Jennie Brannigan punched the air as she crossed the finish line aboard Tim and Nina Gardner’s Cambalda, knowing that a clear trip inside the time gave her the win in The Fork CIC3* on her dressage score of 42.8. It’s the second time in the last five runnings of this CIC3* that she’s won aboard her longtime partner “Ping,” a 13-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding, and they’ll take this positive momentum forward to Rolex Kentucky in three weeks.
“He actually wanted to go today, which I’m not used to,” Jennie said. “He didn’t feel like he wanted to hesitate at anything, which is cool because he doesn’t always feel like that. Hopefully he’s starting to come into form and we’re not peaking too soon. He just felt spot on everywhere.”
Now Jennie and Ping look ahead to Kentucky, where they’ll hope to end the weekend with a number score. After Ping slipped on pavement and had to be withdrawn before the trot up in 2013 and then jumped all the way around the course last year only to receive a technical elimination for missing a flag, this pair is due a little good luck in Kentucky.
“I think the horse ran well at Kentucky last year,” Jennie said. “He’s way fitter now than he ever has been before. Jumping around at Rolex made me confident, and then having Fair Hill go well, Wellingon go well, Red Hills go well and now today, I feel like our partnership is getting more and more consistent. I’m excited and looking forward to Kentucky.”
Carl and Cassie Segal’s Ballynoecastle RM is peaking at just the right time with Buck Davidson, with the veteran four-star campaigner preparing to make his fourth return trip to Rolex. “Reggie,” a 15-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding, skipped around today to deliver one of the seven double clear trips in the division, taking second place on a final score of 45.7.
“He was so good and was a machine out there,” Buck said. “I’m very excited with where he is in all three phases right now. Like I say every time, it’s an honor to be riding him. I feel like I know him and trust him, and he trusts me and knows me too. We’re just having fun right now.”
Marilyn Little and RF Demeter moved into the top three after also jumping double clear, scooting up the leaderboard from 16th after dressage to finish on their final score of 50.8. Like Jennie and Ping, this is another combination that historically performs well at this venue, and Marilyn and “Demi,” a 13-year-old Oldenburg mare owned by Team Demeter, have never finished lower than fourth in four appearances at The Fork.
“To be honest, she felt the best that she ever has,” Marilyn said. “It’s wonderful to be able to come back to the same event year after year because you have a wonderful gauge of where the horse is in that point of the season and in its career. The way she galloped today and the way she felt, I’ve just never felt her like this. I’m thrilled for the horse.”
Marilyn said she was also very happy that Jacqueline Mars, a member of Company Team Demeter, could be in attendance today to watch Demi storm around the course. “She is a very seasoned horse now, and it’s a privilege to ride a horse with her amount of experience. Going into Rolex with a partner who has seen what she’s seen makes it that much more exciting.”
Lynn Symansky and her own Donner, who won the CIC3* here in 2013, jumped clear with just .8 time penalties to finish in fourth place on 52.4 — which means EN’s Maggie Deatrick correctly predicted the entire top four in the CIC3*. How’s that for some accurate crystal ball reading? Phillip Dutton and Tom Tierney and Annie Jones’ Fernhill Fugitive, who also jumped clear with 1.2 time penalties, round out the top five on a score of 52.9. The entire top five are all entered at Rolex.
In addition to the pairs already named, the following combinations also jumped double clear: Erin Sylvester and No Boundaries, 8th; Sharon White and Wundermaske, 9th; Selena O’Hanlon and Foxwood High, 11th; and Sara Kozumplik Murphy and Fly Me Courageous. All of these horses and riders are also heading to Rolex.
Tremaine Cooper’s CIC3* definitely caused some drama, particularly when Caroline Martin and Pebbly Maximus fell at the sunken road at fence 11, the Uwharrie Bank Hollow, which was revamped this year after now appearing on course last year. The ground jury elected to remove the sunken road from the course at that time, as they had not been happy with how it rode for the first few horses. We confirmed with Caroline that thankfully both she and “Rory” are OK.
As it usually does, the coffin at fence 8, the Land Rover Leap, caused several problems, and the following pairs had runouts here: Holly Payne and Santino, Holly Jacks-Smith and More Inspiration, and Kelly Prather and Blackfoot Mystery. The cheese wedge combination at fence 17 also caught out a couple pairs: Colleen Rutledge and Covert Rights, who still managed to make the time; Kelly Prather and Blackfoot Mystery
We saw some scrappy rides at the mound complex at fence 21 toward the end of the course, which was a new addition last year. Numerous horses and riders executed impressive Superman launches over the log on the top of the mound; Tamie Smith had a runout here after circling a very fired-up Twizted Syster before the brush at the A element to regain control.
The second water complex at fence 15, appropriately named the Rocking River Crossing, had a number of riders worried yesterday, but it rode well for most of the combinations today. Holly Payne and Santino did pick up 20 here after taking the option at B, and Tim Bourke and Luckaun Quality had a bummer of a glance off at the brush corner in the water at B.
Mackenna Shea and Landioso also picked up 20 on their score card at the Rocky River Crossing after the horse left a leg at the brush corner at B in the water, which knocker her off balance and made it impossible for them to get to the arrowhead at C. Kurt Martin and Delux Z also had a runout at this water complex.
Zach Brandt and Cavallino Cocktail parted ways at the first water, the fish pond at fence 13, and “Skotty” was taken back to the barns in the horse ambulance as a precaution after cutting her leg. Thankfully, Zach confirmed later in the afternoon that the mare is totally fine aside from being a little scraped up.