Elkton, MD - There was a plenty at stake at the Dansko Fair Hill International, as 44 CCI2* horses and 24 CCI3* horses went to task in the USEF National Eventing Championships over Sally Ike's show jumping courses on a perfect October day. Hannah Burnett did something no one has ever done, the 2009 National CCI2* Champion returned to Fair Hill with Richard Thompson's St. Barths and finished on her dressage score to claim the 2010 USEF National CCI3* Eventing Championship 12 months later.
"I'm really excited," said Burnett. "I have been building up to this event all year. I feel like I've improved over the year and my horse has too. Nike is a typical chestnut redhead. He sometimes comes out like a horse I've never sat on before, so it's difficult to guess who he is going to be on the third day sometimes. I felt very good, I can tell over the first jump if I am really going to have to help him out."
Nike didn't need any help today and despite an immaculate ride from Burnett, the diminutive Thoroughbred never looked in danger of having a rail on course. "When we walked it I thought it looked really good," said Burnett. "It was open and really going but there were turns to set you up. I thought it looked pretty flowing and nice but the time was obviously an issue."
St. Barths, a nine-year-old Thoroughbred gelding was in second after the dressage on a score of 49.4, he and Burnett then rocketed around the cross country with the fastest time of the day to hold on to their position behind Nate Chambers and Rolling Stone.
Show Jumping has been Chambers' Achilles heel all season, and it came to fruition again today when Rolling Stone punched out five rails to slip down the leader board to sixth.
Burnett rode like a woman on a mission, she inherited a little bit of breathing room after Phillip Dutton (West Grove, PA) had one down on Fernhill Eagle but she won in a far less dramatic fashion than in 2009 when she went crashing through the final jump in the show jumping.
St. Barths was foot-perfect around the track and didn't look the slightest bit spent from his exertion on Saturday even though he was contesting his very first CCI3*. He was one of only two horses to finish on his dressage score (the other was Kildronan Abbott ridden by Canadian Peter Barry), and took home a truck load of prizes back to The Plains, VA where Burnett trains with Karen and David O'Connor.
Burnett also won the USEF Young Adult Championship awarded to riders aged 22-24, Chambers was the reserve champion. She won the Gladstone Trophy from the USET Foundation and the Beale Wright Morris Trophy which is awarded to the Leading Lady Rider.
A two-time Olympic Gold medalist, Dutton just recently returned home from the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games and has realized another superstar in his stable. Fernhill Eagle materialized into a CCI3* horse over the weekend.
Dutton was pleased with the effort put in by the 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse who has only been in the U.S. since last winter. With bottomless scope, Dutton continues to work on rideability as the horse has progressed through the levels.
This pair started the weekend with a 53 in the dressage, skipped around the cross country well under the time on Saturday but Fernhill Eagle, who is owned by Rebecca Broussard and Emery Warren, had the front rail of the very last fence down in the show jumping to mar his perfect weekend. They moved from third to second after Chambers' debacle.
"I thought it was about right," said Dutton of the course. "There was more pressure on the time than in the two-star that always adds an element of difficulty. I though she got it about right."
Kristin Schmolze (Califon, NJ) made a steady rise throughout the weekend with her veteran Irish Sport Horse Cavaldi. Runners-up here in 2003, Schmolze was ninth after the dressage on a score of 55.4, she had 4.8 time faults on the cross country to move up to fourth and then slipped into the top three on the strength of a beautiful show jumping round.
There were only four double clear rounds in the show jumping (Burnett, Schmolze, Barry and Karen O'Connor), and all four ended up in the top 10.
Montgomery Dominates CCI2*at USEF National Eventing Championships at Dansko Fair Hill International
Clark Montgomery (Chattahoochee Hills, GA) was not going to be outdone this weekend as he stormed to both Champion and Reserve honors in the USEF National CCI2* Eventing Championship. Riding Loughan Glen, a seven-year-old Irish Thoroughbred gelding owned by Kathryn Kraft and Holly Becker, Montgomery won the dressage and never looked back. He picked up .8 time faults on the cross country but jumped perfectly over Sally Ike's show jumping track today to win convincingly over his other ride, Universe.
"He's really careful, but he's a bit slower with his feet," said Montgomery. "He really wanted to leave the rails up and as he keeps growing and gets stronger he's going to get better."
With a score of 46.10, Loughan Glen had a rail in hand going in to the show jumping, but never looked in danger of using it. Both horses firmly lived up to Montgomery's expectation. "These horses have been doing really well all season," said Montgomery. "I felt like they were really prepared. There was no reason, if it went really well for me, that they couldn't be first and second."
Universe moved up from fourth after the dressage in his first CCI2*, he was three seconds slow on the cross country but duplicated his stablemate's effort with an immaculate jumping round to finish on 50.4. Only eight years old, the KWPN gelding came up through the ranks with Montgomery's wife Jessica and delivered on his potential this weekend.
"(Jessica) rode him up to Prelim, but she finds Intermediate and Advanced a bit scary," said Montgomery. "So he has the talent and we discussed that at least for the time being we will see what he can do."
Montgomery's two rising stars couldn't be more different - Loughan Glen is a slower, more deliberate horse and Universe lives up to his stable name of 'Buzz'. "Glen is dead quiet," said Montgomery. "Buzz is a much more active horse, he was just a little bit more on edge in the dressage but that makes the jumping stuff a little bit easier for him."
Montgomery, 29, expects to be a fixture in the sport for the future, he had already won the USEF National CCI2* Eventing Championship when it was held at the Radnor Hunt Three-Day Event in 2001 on Capetown.
"It's what I'm best at," said Montgomery of his career with horses. "I will do it as long as I am lucky enough to have the horses and the support."
Veteran Phillip Dutton (West Grove, PA) jumped up from seventh after the cross country to third at the end of the day on the strength of a clear show jumping round with Jan Byyny's Why Not. Why Not, another seven-year-old gelding, proved an exciting prospect for the future with his professional performance in his first attempt at this level.
Dutton was reasonably confident coming into the show jumping as he hasn't had a rail on Why Not all season, their three-day score of 54.9 left them comfortably in third place behind Montgomery's pair.
Byyny has been sidelined with an injury for much of 2010, but Why Not has continued his education with Dutton. He has matured into a quality horse, much to Dutton's surprise.
"I helped (Jan) with him when she first got him and I wasn't very impressed, I told her to sell him," said Dutton. "I've been proven completely wrong as I think he's going to be a very good horse. He'll be a good horse for her and has the makings of a four-star horse. Hopefully he'll go back to her next year and be a good horse for her."
Erin Sylvester, who had been second after the first two phases had three rails down on No Boundaries to finish the weekend in 10th.
Jennie Brannigan finished sixth overall with Walkabout but won the USEF National 22-24 Year-Old Championship. The former Gold medalist at the North American Junior/Young Rider Championships continues to win as she moves up the ranks.
Complete results are available here: http://www.evententries.com/livescoring/14532.html
Photos: Hannah Burnett and St. Barths; Clark Montgomery and Loughan Glen (Stockimageservices.com)