World No. 1 eventer Oliver Townend (GBR) lived up to his title on day two of dressage at the 2023 MARS Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill presented by Brown Advisory. He and Cooley Rosalent earned a 23.1 to take over the top spot in the CCI5* ahead of cross-country.
“I’m just thrilled that we’re in the position we’re in. I’m very proud of her because … she’s 9-years-old and this is a big step up in terms of coming into that sort of main arena atmosphere,” said Townend of the Irish Sport Horse mare.
Great Britain is currently dominating the leaderboard, with Piggy March and Brookfield Cavalier Cruise filling the second place spot, down just one from their overnight position. And William Fox-Pitt sits in third with Grafennacht after earning a 26.1 from the judges.
Boyd Martin is the highest ranked American at fifth place, going into cross-country with a score of 28.8 aboard Contessa.
Rosie Rises to the Occasion
Townend and “Rosie” took the lead over March’s 24.2 that Townend believed “would be tough to catch.” But the young mare stepped up to the occasion at her second five-star, doing “everything that we’ve ever asked of her at the level below.”
He admitted that as they went into the ring, Rosie felt a little nervous. But in the end, Townend said it helped because it “lifted her ears” and allowed him to ride her forward and into the bridle. Rosie relaxed as their test went on. “I just went one movement by one movement, and kept thinking, ‘Good girl, another one done; good girl, another one done.'”
Though this is Rosie’s first visit to Maryland, Townend has competed at the MARS Maryland 5 Star each year since it’s inception in 2020. Looking ahead to cross country, he said Ian Stark’s course looks more difficult than in past years. “I’ve got to say, the tracks have probably been a little more kind the last two years, and I was kind of expecting the same, but didn’t get the same.”
Townend made the decision to run Rosie at Maryland because he thought it would be “a great stepping stone for her career going forward.” He has a lot of faith in the mare, adding, “We’re trying to prepare her to go to some very special places, because we think she’s probably one of the best we’ve had.”
The mares are showing their hand (or hoof) at this year’s event as “Lillie” carried Fox-Pitt into podium position. “I’m delighted with the horse. She’s a trier, she’s fun to ride,” he said of the 11-year-old Oldenburg mare.
In contrast with Townend, this is Fox-Pitt’s first visit to the Maryland 5 Star. “We thought it would be fun to come here and do one that none of us have done before!”
But like Townend, Fox-Pitt agreed that the cross-country course looks challenging. “Ian Stark definitely understands his courses and he likes to be a rider frightener. In the modern sport, I think we’re seeing less and less of rider frighteners. We’re seeing many more technical, clinical courses that aren’t scary. They’re difficult, they’re tricky, but they’re not scary.”
Fox-Pitt nodded to Fence 24, a chevron hedge and ditch, “That’s a good old rider frightener there. Really good to see that being used.”
Highest Placed American
Martin and Contessa, a 14-year-old Holsteiner mare, are holding down the fort for America in fifth place. Though not in podium position, their 28.8 has them in a solid spot going into cross country.
But Martin is a bit anxious as well. “I haven’t been this nervous at a five-star in a while. I just think it’s a huge course.”
Last in the order, though, Martin has the advantage of watching his competitors test the track. “I’ve got the luxury of sitting back and watching the other horses go and seeing how they read questions.”
To read about the MARS Maryland 5 Star CCI5* course and see photos of all the jumps and the course map, click here.
For the full results, click here.
The CCI5* cross-country phase starts tomorrow, Oct. 20, at 1:35 p.m. EST.
Thanks to Mane ‘n Tail Equine for our coverage of the 2023 Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill, including rider interviews, competition reports, horse spotlights, photos, videos and more!