Fair Hill, MD - Favorable conditions and experienced riders bolstered the leaderboard in the cross country phase of both the CCI** and CCI*** at The Dutta Corporation Fair Hill International Fall Eventing Championships on Saturday.
Tamra Smith of Murrieta, CA maintained her lead in the CCI*** with a stunning performance on Mai Baum, owned by Alex Ahearn. The pair went 14 seconds under the optimum time on the Derek DiGrazia-designed course to enter the final phase of the competition on their dressage score of 38.5 penalties. Smith was impressed by the young 9-year-old German Sport Horse gelding's first time in a CCI***.
"He was fantastic, I went out of the (start) box and he was a little bit sticky to the first two. I gave him a little encouragement after that. He was right in my hand and galloped around the course phenomenal," said Smith. "His stride just kept getting bigger and he is so rideable that I just let him stay in a rhythm."
Despite a challenge by an exuberant Mighty Nice while attempting to get into the start box, and a subsequent brief hold on course, Phillip Dutton of West Grove, PA skillfully piloted the Irish Sport Horse around the track without penalty. The pair was asked to stop just before the eighth obstacle, a combination of houses, as Holly Jacks had fallen at the ninth fence just before Dutton approached. The gelding was unfazed by the hold, and finished with a two-day score of 43.5 penalties, moving them up to second place.
"Once I got out of the start box it was good," said Dutton. "I had a little trouble getting out of the start box. There was a delay, unfortunately, which was a shame because you can't get a better cross country horse than him, but the conditions were pretty perfect for the horses."
Boyd Martin of Cochranville, PA and Blackfoot Mystery were the last combination on course as the brisk autumn weather continued to get chillier, but an efficient gallop just under the optimum time of 10:00 minutes moved them up to from fifth to third on 44.6 penalties.
"He's a class horse and I was so impressed with him today. He's got unbelievable endurance and I felt like I was coasting around pretty easily, so it showed me that he's a proper 4 star horse we are still getting to know each other a little bit because we weren't quite in sync on a few fences," said Martin. "I think the ground was very fast. I also do think Derek softened up a wee bit, which I'm not complaining about because it was still very, very difficult. I thought last year he made it a 3 ½ star and this year he made it a proper 3 star, I think if you had a good galloper, the time was pretty easy to make"
For more information on this year's Fair Hill visit www.fairhillinternational.com