Woodstock, England - The final phase of the Fidelity Blenheim Palace International Horse Trial CCI3* caused a shake-up of the leaderboard but saw top American combinations hold their top 12 placings. On a day where clear rounds were at a premium, Clark Montgomery and Loughan Glen proved their place among the sport's elite, producing one of the few faultless efforts to finish third in the world-class field. Additionally, Meghan O'Donoghue completed her first overseas competition earning 11th place and gaining wealth of experience.
Montgomery (Wiltshire, United Kingdom) and Loughan Glen were making their second appearance at the Blenheim CCI3*, having placed fifth in 2011, and used the weekend to demonstrate how much they have improved in the last 24 months. Jessica Montgomery, Kathryn Kraft, and Holly and William Becker's 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding stood in third place following the dressage phase and a clear, quick trip on the cross country meant they maintained their position heading into Sunday's final phase. In the show jumping, the talented combination produced another impressive effort, jumping immaculately to finish on a score of 45.5, a mere 1.5 penalties behind the winner.
Montgomery has been based in the United Kingdom since January of 2013 with the goal of improving his own and his horses' skills as well as continually competing in world class competition. And while he was pleased with Loughan Glen over the weekend, he realized a slightly different performance on the first day could have resulted in a different outcome.
"I think I left the door open a little bit on the dressage day, his other two FEI competitions he's done this year he was sub-40 and if I could have done that it would be a completely different situation. I just didn't get there and you leave them an opportunity over here and these guys are too good," said Montgomery. "Of course we're disappointed that we didn't win but at the same time it's exciting to think just how good you have to get to win."
Montgomery was awarded a USEF Land Rover Competition Grant to compete Loughan Glen at Blenheim and believes that with the assistance of the grants and direction from USEF Eventing Team Coach David O'Connor the U.S. is experiencing resurgence.
"We have the riders, we have the horses, and we have the support. David has got great plans," said Montgomery. "We will get back up to the top, to be competitive."
O'Donoghue (Carbondale, Illinois) and her own Pirate earned the opportunity to compete at Blenheim after receiving the Jacqueline B. Mars Competition and Training Grant from the USET Foundation. The pair seized the opportunity producing strong efforts in the jumping phases to ultimately climb 31 places following the dressage and garner a top 12 placing. On Sunday, the 11-year-old Thoroughbred gelding rolled three poles to add 12 penalties to their score and finish on an overall total of 73.1.
Additionally, the combination was honored as the highest placing first-timers at the Fidelity Blenheim Palace International Horse Trial.
Over the course of the weekend, the O'Donoghue and Pirate earned valuable experience and head back to the United States with the knowledge that they can be competitive among top combinations in the sport.
The United States was also represented by Phillip Dutton, Julian Stiller and Cindy Rawson in CCI3* competition at the Fidelity Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials. Dutton (West Grove, Pennsylvania) finished in 33rd place with Team Rebecca, LLC's Ben on a score of 95.5 after incurring 20 penalties in the show jumping for five rails down. Stiller (Berkshire, United Kingdom) and her own Sintra BK incurred eight jumping faults and single time penalty in the final phase to finish on a score of 108 in 44th position. Riding her own and Donald Collier and Pip Bowerman's Mocharabuiee, Rawson (Somerset, United Kingdom) had a single rail down to finish in 46th on total of 119.2.
In total only 13 of the 60 combinations that entered the show jumping were able to complete clear rounds on Sunday. These included winner Aoife Clark and Fenyas Elegance and second place finisher Jean Teulere and Matelot Du Grand Val in addition to Montgomery. Irish Olympian Clark finished on a score of 44. While France's former World Champion, Teulere, completed the weekend on the same score as Montgomery; 45.5, but was one second closer to the optimum time on Saturday and therefore earned runner-up honors.
The sole U.S. entry in the CIC3* for eight-and nine-year-old horses, Elisabeth Halliday-Sharp (East Sussex, United Kingdom) and her own HHS Cooley were eliminated on the cross country Sunday, after incurring trouble early in the course. The winner of the CIC3* was Great Britain's Team Silver medalist from the 2012 London Olympic Games, William Fox-Pitt, leads the CIC3* with Fernhill Pimms on a score of 33.5.
For more information on the Fidelity Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials, click here.
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