Tyler, TX - Laine Ashker and Anthony Patch came to Texas to defend their title, and are poised to do so following a foot-perfect cross-country round today at the Nutrena USEA American Eventing Championships, presented by VTO Saddlery.
With Anthony Patch, or 'Al' as he is known, they had the fastest Advanced time on Captain Mark Phillips’ cross-country course adding just 3.2 time penalties to their dressage score from Friday, moving them from third to sit in first on an overall score of 36.6 penalties.
“I think it was maybe our best round to date,” said Ashker of Richmond, Va. “I saw everything out of stride and I really found a nice rhythm and found I had a better horse coming out through the finish box. I’m on cloud nine right now."
Ashker knew that even on a handy and quick off-the-track Thoroughbred, the time would be difficult to make. In preparation for what she knew would be a twisty course, she altered her fitness plan in advance.
“Instead of doing long, slow gallops, I did shorter sprints up hills,” she said. “Last year I felt him get a bit tired. But this year, when I asked, he delivered.”
Buck Davidson and Ann Clements’ promising 7-year-old, Quasar, made easy work of the Merial Intermediate championship cross-country course to maintain their overnight lead (30.4) atop the field of 32 competitors. He also stands in fourth in the Adequan Advanced division on Caroline Martin’s Petite Flower.
The combination of a great facility and ample prize money draws upper-level competitors like Davidson, who is currently the top rider on the USEA Leaderboard.
“Adequan puts in a lot of time and money for this event, as do all of the other sponsors,” said Davidson of Ocala, Fla. “We can’t complain about there not being prize money in eventing, and then just not show up to an event that has it.”
Anne Kornak and Double Rivers Really Cool moved to the top on the Senior Training Amateur Division (29.1) after a double-clear cross-country course.
“My daughter was here [at AEC] last year in the Junior Preliminary, and she finished in third place,” said Kornak, who also happens to be an equine veterinarian. “Now, I have the horse for it. We started at the Training level this year and did four horse trials before we qualified. I felt like I was ready to come here.”
While Training through Advanced completed their cross-country rounds today, Novice and Beginner Novice dressage got underway.
Last year’s Senior Novice Amateur division winner Julia Denton and Win/Win Situation are currently tied for first place with Kristin Hardy and Enchanted on a score of 27.5. Although they will compete head-to-head on cross-country tomorrow, there is nothing but camaraderie between the two as they stayed in the same barn at least year's AEC and shared champagne over their successes.
Kristen Hardy’s success today was particularly emotional as she rides alongside Vicki Dudasch, the mother of Avery Dudasch for whom the Adult Pony Rider Award in Memory of Avery Dudasch will be presented on Sunday.
Hardy will ride her cross-country course with a purple streak in Enchanted’s tail in honor of Avery and as part of “Team Fearless.”
“In a nutshell, I did my halt and salute and started crying,” said an emotional Hardy. “My horse makes me cry, she is so awesome. There are no words. These are happy tears to be here.”
Darlene McInnes from Colorado and her own Warlord maintained their dressage score of 28.3 and moved up from second to first in the Senior Preliminary Amateur. McInnes, who hails from Colorado like Hardy, has “Fearless” tattooed on her inner arm in honor of Avery.
“My horse is a machine and he is just amazing,” said McInnes. “He answered all the questions and kind of pulled me around and said ‘Let’s go!’ and we had a blast. The course was amazing!”
Tomorrow, Beginner Novice and Novice will tackle their Championship cross-country courses, and the rest of the levels will take on Richard Jeffery’s show jumping courses to determine the final standings.
Becky Holder riding Can’t Fire Me had a rider fall at fence 6 in the Advanced division. She was evaluated on site by the medical team and then was transported for precautionary further evaluation. The horse was evaluated by the veterinary team and is resting comfortably in the barn.
The 2014 Nutrena USEA American Eventing Championships and the 2014 Adequan USEA Gold Cup Championships would not be possible without the following sponsors: Nutrena, VTO Saddlery, Adequan, Merial, Broadstone Equine Insurance Company, Devoucoux, Standlee, Charles Owen, Fleeceworks, Point Two Air Jackets, Professional's Choice, Dubarry of Ireland, WeatherBeeta, The Chronicle of the Horse, Omega Alpha, Auburn Laboratories Inc., Smartpak, Dever,Theraplate, Stackhouse Saddles, Equine Art by Julie, Flair, CWD, Equine Art by Julie, RevitaVet, Grand Meadows, Ovation, Eventing Training Online, Back on Track, the City of Lindale Texas, and more.
FOR COMPLETE RESULTS and scores for all 15 AEC divisions PLUS the four Adult Team Championship divisions, information including directions to the Texas Rose Horse Park, a detailed schedule of events, tickets for the Competitors’ Party, VIP packages and photos, please visit www.useventing.com/aec.