Olympic veterans and first-time 5 Star horses from three countries were the ones to beat for the show jumping finale of the 2022 MARS Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill presented by Brown Advisory. In the end, World #1 Tim Price (NZL) jumped clear aboard Jean-Louis Stauffer’s 10-year-old Selle Français stallion Coup De Coeur Dudevin to take top honors, finishing on a score of 28.2.

Like Price, second-place finisher Tamie Smith (USA) added only time faults to her score aboard Ruth Bley’s 13-year-old Hanoverian gelding Danito, but her final score of 29.8 kept them just 0.1 ahead of World #3 Oliver Townend (GBR). Townend finished in third place with his dressage score of 29.9, riding John Peace’s 11-year-old Spanish gelding As Is through one of only five double-clear rounds on Sunday. (Top Canadian in the 5* was Jessica Phoenix and Wabbit, who placed 19th with a score of 52.6; Lisa Marie Fergusson withdrew Honor Me before the final horse inspection.)

Jessica Phoenix and Wabbit had a double-clear XC round in the 5*. (Shannon Brinkman Photography)

Said Phoenix, “For Wabbit to get his first 5* completion with a double clear cross-country round was an amazing accomplishment and something that I personally haven’t done at the 5* level since riding Exponential at the 2011 Kentucky Three-Day Event. It takes a special horse to join the ranks of Exponential and for Wabbit to do that as he starts his 5* career is an incredible feat! There is much we can improve on, but with this as our starting point, the future looks very bright.”

The MARS Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill presented by Brown Advisory, one of only two 5 Star level equestrian events of its kind in the United States and just the seventh worldwide, returned to the Fair Hill Special Event Zone in Cecil County, MD, for its thrilling second edition October 13-16. The event’s prestigious 5 Star (CCI5*-L) designation is the pinnacle of the Olympic sport of Eventing, often described as an equestrian triathlon.

In addition to the 5 Star competition (CCI5*-L), the event also featured a 3 Star competition (CCI3*-L), which served as the USEF CCI3*-L Eventing National Championship, and The Dutta Corp. USEA Young Event Horse East Coast Championships presented by Dubarry of Ireland.

Course designer Ken Krome (USA) presented the MARS Maryland 5 Star competitors with a difficult 16-effort, 1.30m track, but Price, Smith and Townend’s rookie horses answered all the questions to land them on the podium.

Not far behind them were Americans Phillip Dutton and Jennie Brannigan, who rounded out the top five with their double-clear show jumping rounds. Dutton piloted his Tokyo Olympic partner Z into fourth place with their dressage score of 30.5; Brannigan moved into fifth place on her dressage score of 31.5 aboard Nina and Tim Gardner’s FE Lifestyle.

“I’m very proud of Coup De Coeur Dudevin,” Price said. “In fact, I think all three of these top horses are incredible. It’s exciting for the sport, it’s exciting for us personally, and it’s just so unexpected to have a top result like this. I came in hoping that I would have a top-five finish with this horse, but I expected there would be a couple of things that showed his lack of experience. Luckily, we were able to do that while keeping a nice, low score. I thought he did quite well.

“For my round, there was a lot of pressure,” he added. “But you just stay focused on the job. To build up the rhythm before the start was the most important part of it. Then I just tried to give him a good ride and stick to the plan. If I had to execute Plan B, I had to do it quickly and do it well. He’s got a really long stride, which was more evident today than in some of the other show jumping rounds I’ve had, but he really turned himself inside-out for me. He really impressed me, and I’m very excited about him.”

“It has not been the fairytale year that you might think,” said Smith, who earned a Team Silver medal at the FEI Eventing World Championships in September. “Long story short, California in my area was infected with EHV this winter. I got out of there right before that and went east, but then I promptly broke my ankle and tore all the ligaments in it. I could just see my dreams kind of fading away. I didn’t think I’d be in contention for the World Championships, but I also wouldn’t take no for an answer.

“These guys are legends in the sport, and it’s an honor to be up here with them,” she added of her fellow podium finishers. “The first three months of 2022 was a disaster for me. My horse had broken his wither on top of everything else, so to have the fall season that I’ve had from Pratoni on has been really special. I have a huge, wonderful support team, and I know that we’re all just ecstatic about this accomplishment.”

“I’m obviously delighted with him,” Townend said. “He belongs to my new job at Caunton with the Peace family. It’s the first time I’ve had a job since I was 21, so delivering these results to the people employing me for the first time this year is really special to me. It’s been a different year for me with so many people behind the scenes at Caunton, but one that’s been so, so positive.

“As Is was purchased earlier this year, and for us to deliver the result that we thought he was capable of is incredible,” he continued. “You never know with a new horse and a 5 star; anything can happen. He went out a bit green yesterday, and I thought last night, ‘Let’s just hope he’s as careful in the show jumping, and we’ll be alright.’ To know that I was on such a good jumper, it came down to me to press the right buttons and get the right distances. It’s just hugely exciting that we have a horse of this caliber.”

Finishing on their dressage score of 26.4, Elisa Wallace (USA) and Renkum Corsair brought home the 2022 USEF CCI3*-L Eventing National Championship. Wallace and the Corsair Syndicate’s 12-year-old Anglo-European gelding were in second place overnight with no room left for error, but that pressure didn’t stop them from putting in one of only nine clear show jumping rounds.

“I knew how the course was riding since I had my first horse, Let It Be Lee, in there,” Wallace said. “And from riding last year’s, I knew it could be a tough requirement. It’s tight and a very jumper-type course. I had a lot of confidence coming in with Renkum Corsair; he did the 1.45m jumpers as a 7-year-old, and he’s really helped with my confidence in show jumping. I just pretended like it was a jumper round at (the World Equestrian Center).

“He felt fantastic,” she added. “He didn’t feel at all affected by (cross-country) the day before. He jumped a beautiful round, and it was quite fun to be in there. I’m really ecstatic and couldn’t be more appreciative of my owners in the syndicate. The horse is just a really, really cool horse. He’s just getting stronger and stronger, and I feel like there’s a lot more to come from him.”

Ken Krome’s winding 1.20m track featuring 14 jumping efforts proved to be greatly influential in the 3 Star. Second-place finisher Jenny Caras (USA) moved up nine spots from her overnight position in 11th thanks to her double-clear round aboard her and Jerry Hollis’s 10-year-old Mecklenburg gelding Sommersby. The pair finished on their dressage score of 29.9.

“I didn’t think I would move all the way to Reserve Champion,” Caras said. “I just knew that I needed to go in and jump my round. My horse had every capability of having a clear round, so that was all I could do. I came in wanting to finish this event on our dressage score, and we’ve hit that goal. I couldn’t be prouder of him.

“I was talking to the owners after my round and had friends texting me saying ‘You’re moving up, you’re moving up,’” she added. “And I just said, ‘I’m not going to win. If I could even make it to the top five, that would be fantastic.’ I’m so excited to be here in second now.”

Despite dropping a rail at fence #10A of the penultimate combination, Cassie Sanger (USA) and Fernhill Zoro maintained their overnight placing to finish third with a score of 30.6. At just 18 years old, Sanger also earned the Best Young Rider and Best First-Timer awards for her success in her first CCI3*-L aboard Nina Sanger’s 14-year-old Anglo-European gelding.

“I remember at the beginning of this season, we were talking about the plans for my horses,” Sanger said. “I’ve been riding Fernhill Zoro for less than a year, and I said to my coach, ‘I really want to go to Fair Hill.’ She wasn’t so sure about that, but we kept moving along and solidifying my partnerships with each of my horses. It couldn’t have worked out better. Riding is such a tough sport; I already wish I could have done better and am already thinking about what to improve on. But I’d definitely say it was a successful year.”

A number of Canadians contested the CCI3*-L, with two landing in the top 10: Jessica Phoenix and Isla GS (8th), and Kyle Carter with G Star van de Klinkenberg (10th).

Additional awards included the Best Dressed Awards presented by Hound&Hare, Best Turned Out Awards presented by Shapley’s, and Grooms Awards presented by Mane ’n Tail. Americans Will Coleman and Lillian Heard earned the Best Dressed Awards presented by Hound&Hare as the riders with the most stylish outfits at Wednesday’s initial horse inspection.

For their wonderful presentations during Sunday’s second horse inspection, Jenny Caras’s 3 Star mount Sommersby and Will Coleman’s (USA) 5 Star mount DonDante earned the Best Turned Out Awards presented by Shapley’s. Sharing in their horses and riders’ victories and earning the Grooms Awards presented by Mane ’n Tail were Renkum Corsair’s groom Meghan Malloy and Coup De Coeur Dudevin’s groom Kerryn Edmans. All received a prize bucket with an array of branded products.

“Thank you to all of our sponsors for making this event possible, especially MARS Equestrian™ and Brown Advisory for stepping up as our Title and Presenting Sponsors,” said Jeff Newman, President & CEO of the Maryland 5 Star Committee. “Thank you to the FEI riders and officials for coming from around the world to put this event together, to the staff and volunteers who worked tirelessly to get it off the ground, and to all the fans who gave us some amazing support this year. We’ve had a spectacular second event, and we hope everyone comes out to Fair Hill and Cecil County for years and years to come.”

The 3 Star and 5 Star awards ceremonies were presented by Korbel California Champagne. Complete results here.