Everyone knows that three-day events are never “a dressage show” and that things are always going to get shaken up come cross-country day.

Things not only got shaken up but frankly turned on their heads following and exciting and influential cross-country day at the MARS Bromont CCI Saturday. Of the six leaders we had at the start of the day, only one has retained their lead heading into the horse inspection and show jumping tomorrow. Any guesses? If you guessed world number two ranked eventing rider, America’s Boyd Martin, you’d be right. He still holds the top two placings in the CCI2*-L with Fetiche Des Rouges and Kolbeinn, having added shockingly few penalties to their dressage scores (we’re talking 0.4 time penalties and zero penalties respectively – in a day where just three single rides of nearly 100 came within the time allowed.) Martin’s horses are going into showjumping on 21.2 and 21.7. We all know it still could be anyone’s day, that’s sport and that’s horses. Anyone want to place bets? But first, let’s celebrate the day the Canadians had on home turf, in the CCI4*-L and 4*-S divisions.

Canadians Lead in Both CCI4* Divisions

The marquee division — the CCI4*-L — by contrast, had some of the most movement with the elimination of the overnight leader Lucienne Bellissimo (GBR) following a rider fall. In the end it was Canada’s Waylon Roberts with OKE Ruby R who was able to hold his time penalties to just 10.8, to vault up into the lead on a to-date score of 46.0 penalties. America’s Allison Springer with No May Moon sits just behind, on 46.1 penalties, so Roberts will have to be clean and inside the time in Sunday’s show jumping if he intends to hold Springer to the runner-up spot. Arden Wildasin with Sunday Times had the fastest round in the class, adding just 10.4 time penalties to climb from 10th overnight to now sit 3rd on 48.1. Needless to say, there’s not a rail between them.

A horse and rider jumping a cross-country fence at Bromont.

Canada’s Waylon Roberts leads the CCI4*-L division with OKE Ruby R. (Cealy Tetley Photo)

Roberts, admitted he had come in looking for an “educational round” for his relatively inexperienced mare, explaining that he uses the MARS Bromont CCI not only for the experience but as a bit of a gauge to see where they are in their career path.

“Bromont is an event that I try to put on all my horses schedules at a certain point of their career,” he said. “I think if you have horses that you’re looking to go to Morven Park, Maryland or Kentucky, Bromont needs to be included in your preparation, if not as a goal. It is truly a world class cross-country venue.

“I haven’t been at four-star long for a few years now, and this was Ruby’s first time at this level of competition. So it was hard to know what to expect. I definitely was looking to have a good educational round for her. And her best way of going is forward and covering ground. If she’s making time or doing well on the clock, it’s not because I’m trying, it’s more that that’s where she likes to be. The minute markers here at Bromont are very familiar to me, so I sort of knew where I needed to be, at 2-3-4 minutes. And then I just tried to keep those jumps in front of her and keep jumping. So I was really pleased with how she came along.”

The movement was not nearly as dramatic in the CCI4*-S, although the overnight leader Jessica Phoenix with Watson GS was also eliminated following a rider fall. Canadian Karl Slezak with his 2023 Lexington CCI4*-S winning mare Hot Bobo were able to add only time faults to their dressage score to move up from overnight second into first, as was America’s Hannah Sue Hollberg with Capitol H I M, moving from third into second. Arial Grald with Isla de Coco now sit in third. The biggest move of the division came from the busiest rider in the division, Canadian Olympian Jessica Phoenix, who piloted Fluorescent Adolescent from 14th overnight to now sit in fourth.

Slezak, who was initially concerned his mare might find the atmosphere at Bromont a bit “much”, is now quite pleased with how she is maturing into a consistent performer.

“In the beginning, every time we took her to cross country schooling, it was like she’d never seen a cross country fence. Even still, if she has a long break, it’s like she’s never seen one. But then she has a few runs, and she just keeps getting better and better. And now it’s a very different ride for me. She just cruises around.”

With it being an Olympic year, everyone is waiting to hear who might be named to Canada’s eventing team, and Slezak is no different.

“She’s been show jumping well leading up to this,” he remarked. “I’m excited about tomorrow, she should put in a good round. And fingers crossed, the selectors are happy with it.”

Back to Boyd, just for a minute…

Being one of the only riders to add little (or no) time penalties over the course of the day — and on newer/younger horses — we asked Boyd for his thoughts following the afternoon.

“You have to go pretty quick to make the time [here at Bromont] and the jumps are big and the terrain’s undulating. You get a little bit of an inside look of how much heart they’ve got, and I really think they learn a lot too. So coming here, I know it’s nice to win, but it’s more that this sort of run hopefully helps them for the future. So I think today was a great stepping stone for them. it’s just a wonderful place to bring a young horse to really see if they’ve got the ingredients for a big time horse for the future.”

Arden Wildasin and Billy Beaufort added just 1.6 time penalties to their round to vault up the CCI3*-L leaderboard from 13th into the lead on 35.2 penalties, bumping the overnight leader Sara Schulman and Cooley Chromatic into second on 35.6. Jennie Brannigan and Kismet sit in third on an even 38.

Of just three riders to make the time on course today, one belongs to the new leader of the U25CCI2*-L, Erin Farrell and Atavious. This brought them up from 11th overnight in a very competitive division.

With cross-country now behind them, just two tasks remain before the winners are crowned and the ribbons awarded. The final horse inspection will begin at 8:00am Sunday, where horses will once again be presented to the veterinary and judges panel to ensure everyone is sound and fit to continue in competition; and then the final test of show jumping. Sunday’s rails are very light, and fall at the slightest touch of a hoof. And the scores are very close together.

It’s still very much anybody’s game.

Head to EventEntries.com for the full scores from Saturday, and live scoring for Sunday’s show jumping. Watch the livestream on the Bromont YouTube channel as well as Horse & Country TV.

For more information please visit www.bromonthorsetrials.com.