October 22, 2016 - This weekend the hallowed grounds of the Kentucky Horse Park played host to the USEF One-Star Eventing National Championships as part of the Hagyard Midsouth Three-Day Event & Team Challenge. In a very competitive field of 50 in the CCI1*, Meghan O'Donoghue and Rehy USA claimed the Richard Collins Trophy for the win. Sharlee Lowe and Jjamaica topped the field of 20 in the Junior and Young Rider division to clinch the Harry T. Peters Trophy.
The CCI1* began under cold and rainy skies on Thursday, but the weather did not seem to affect O'Donoghue (Carbondale, Ill.) and Ronald Shipka Irrevocable Trust's Rehy USA, as they went into the lead easily on a score of 39.80.
"I was really happy with him," said O'Donoghue of Rehy USA's dressage performance. "He is a really lovely horse on the flat and has been really competitive this year. I thought he put in a really professional test. It's fun to go in there and show off a little on him."
The 2005 Irish Sport Horse gelding dominated the Derek Di Grazia-designed cross-country course, turning in a clear round in one of the fastest times of the day and maintaining the pair's lead going into Saturday's show jumping phase.
"The horse has been a pretty good cross-country horse and I was able to watch a little bit before our ride," said O'Donoghue. "The course rode pretty much to plan. He went around easy and inside the time so I was thrilled with him."
With a rail in hand heading into the show jumping arena, O'Donoghue had a slim amount of breathing room, but didn't need it as she and the gelding put in another superb clear effort to secure the National Championship title.
"The horse had jumped really well in the warm-up and didn't feel fatigued at all so that gave me a lot of confidence. Richard Picken has been helping me with show jumping this year and I think we had a good plan - all of that factors into how it plays out in the ring and everything was going well. It's nice to be in this place. I've done a lot of FEI competitions and to take home a win is great, especially for the family [the Shipkas] who has supported me a lot over the last couple years."
Staying hot on the winning pair's heels all weekend were Phillip Dutton (West Grove Pa.) and The Manager, a 2010 Thoroughbred gelding owned by Ann Jones. In the gelding's first event at the FEI level, he turned in a solid dressage test to score a 44.00. With double-clear efforts in both cross-country and show jumping, the pair clinched the Reserve National Champion title on their dressage score.
Sydney Conley Elliott (Benton, La.) and Carol Stephen's QC Diamantaire rounded out the top three, also finishing on their dressage score of 44.80.
Earning her first CCI1* win and Nation Champion title, Lowe (Metamora, Mich.) remained poised all weekend with her own Jjamaica, a 2008 Hanoverian gelding. The pair sat in second after dressage on a score of 50.20, but propelled themselves to the top of the leaderboard after a solid double-clear cross-country effort.
Lowe was pleased with her horse's efforts in the first two phases, saying, "I was a little worried [on the first day] since I have never ridden him in the rain during dressage, but he is from England so I had a little faith that he had dealt with rain before. Overall, he tried his heart out. Going into cross-country, I knew it was a big course with a lot of great brush questions so I knew I had to go out there and be aggressive and make some bold choices. Luckily he was with me every step of the way. There were some moments when he could have backed down, but he fought his way over every fence and I was really happy."
With multiple top combinations finding trouble in the show jumping phase, Lowe was able to enter the arena as last to go with a rail in hand. The pair did tip one rail out of the cups, but secured the win on a final score of 54.20.
"There is always some pressure when you're going last," said Lowe. "Show jumping is one of the phases we have been working on a lot at home and the rail he had I thought was a bit of a fluke. I don't have any words to describe how happy I am with this win. I am so grateful. A year ago I didn't have this horse and there were a lot of people along the way that helped me find him and then once I had him, to get us to this point. We started out the year going training [level] so we have come a long way."
Moving steadily up the leaderboard all weekend were Olivia Dutton (West Grove, Pa.) and Amy Ruth Borun's Santa's Playboy, a 1998 Thoroughbred gelding. The pair was sixth after dressage on 54.50 and fifth after cross-country where it incurred 2.40 time penalties. With a beautiful faultless show jumping round, Dutton finished on a score of 56.90 and secured the second Reserve National Champion title for the Dutton family, matching her father Phillip in the USEF One-Star Eventing National Championships.
Cassandra Wallskog (Mequon, Wis.) and her own and Megan and Joel Wallskog's Quainton Cassanova also cruised up the leaderboard on the final day. Sitting in ninth after dressage, the pair placed third overall thanks to a double-clear show jumping effort to end on 59.50.