Buck Davidson and Ballynoe Castle RM turned in the fastest time of the day on cross country at Great Meadow, picking up just .4 time penalties with a cracking round. But it wasn’t quite enough to catch Phillip Dutton and Mighty Nice, who ultimately clinched the win in the WEG Prep Trials with a clear trip and 1.2 time penalties to win by just .2 points on a score of 48.2. U.S. WEG squad alternates Hannah Sue Burnett and Harbour Pilot jumped clear with 8 time penalties to finish third behind Buck and Reggie on a score of 48.4.
All 14 horses and riders who set out on David O’Connor’s cross-country course came home clear, and it proved to be a wonderful track to prepare horses and riders for the World Equestrian Games next month, with about 4,000 spectators coming out to cheer on Team USA and Team Canada. Aside from Buck and Phillip, most riders set a conservative pace in this last outing before the horses ship to France, as the goals for each pair differed depending on the plan they set with David, which he talked about on Friday.
Boyd Martin had a steadier, slower round with overnight leader Shamwari 4, and he said yesterday that he wouldn’t press the gas pedal down all the way today. The horse is coming off a top-three finish at Luhmühlen last month, and Boyd said he planned to focus on having a consistent round with positive jumping efforts to get the horse on his toes for Normandy. Boyd and Shammie picked up 11.6 time penalties to ultimately finish in fifth place behind U.S. team alternates Marilyn Little and RF Demeter, who picked up 6 time penalties to finish on 53.5. Marilyn and Demi are targeting Burghley or Pau with their Land Rover grant.
Trading Aces’s fast trip with Phillip Dutton for 3.6 time penalties put him in sixth place on 55.6, followed by Sinead Halpin and Manoir de Carneville, who had a beautiful, bold trip through the Land Rover Splash at fences 11 and 12 to come home with 7.2 time penalties. Lynn Symansky and Donner looked very much back in the groove today, cruising around for 12.4 time penalties to finish in eighth place on 59.9. Fernhill Fearless also looked very keen at the Land Rover Splash, and the crowd gave a huge cheer for Kim Severson as she came through there. They picked up 10.5 time penalties for ninth place on 61.4.
Team Canada all finished in a cluster on the leaderboard, led by Selena O’Hanlon and Foxwood High, who added 8 time penalties to finish in 10th place. Jessie Phoenix and A Little Romance, her main horse for the Canadian WEG squad, picked up 15.2 time penalties for 11th place, followed by her alternate mount Pavarotti in 12th place, who had 19.2 time penalties. She picked up the save of the day with Pavarotti at the Land Rover Splash — check it out on the video below.
Meghan O’Donoghue and Pirate had an easy trip around for 18.4 time penalties in preparation for Burghley, and Buck Davidson and Park Trader round out the leaderboard with the slowest time of the day for 22.8 time penalties. Buck was last out on course with Reggie, and the crowd of 4,000 clustered around the final jumps to cheer them home. There’s definitely a sense of team pride here this weekend, and it’s been very inspiring to watch the fans rally around our WEG team riders.
It’s been a fantastic weekend at Great Meadow, and I can’t thank the officials, sponsors and volunteers enough for putting on such a wonderful event to prepare our WEG team for Normandy. I have much more to bring you, including video of the Land Rover Splash, video of the awards ceremony and the full press conference report. Keep checking back for much more from Great Meadow. Go Eventing.