until Liz Halliday (USA) and Miks Master C rode their test. Both Dyri and Mikki earned scores of 26.

Caroline Pamukcu (USA) and HSH Blake scored 27.3 to sit in third place. Thursday’s leaders, Boyd Martin (USA) and Commando 3, are in fourth with a score of 28.9. Halliday is in fifth with Cooley Quicksilver, who she rode earlier in the day to a score of 29.2. Will Coleman (USA), who was second and third on Thursday, dropped down to sixth and seventh place with Diabolo (29.9) and Off The Record (30.1)

The Kentucky Three-Day Event in Lexington runs from April 25-28. In addition to the Cosequin Lexington CCI4*-S competition, the event includes a CCI5*. A total of 30 CCI4* riders competed in the dressage phase today. Coleman withdrew Chin Tonic HS before his ride.

Mikki Excited to Be Back

Halliday said Miks Master C is excited to be back at Kentucky. The pair finished third in the 2023 Kentucky Three-Day Event CCI5*. “Mikki has been pretty excited to be at the party this week. I’m not gonna lie,” she said laughing. “He’s been a lot of horse. He knows where he is. He knows what he did here last year. He’s very powerful. It’s about just containing that power.”

Halliday said she did the best she could with Mikki’s “big engine” today, and despite a problem with a change, “he did a lot of things well. … And I think he’s just ready to run fast tomorrow.”

To offset Mikki’s excitement, Liz took a less-is-more approach warming him up Friday before dressage. “I just cantered around really easy this morning in hackamore and just let him roll around how he wanted to roll around. In my warm-up, I tried to give him a lot of breaks and pat him and tell him he’s a good boy,” she said. “He was kind of boiling up a little, and I decided not to push him and just let him have a long rein and kept patting him and telling him he’s really lovely. And I kept doing that until we went down the chute [from the warm-up arena to the Rolex Stadium], and I think it helped with a lot of the work we did today. His walk work was super, and he did a lot great trot work, too.

Halliday is a little sad they’re not in the CCI5*, but she has sights on the Paris Olympics this summer. She thinks Mikki proved himself at the five-star level. “I didn’t think we needed to push that ahead of the Olympics,” she said.

Bellissimo and Dyri

Halliday and Bellissimo Tied for Lead
Lucienne Bellissimo (GBR) tied for the lead in the Cosequin Lexington CCI4* heading into Saturday’s cross country. ©Amy K. Dragoo

Bellissimo said that Dyri is a bit of an introvert. “He’d be happy to stand in a dark stable at home and have everyone leave him alone,” she said. “So you have to sort of him explain to him that he is fantastic and amazing. He gets a little bit like a mare in that he’s quite sensitive. Overall, he’s generous, honest and now getting much braver. He used to be a little ditchy over water, and now he’s learning to spook and still travel.”

To offset this, Bellissimo didn’t bring him in the Rolex Stadium the day before for the ring familiarization. That strategy paid off, she said. “As soon as we went down [the chute], he sort of grew, and I thought, I can actually ride you and put my leg on. And he was really attentive the whole way through the test. Normally, I can get the half-pass good with him, but something will just suddenly allow a little bit of tension to creep in. And today he was just listening and relaxed. It was a real pleasure to ride him.”

Pamukcu and HSH Blake

Pamukcu almost cried tears of joy after her test with HSH Blake. “I try not to cry. I get so emotional with him. I don’t know why,” she said. “He was unbelievable. He’s only 9 years old. One of the youngest in the field. And every time he steps up and keeps stepping up. I think this is only his fourth Advanced and he’s just a phenomenal athlete.”

“He’s so workman-like and not bothered by a big crowd,” she continued. “And he just likes to win. He’s such a unicorn. He wants to come and win.”

This is different than how Blake is at home. “He’s very spooky,” she said. “If you moved something a little bit, he would know and have a complete meltdown,” Pamukcu explained. “So I would have to get off and fix it because it’s just not worth it him spooking every two seconds.”

The pair earned individual gold and U.S. team silver at the 2023 Pan American Games.

Caroline Pamukcu and HSH Blake sit in third in the Cosequin Lexington CCI4*. ©Amy K. Dragoo

Cross-Country Thoughts

Halliday thinks Derek di Grazia cross-country course will suit Mikki. “It’s great for him because there’s plenty of open galloping. And it’s got a lot of terrain. That’s exactly what Mikki needs. He’s an out-and-out galloping machine.”

Bellissimo says the course is the toughest track Dyri has run. “My plan is to try and attack this course a little more [than a previous run where she just went steady]. It’s beautifully built, and the ground is unreal, so I’m really looking forward to it.”

Pamukcu’s thoughts on the course: “Beefy. It’s always beefy. But it’s good. I think it’s a fair track. And I think it’s what we all came here to do. And I’m looking forward to it.”

For complete results, click here.

Riders withdrew four horses before Saturday’s CCI4*-S cross-country. So the field is now 57 horse-and-rider combinations. Additionally, the first horse starts at 9 a.m. and the last goes at 11:48 a.m.

Thanks to Cosequin for our coverage of the 2024 Cosequin Lexington CCI4*-S. It includes rider interviews, competition reports, horse spotlights, photos, videos and more.

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