Doug Payne of Oldwick is in striking distance of first place in the Jersey Fresh 2-star division with Happy Valley.Luck finally was with the Jersey Fresh eventing competition today, where the thunderstorms that were forecast passed by without a trace and the cross-country phase ended on a high note.
Three horses had died during cross-country over the last three years; two of natural causes and one in a fall at a fence, but this time there no casualties or injuries, making the day even sunnier.
"It's a huge relief,'' said course designer John Williams, who had put in massive work redesigning the route at the Horse Park of New Jersey in Allentown.
"All of us do our best to minimize the risk, but the risk will always be there, even if every single jump is collapsible or deformable, we're still going to fall down ... so it's always a huge relief when the last horse gets to the finish line and everybody's fine.''
The event was more important than usual, because it is serving as a selection trial for the U.S. team that will ride in the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Kentucky this fall.
As expected, Olympic team double gold medalist Phillip Dutton (left) -- one of the hottest prospects for the WEG squad -- is leading in the CIC 3-star with Tru Luck, who previously was named in the "A'' category of team prospects.
"The course was definitely better this year,'' said Dutton, praising Williams' efforts at all the levels. "They definitely had more flow and it showed up in less accidents, less falls.''
Assessing Tru Luck's performance, Dutton said, "He's definitely fit enough and in good jumping form. I was a little disappointed in his dressage, but I've still got plenty of time for that as well.''
While his 51.2 penalty score was enough to win the dressage phase, it's far off the mark from what he'd like to do.
No one made the seven-minute optimum time for the CIC, but Dutton was the fastest with just 7.2 time penalties to bring his total to 58.4. He has a good lead over one of his students, 54-year-old Canadian amateur Peter Barry on Kilrodan. Barry, who is in the lingerie business, has 63.4 penalties.
In the featured $10,000 CCI 3-star over a longer course, Tiana Coudray of California has a huge lead with Ringwood Magister over Draco and Colin Davidson. Coudray, third at Jersey Fresh in the CIC last year, is coming off a CIC win at Galway Downs in California this spring with her distinctive-looking Irish-bred iron gray gelding. Her dressage score of 36.8 was the best of any division, and even with the addition of 4.8 time faults cross-country, she is comfortable on 41.6 penalties to Davidson's 56.2.
In the CCI 2-star, Jennie Brannigan leads with Cambalda on 44.3 penalties, but Doug Payne of Oldwick moved up to second after a tie for third in dressage. However, he has 50 penalties with Happy Valley, meaning Brannigan could still win even if she had a 4-penalty knockdown in Sunday’s show jumping finale, which begins at 11 a.m.
"That horse she's riding is an excellent quality horse,'' said Payne, after being asked about his chances of overtaking her.
"He's very careful. I suspect she should be able to pull it off. The horse I'm riding is also very careful, he's had one rail in the last couple of years. But she should be able to hold it, I think.''
Happy Valley, a 13-year-old Irishbred, who is for sale, was one of five horses in the field of 14 who started in the 2-star to finish without jumping or time penalties.
"The course is much improved from years past, I couldn't complain at all about the conditions. It's a lot less winding than it was,'' said Payne.
Official website for the Jersey Fresh Event