February 4, 2017—Call it luck, good and bad. Call it destiny. Call it excellent riding. But whatever you say about Boyd Martin’s multi-year domination of the $100,000 Land Rover Eventing Showcase, it’s amazing.
On three different horses, Boyd has topped the standings at this event designed to bring the sport to a new crowd in a setting that is different from the usual less-developed locations where it is held. The field was a competitive one that included two-time Olympic individual gold medalist Mark Todd of New Zealand, and Great Britain’s stellar eventer, William Fox-Pitt. Both did a great job riding borrowed horses.
“This year by far was the hardest one to win,” said Boyd, maintaining that the show jumping was “bigger than Rolex (the Kentucky 4-star), and then the cross-country was a good test…influential this year compared to other years.”
He’s hoping the cross-country doesn’t get any more difficult in the future, however, because the horses are just starting their season at this time of year. But who’s to say course designer Mark Phillips won’t think up another innovation to continue making things a little more interesting in 2018?
In 2016, he routed the horses through the VIP tent, finishing up with a jump down into the ring. This time, there was a jump in the VIP tent itself. It was cool to see the horses galloping over it against a backdrop of chandeliers and spectators’ awed faces.
Boyd came from behind with Welcome Shadow, one of his favorite horses, who was third after dressage. Marilyn Little topped the dressage on RF Scandalous, and Ryan Wood was second on Powell. The show jumping course designed by Richard Jeffery was, as Boyd said, quite stiff, and Ryan dropped to 21st after toppling three rails. Both Marilyn and Boyd were fault-free, leaving him 1.6 penalties behind her.
And then the bad luck struck, but it didn’t hit Boyd. Marilyn fell at a corner fence on cross-country with her other ride, RF Demeter, and while she got up after a long pause, it was decided that she should be checked out at the hospital, meaning Scandalous had to be withdrawn.
If Marilyn had been able to ride the leader, Boyd mused, “you wonder if Scandalous would have got the time.” Then he shook off that thought and said, “It is what it is, and I’m quite happy to take the check home.”
It might help soothe his wife, Silva, who he said was rather miffed when he let their toddler son, Nox, wander off into the water jump.
Last to go in the CIC-style format that puts cross-country after show jumping, Boyd had a 4.4-penalty margin over Buck Davidson on Petite Flower. That mare was bred by Buck’s father, two-time world champion Bruce Davidson.
Buck, who moved up from sixth after dressage, had no time penalties, while Boyd was a little more careful on Shadow, a lovely gray former field hunter with lots of character. But even with 0.8 penalties for exceeding the optimum time over the attractive route, Boyd’s total of 27.3 penalties gave him a more than sufficient margin to claim the $33,000 winner’s share.
Buck, who finished on his dressage score of 30.9 penalties, was second.
Watch this video to find out what Buck had to say about his experience at the showcase by clicking on the right-pointing arrow.
Doug Payne, who came up with all sorts of ways to save time on course, finished third on Vandiver (34.2) with no time penalties cross-country following a disappointing rail down in show jumping. Click on the right-pointing arrow to hear his take on the weekend.
I’ve always enjoyed watching Shadow at the events where I’ve seen Boyd riding her. She has style and at the same time, she looks as if she’d be a joy to ride. Boyd and I had a nice chat about her. Click on the right-pointing arrow to hear what he had to say .
I should mention that I turned off the video camera a bit too soon, and must advise that Boyd was cautious when I asked about Shadow’s prospects for the World Equestrian Games, adding, “If I make the team.” I’ve done my due diligence here by telling you what Boyd said, but he has been a pillar of the U.S. teams at everything from the Pan American Games to the WEG and the Olympics, so it’s hard to imagine the 2018 WEG squad without him.
Like everyone else participating in the showcase, William Fox-Pitt—seventh on Steady Eddie, a mount loaned by Boyd--had only good things to say about it. Listen to his comments by clicking on the right-pointing arrow.
After I turned off the tape recorder, we talked a little bit. William had a life-threatening head injury suffered in a 2015 fall, and while he recovered well enough to compete in the Olympics last year, his brush with death has gotten him thinking about how he will go forward.
He said to me by way of explanation, “I’m 48,” and I pointed out Ian Millar, who is 70, just won a big jumper class in Wellington yesterday.
William replied, “I’m not Ian Millar and I’m not Mark Todd” (whom, you will remember, retired and then unretired.) So William isn’t planning on riding forever. But he is interested in coaching, and I’m sure there are a bunch of countries that would be interested in having him helm their team efforts.
I hope you remember that I said yesterday in my postcard from the show jumping at the CP Palm Beach Masters presented by SOVARO® that I thought a few more people would break into the top 40 eligible for Sunday afternoon’s $216,000 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Wellington.
I’m not psychic (well maybe just a little) but there are always dropouts, and when Rodrigo Pessoa and Jessica Springsteen decided not to ride, that opened the way for Callan Solem, the highest-placing U.S. rider in the 2016 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping final (look at her video in yesterday’s story), and Charlie Jacobs, the co-president of the Masters.
Check back Sunday night for my report on the featured class.