World No. 1 ranked rider Oliver Townend’s (GBR) score of 21.1 remained untouchable during Friday’s final dressage phase at the Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill. He and Cooley Master Class, Angela Hislop’s 16-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding, maintain a three-point lead over the other competitors going into Saturday’s cross-country phase.
The Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill, one of only two 5 Star level events in the United States and just the seventh worldwide, runs October 14-17 at the newly constructed Fair Hill Special Event Zone in Elkton, Maryland (Cecil County).
In addition to the 5 Star competition (CCI5*-L), the event also features a 3 Star competition (CCI3*-L), which is serving as the USEF CCI3*-L Eventing National Championship, and The Dutta Corp. USEA Young Event Horse East Coast Championships Presented by Dubarry of Ireland. The four days of Eventing competition feature Dressage (Thu-Fri), Cross-Country (Sat) showcasing the new Ian Stark designed courses, and Show Jumping (Sun).
Two-time New Zealand Olympian Tim Price earned a score of 24.3 on Friday afternoon, jumping to second place on the leaderboard with Xavier Faer, a 15-year-old British Sport Horse gelding owned by Price, Trisha Rickards, and Nigella Hall. Three-time U.S. Olympian Boyd Martin rode On Cue, a 15-year-old Anglo-European mare owned by Martin and Christine, Thomas, and Tommie Turner, to third place with a score of 25.0.
“A lot of preparation and practice and hard work goes into performing these dressage tests,” Martin said. “Even though it’s only seven minutes long, it’s hundreds of thousands of hours of practice to get there.
“I was thrilled On Cue today,” he added. “She’s just a fantastic horse; I love her. She’s flamboyant, she’s a mover, she’s really smart and tries hard. To go in the ring, you stay up late at night wondering and worrying that little things are going to go wrong, but I was really, really pleased with how she performed.”
Going into the cross-country phase behind Townend and Price, Martin tries to find things that make him confident and keep them in mind. “I don’t think I could get her any fitter, and that’s a comforting thought when you walk around this course,” he said. “It just seems like such a long way around; the jumps are technical. With the hills and everything else, it’s a real test to see which is the champion horse tomorrow. I really believe in On Cue. I’m riding a fighter. She’s going to have her ears pinned back, and we’re going to give it everything we’ve got.”
“It’s handy to have this event [in my backyard],” Martin said. “I live 20 minutes down the road. Usually at this time of year, we have to fly all the way to Pau, which is an expensive mission. To have a world-class event like this in this region is sensational. I’m lucky enough that I’ve ridden in all the 5 Stars around the world, and this place is breathtaking. It’s got everything – that stadium is brilliant, the cross-country looks fantastic, and the course design is awesome. I think it’s fantastic for the sport, and I’m just blown away by the standard that’s been produced here.”
The Top 3 riders of the USEF CCI3*-L Eventing National Championship remained the same after the final half of their dressage phase wrapped up Friday morning. Kurt Martin (USA) maintains his lead aboard D.A. Lifetime, a 9-year-old mare owned by Debbie Adams, with a score of 23.5. Fellow American Kate Brown remains in second with a score of 24.8 aboard Carnaby, her 8-year-old Oldenburg gelding. Caroline Martin (USA) is currently third after earning 25.5 with HSH Vamonos, her and Sherrie Martin’s 8-year-old Zangersheide gelding.
Hannah Sue Burnett (USA), now tied for fourth after the CCI5*-L dressage phase, also moved into fifth place in the CCI3*-L aboard Christa Schmidt’s Carsonstown, a 9-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding. She feels both levels of competition hinge on Saturday’s cross-country phase, featuring the new Ian Stark designed courses.
“The 3 Star [course] is equally as challenging as the 5 Star,” Burnett said. “In my opinion, it starts off a bit stronger. Luckily, my horse is not too green at this level, but fence #4 to the open Trakehner [#5] is still kind of eye-opening for the horses so early on. You have to really be on pace and make sure they’re on the job.”
“I feel slightly less pressure [for Saturday] on my 3 Star horse because he’s younger and still being produced,” Burnett said. “I want to produce a great result with both horses, but the 5 Star is the top of the sport. There’s more pressure there. I’m really glad to have Carsonstown doing the 3 Star, so I can get on course and be daring and bold out there, to kind of feel it out a bit. Hopefully, I’ll get the last of my nerves out and be on task for the 5 Star later.”
The Dutta Corp. USEA Young Event Horse East Coast Championships Presented by Dubarry of Ireland concluded Friday with the 5-year-old division’s jumping and galloping test in the Sawmill Field. Chris Talley (USA) took home top honors with Corwin Sport Horse LLC’s Gina, earning a score of 95.20.
“It’s incredible being here,” Talley said. “I grew up in Chester County (Penn.), so Fair Hill was always one of the events we’d come to while I was growing up. Winning the 5-year-old division with Gina is so special because she’s a very talented horse, and we’re so glad to be here. For us to have this first year with the 5 Star is just fantastic, for the sport and for this area.”
The entire CCI5* is available via livestream presented by MARS Equestrian. It can be accessed through USEF Network in North America and through Horse & Country outside North America. USEF Network is also providing exclusive coverage of the CCI3*. A link to the livestream is available on the event’s website via the USEF Network player.
For full results, visit here.