April 10, 2016 - The Advanced entries followed up the smashing rounds of the CIC3*group this afternoon at The Fork. Because there were so many Kentucky hopefuls looking for their last great go before the big event, there were two sizeable Advanced divisions. Boyd Martin and Blackfoot Mystery (Out of Place x True Mystery) took the win in the Advanced A division, and Katie Ruppel and Houdini (Hot Rock x Nancy’s Star) won Advanced B coming out of a tie for the lead after show jumping.
“Big Red,” a 12-year-old Thoroughbred gelding owned by the Blackfoot Mystery Syndicate, was the first out on the Advanced track and set the bar high for the rest of the competitors. Kelly Prather previously campaigned this gelding to the three-star level, so Red is still a new ride for Martin, and this event shows serious potential in the partnership. “We’re just starting to get to know each other,” Martin explained.
He admits one of their weak points in the show jumping, but his round this weekend marks improvement. “I messed up a bit at Carolina,” he said on their three rails in the jumping two weeks ago. “This weekend we jumped really well. He gets a bit wild in the ring. Especially in the second half of the course. He can lose a little bit of rideability.” Martin has been working with Richard Picken over fences focusing on getting Red quicker off the ground.
Big Red is entered in his first CCI4* at Rolex this month, and Martin has big plans for the future. “I think you’ll really see this horse shine once we get to the four-star level. He’s American Thoroughbred; I think he was born to run three or four miles around the Kentucky Horse Park. Where other horses might struggle with the trip, I think you’ll see Blackfoot Mystery do it without even raising a sweat,” he said. “I’ve had him in the back of my mind as a potential Olympic horse, but it’s pointless thinking too hard about that. I’ve been more focused on the short term improvements in partnership.”
Martin also finished second in this Advanced A division with Master Frisky on a 33.10 followed by Ryan Wood and Frankie who finished with a 35.50.
Martin moved to the top division after Liz Halliday-Sharp and Fernhill By Night, the overnight leaders on a 19.40, had a fall near the end of the course. We’re happy to report that “Blackie” left the course with only a bandaged cut, and Halliday-Sharp is doing okay after being checked out at a nearby hospital.
Unlike Martin and Red, Katie Ruppel and Houdini have been mastering their relationship for the last decade. Houdini is a 12-year-old Thoroughbred owned by Ruppel, and they finished this cross-country with 8.40 time penalties to give them an overall winning score of 38.10.
Due to a recent lack of rain, the ground was on the firm side and riders, including Ruppel, we’re sensitive to that around the course. “I left it up to him. It’s just fitness to run on these hills. The ground was a bit hard, and we’re so close to Kentucky, so I just thought if he feels good and rideable, I’ll just got for it. He was adjustable and looking for the jumps. I can’t complain he was just better than ever,” she said.
This pair is slated for their fourth four-star together at Rolex this year. “He feels brave at the jumps, but cam sometimes struggle with confidence,” she said. “If I jump him too big or too often, he’ll start to doubt himself, so the next couple weeks I’m going to let him jump some easier cross-country. I’ll let him do some easy questions and hopefully have him feeling like superman when he goes out of the start box at Kentucky.”
Despite their many years together, Ruppel says their teamwork took new shape after their trip to Pau CCI4* last fall. “I’ve had the horse for a long time and he’s always been like an annoying little brother to me. I didn’t always want to hang out with him because he’s a little nervy,” she laughed. “But when we went to France he only had me, and I only had him. We kind of joined up on that trip, and ever since we’re way more in sync. It sounds weird, but I think we became really good friends on that trip. It’s paying off because I feel like our partnership has grown a ton.”
Caroline Martin and Effervescent jumped clear and added six time penalties to move from seventh to second place to end the weekend on a 40.30. Hannah Sue Burnett and Cooley Dream, who were tied with Ruppel after show jumping, added 18 time penalties to their otherwise clear ride to finish in sixth place at the gelding’s first attempt at this level.