Mill Spring, NC - Marilyn Little (USA) and RF Scandalous crossed the finish line of the FEI CIC 3* at The Fork at Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC) presented by Lucky Clays Farm with a fierce determination as they attempted to maintain their competition-long lead.
The duo paced through the inaugural use of the track to conclude their weekend with a score of 47.70, after adding six time faults in their final phase. Doug Payne (USA) and Vandiver moved up from fourth to second after finishing as the only pair to go double clear cross-country and end with score of 50.80, while Kim Severson (USA) and Cooley Cross Border rounded out the top three with a score of 51.70.
Little and RF Scandalous, a 2005 Oldenburg mare (Carry Gold x Lario) owned by Jacqueline Mars, Robin Parsky, and Phoebe & Michael Manders dominated the competition throughout the week and triumphed with a forward and smart cross-country trip around the course, co-designed by Captain Mark Phillips and Tremaine Cooper.
"I want to thank Mark Bellissimo and his team, as well as Jim and Bernadette Cogdell, for starting this event so long ago, that has such a tradition and has been brought here to this incredible venue. That is special today, but even more special is knowing where it's going in the future," commented Little. "It was a pleasure for all of us to be galloping around on what will be the FEI World Equestrian Games™ Tryon 2018 course, and one day will be very hallowed ground."
RF Scandalous and Little were nearly foot perfect the entire competition, piecing together three fantastic phases, and exemplifying their preparation and training during the winter season. While the course rode fantastic throughout the day, as all 17 combinations contesting the FEI CIC 3* completed the track, Little felt that the difficulty of the questions asked was spot on for their needs moving forward into their season.
"It was a lovely run from start to finish. We had a beautiful few days after some incredible rains and it only speaks to the venue and to the course that it was able to take those rains and give us the gallop and terrain we had today," she noted. "This was my first run of the year and she gave me a great ride out there today. I was thrilled with her."
While most of the combinations competing throughout the week are heading to Lexington, KY, in just a few short weeks, Little is still working through her plans with RF Scandalous and where they will come out to compete next.
"I will go back and talk to her owners after this and the team behind her; Jacqueline Mars has been in the sport far longer than I have and she watches closely. We'll go back and have a meeting of the minds and figure out what will work best for her," she noted. "While she is twelve, she's only a few years into this sport and today she gave me the feeling of a confirmed horse. She was very confident at the fences and I let her go and she started flying. I think that spoke well to her fitness for the first run and I think Luhmühlen is definitely on the table. She strikes me as a horse that's ready for a 4* and this was a great kick-off to what is hopefully a fantastic season."
Doug Payne, who piloted Vandiver, a 2004 American Trakehener gelding (Windfall x Mystic Replica XX) owned by Debi Crawley, inched up the leaderboard throughout the week to ultimately finish behind Little.
"I have to thank Debi Crawley, she often times is not able to be here, but she was today. She bred Quinn and has had him from the start. Debi has been absolutely great," said Payne, taking a moment to appreciate Vandiver's owner. "I've just been trying to be smoother and smoother. I want to be more efficient with the lines taken and out there in general. I'm very lucky to have such a talented horse because he has an exceptional gallop."
"Honestly, he just cruised around and I'm enjoying it while we have the opportunity," he concluded. Payne also finished in first and second place in the George H. Morris Arena in the $15,000 Jumper Classic during Tryon Spring III, hosted just before the start of cross country on the White Oak property.
"It was great that worked out. It's amazing that we have a facility that can accommodate both. I can't thank the staff enough. They were very flexible and helped us with all of the scheduling," he added.
Kim Severson and Cooley Cross Border, a 2007 Irish Sport Horse gelding (Diamond Roller x Osilvis) owned by The Cross Syndicate, concluded their weekend in third place, after a strong showing on their way to the Rolex Three Day Event CCI 4* in Lexington, KY, in April.
"Cross was fantastic. I mean a lot of the people who know us, know our situation has not always been smooth sailing, but I think we've done a lot of good work the past few years and given him enough time to go the right way," said Severson. "He got better and better this weekend. We had a large jump into the water and he fought for it the rest of the way around the course. I'm just thrilled with him."
Jim and Bernadette Cogdell, organizers of The Fork event for many years at their property in Norwood, NC, were on hand to discuss the week's events and comment on the transition from their beautiful farm only a few hours to the east of TIEC, to the growing facility.
"The journey of The Fork began in 2002 and the journey has been a lot of good fun. There's been a lot of laughs and tears. We've become close with a lot of good people," said Jim Cogdell. "When I started aging out of age at 75, the stress level of running the event was great. We asked if we could relocate our event for a few years and just try something that is coming down the road and what I see as a great vision for the sport."
"What we see here today is only one-tenth of what we're going to see at this great place over the next five to six years," he added. "With the FEI World Equestrian Games™ coming to North Carolina, we're a part of that journey and I kind of like that as the legacy that Bernadette, myself, and The Fork would like to leave."
Both Jim and Bernadette Cogdell have been instrumental in the growth and presence of the sport of eventing on the East Coast, as well as in the state of North Carolina.
"I personally am so happy with how the weekend went. I think always, when you're at a new facility, there's always going to be questions and I thought from start to finish it couldn't have been more perfect," said Bernadette Cogdell. "I know everyone worked to pull this off and I think it turned out fantastic."
Logistically, the event took months of planning in order to make the transition as seamless as possible, while also adding a new sense of venue flare. A strong team behind the scenes focused on the preparation for the event since word broke that the move was officially set for 2017.
"It was a real joy to have this event here. Since the time that Jim called us, we started working with our team, on a vision of the extension of the course and multiple courses for a number of cross-country experiences," said Sharon Decker, COO of Tryon Equestrian Partners, Carolinas' Operation. "It was a great chance to push us on the timeline of development, and we like that around here. It only challenges us and I was thrilled to hear the comments from the riders regarding the course and how well it rode."
Mark Bellissimo, Managing Partner of the Tryon Equestrian Partners (TEP), felt that the week of competition exemplified the grit and determination of event riders, while also providing them with a new facility to hone their skills and grow their sport.
"I would first like to thank Jim and Bernadette for having faith in us to take, what was your child, and have the confidence that we could provide a good experience. Thank you for the opportunity to host this event. To the riders, the competition was great today," said Bellissimo.
The Advanced and FEI CIC 3* runs were the first footsteps on what will be developed as the eventual track for the FEI World Equestrian Games™ Tryon 2018and Bellissimo commented on his excitement for the future and what is expected for the continued expansion of the course.
"It's always nerve-wracking with a new event, especially when you're dealing with footing, horses, and safety, and this is one of the most dangerous sports out there. For us, we try to pride ourselves on footing in all of our facilities and this is new ground for us, literally and figuratively," Bellissimo explained. "I think that this course is a great testament to Mark Phillips and Tremaine Cooper. We have a great team of people here and I'm very encouraged by what we saw here today."
"This is a passion project for my family and partners. The course you saw today will only continue to evolve. That's only one-third of our footprint, as that was only six holes of the 18-hole golf course. There's a lot more property that you didn't see today that you will, since this will utilize all 18-holes of the golf course to be converted into one of the most unique cross-country destinations in the world. I'm hopeful that this is the first of many different competitions to be hosted here," he concluded.
Liz Halliday-Sharp and Fernhill By Night, a 2003 Irish Sport Horse gelding (Radolin x Argentinus) owned by Deborah Halliday, secured their weeklong lead with an efficient and flowing cross-country trip today in the Advanced-A division. The pair finished their competition on a score of 34.30, after picking up 8.40 time penalties on cross-country. Will Coleman and OBOS O'Reilly finished in second with a score of 37.20, while Jessica Phoenix and Pavarotti took home third on a 44.40.
"He felt great. He was amazing today. He felt as good as I could have ever wanted him too. I think because the course had so many big tables and the undulation, I just tried to think ahead to Rolex and let him gallop on," said Halliday-Sharp. "I tried to not get in his way too much and work on the flow."
The pair, who are also aiming at a start at the Rolex Three-Day Event CCI 4* in Lexington, KY, came into the competition looking for a confidence-boosting round that would give Fernhill By Night, a strong galloping effort, to make sure his fitness level is where it should be before heading into the biggest competition of their season.
"I thought it was a very fair course. It rode as we walked it, which was good. I thought it rode fair. I think it gave us the confidence we needed. I went quick enough without going mad and wanted to go give him a good gallop. He felt very fit and he felt confident and happy within himself, which is what we were here to do. I'm pleased with it."
Jessica Phoenix and Bentley's Best, a 2007 Trakehener gelding (Hirtentanz x Eichendorff) owned by Don Good, also secured victory in the Advanced-B division on a final score of 44.40. Boyd Martin and Tseterleg earned second place with a 47.30, while Jordan Linstedt and Revitavet Capato finished in third on a score of 49.70.
Jessica Phoenix and Bentley's Best were the third pair between the Advanced and FEI CIC 3* divisions to maintain their lead throughout the duration of the horse trials.
"Honestly, Bentley's Best had one of his best weekends ever here. I was so proud of everything that he did. In all three phases he felt really confident and playful in his jump, almost as if it was getting a bit easy for him at this level, which is really exciting," explained Phoenix.
As another combination using The Fork to prepare for their Rolex Three Day Event CCI 4* debut, Phoenix is feeling good about the duo's progress this weekend and felt that the competition set them up perfectly looking towards the end of April.
"He was incredible from the start flags to the finish and it's not often that you can say that. I was really proud of everything that he did out there. He felt like it was just a blast and very fun," she elaborated. "It's awesome to feel like you've put together all three phases really well. This has to be one of the toughest sports in the world and to have all three phases come together for you in one weekend is pretty remarkable."
To view official results for The Fork at Tryon International Equestrian Center presented by Lucky Clays Farm, please click here. To learn more about Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC), please visit www.tryon.com.