Woodstock, England - Cross Country day at the Fidelity Blenheim Palace International Horse Trial saw gutsy performances from U.S. competitors over Eric Winter's influential track. Saturday's test was made all the more difficult as horse and rider combinations also had to contend with slick going, yet the Americans remained undeterred. Clark Montgomery maintained his third place standing on an ever-improving Loughan Glen, while 24-year-old Meghan O'Donoghue made a massive climb up the leaderboard following an impressive cross country round.
Montgomery (Wiltshire, United Kingdom) and Jessica Montgomery, Kathryn Kraft, and Holly and William Becker's Loughan Glen led the way for the U.S. on Saturday with one of the quickest trips of the day. The pair, which was awarded a USEF Land Rover Competition Grant to compete at Blenheim, produced a masterful round over Winter's testing track adding just 2.8 time penalties to stand on a two-day total of 45.5.
Montgomery has been based in England since the beginning of 2013 and has made a priority of increasing the 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding speed on the cross country.
"This horse in the past has been a bit slow and gotten tired in the last few minutes especially, so I'm really happy to be just seven seconds over. You always just go for it but it (the time allowed) is proving a bit difficult," said Montgomery. "He felt good, I had to fight a little bit for the course; it rode harder than I expected but he was super honest and I couldn't have been happier."
Two years ago, Montgomery and Loughan Glen made their international debut at the Fidelity Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials, finishing in fifth place. In the return trip to Blenheim, Montgomery looked to improve upon the 2011 performance and with one phase left is poised to do just that.
"I set pretty high expectations for myself; the horse can do a very good job. When I was here two years ago he was over 10 seconds slow, so I wanted to be inside 10 seconds here and he did that," said Montgomery. "I have a goal of jumping clear tomorrow so hopefully I can finish on it."
O'Donoghue (Carbondale, Illinois) and her own Pirate are contesting their first overseas competition on a Jacqueline B. Mars Competition and Training Grant from the USET Foundation. But they defied their lack of international experience on Saturday with a scorching round to climb up 31 places. The pair came to Blenheim looking to showcase the jumping form that propelled them to 12th place in their first CCI4*at the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event presented by Land Rover in April. The 11-year-old Thoroughbred gelding once again demonstrated his tidy form across the country to just add 8.8 time penalties to their score.
O'Donoghue and Pirate will head into Sunday's final show jumping phase in 11th position on a score of 61.1.
Phillip Dutton (West Grove, Pennsylvania) once again proved why he is among the best in the game on the cross country as he guided Team Rebecca, LLC's Ben to a clear jumping round on Saturday. In only his third ever CCI start, the Holsteiner gelding lost a shoe early on in the course but nevertheless continued to perform for Dutton in the slick conditions. The pair added 27.2 time penalties and lay in 22nd position on a score of 75.5.
Julian Stiller (Berkshire, United Kingdom) and her own Sintra BK were the first U.S. pair on course and incurred 20 jumping and 14.8 time penalties to stand in 43rd place on 99 penalties after the cross country. Stiller elected to retire her second ride of the day, her own and Jules Delvecchio Pandora X, after things were not going according to plan.
Rounding out the U.S. effort in CCI3* competition was Cindy Rawson (Somerset, United Kingdom) and her own and Donald Collier and Pip Bowerman's Mocharabuiee. The combination incurred 20 jumping and 39.2 time penalties and now lay 55th on 115.2.
Irish Olympian Aoife Clark heads the CCI3* field with Fenyas Elegance on a score of 44 after incurring four time penalties on the cross country. France's former World Champion, Jean Teulere, stands tied with Montgomery on a score of 45.5. However, Teulere and Matelot Du Grand Val were one second closer to the optimum time and therefore head into the final phase in second position.
In the CIC3* for eight-and nine-year-old horses, Elisabeth Halliday-Sharp (East Sussex, United Kingdom) and her own HHS Cooley collected two time faults in the show jumping to move up to 19th. They will head out onto the cross country on 51.8 penalties.
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 33.1.
For more information on the Fidelity Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials, click here.
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