Great Britain’s Oliver Townend said today’s CCI5*-L cross-country course didn’t really suit Cooley Master Class, but that didn’t stop them from riding a double-clear round to stay at the top of the leaderboard.
“That’s where he’s shown he’s an out-and-out five-star horse,” said Townend with a score of 21.1 penalties. “You see a lot of the less-Thoroughbreds, quietly say, ‘This is the gear I’m staying in now,’ whereas every time I landed and said, ‘Come on,’ he actually put his ears forward and said, ‘I’ve still got a bit left’. He’s a trier, that’s for sure.”
“Coolio,” a 16-year-old Irish Sport Horse, is by the Belgian Warmblood stallion Ramiro B out of the Irish Sport Horse The Swallow (ISH) by the Thoroughbred Master Imp.
“He has been with me since he was 4 years old, and he has a lot of trust in me,” Townend said. “He allows me to do my job so that he can do his, and he gives me his brain in the start box and wherever I point and kick, even if he’s a little careful or not sure, he throws himself between the flags for me.”
First-time five-star course designer Ian Stark of Great Britain set a course of 28 obstacles with 43 jumping efforts over 6270 meters (about 3.9 miles) with an optimum time of 11 minutes.mm
There were 45 horses on the list to start after yesterday’s dressage. Three riders withdrew before cross-country, including Lynn Symansky with RF Cool Play, who was tied for fourth place after dressage. Of the 42 horses that started cross-country, 11 combinations were double-clear, six were eliminated on course and one retired.
Phillip Dutton’s Fernhill Singapore, who had to compete in the downpour that started with about four horses left, fell at Fence 24 and initially didn’t move. The report on his condition said he and Fernhill Singapore got up and walked to the barn, winded but fine.
After their double-clear round, New Zealand’s Tim Price and Xavier Faer, a 15-year-old British Sport Horse, remained in second with 24.3 penalties. “It was a little bit of a different approach today,” Price said. “Sometimes you have to go and really attack. Today, I felt like I could a little bit enjoy it, but then you don’t want to find your comeuppance because you’ve been a little bit casual and there’s definitely times where you have to put your leg on and make sure of the job.”
One of those times was the first water jump, Fence 5AB, the Cecil County Tourism C&D Canal Water. “My guy’s a little bit shy of water at the best of times … at the first water, he backed off a little bit and I had to ride quite strong there.”
Of the overall course, Price said, “The challenges were everywhere, but it’s all in reference to the horse you sat on. And I was lucky enough to be on a very experienced horse today. So whenever I said this is a bit of a more difficult question, he said, ‘OK, Dad, we’ll have a go.”
U.S. rider Boyd Martin also went double-clear on his 15-year-old Anglo European mare, whom he called “brilliant” after their round, to hold on to third place with 25 penalties. His strategy on course was a steady pace. “It was a tiring course. I tried to just not push my horse too hard in the early bits, knowing that there’s a couple of big up hills at the end. It required sort of pacing your animal, sort of knowing where you are.” He added that while they struggled through Fence 15 ABCDE—the MD Crab Water—the mare “sort of sees the flags and finds a way through it.”
A few international riders, including New Zealand’s Jonelle Price and Great Britain’s Harry Meade, thought that the time allowed was too generous. “It was a great course,” said Meade, who sits in fifth place with Superstition with 29.1 penalties. “I loved it when I walked it. I didn’t love it when I wheeled it because, to be honest, it was a little soft, short of distance and short of speed and that’s how it rode. They were good questions, it was brilliantly thought out, brilliantly designed, some really interesting, novel questions. … Perhaps it hasn’t separated the top of the field as much as one would have liked.”
Stark, who designed his first five-star course in Maryland, was relieved with the results. “I’ve always said, my big fear is tricking horses. What really pleased me today was that the horses seem to be reading the questions and even the less-experienced horses and riders, yeah, they had some hiccups, but in general, they were getting around and they weren’t losing confidence and that’s important.”
As for his ride, Meade explained that his horse, Superstition, a 12-year-old gelding from the British Hanoverian Horse Society, is a bit unorthodox and had an unusual warm-up before cross-country. “He gets a bit stressed with the occasion, so it’s about keeping it easy,” Meade said. “I jumped a couple of fences this morning, hacked up here, jumped two fences in the collecting ring and when out. To me it’s about keeping his heart rate resting before he starts. … Five-star eventing isn’t a sprint. It’s about letting them get into a rhythm and breath and relax and lob.”
Price said her round with 18-year-old mare, Classic Moet, now in seventh place with 30.6 penalties, wasn’t the prettiest she’s had. “In the warm-up today for cross-country, I couldn’t hold her at all,” she said. “Normally, she can be like that. She’ll run out of the start box a bit frantic but then drop the bridle at one or two minutes in and she’s rather lovely. That just didn’t happen today.”
“I had to manage my situation and just try to jump the fences,” Price continued. “It wasn’t a textbook round for me, but days like that is where you’ve got to be adaptable and you’ve got to show your maturity and experience as a rider and ride the situation not the textbook.”
For complete results, click here.
The five-star horses will jog in the second horse inspection starting at 8:30 a.m. tomorrow and show jump at 1 p.m.
In CCI3*-L competition, Kurt Agardy Martin and D.A. Lifetime maintained their score of 23.5 penalties to stay at the top of the leaderboard at the conclusion of cross country. Behind them was Daniel Clasing and Olney Uncle Sam who made the jump from fourth place to second place by preserving their score of 26 penalties. Caroline Martin rounded out the top three aboard HSH Vamanos, who added just two time penalties to their score, finishing on a 27.5.
The three-star horses will jog in the second horse inspection starting at 8:00 a.m. tomorrow and show jump at 10 a.m.
For more information about the Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill and to purchase tickets, visit maryland5star.us. Follow Practical Horseman’s coverage of the inaugural Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill on Facebook and Instagram with Mane ‘n Tail, Cowboy Magic and Exhibitor’s, here.