Darren's Downfall And Byyny's Brilliance: Cross-Country Day At The Jersey Fresh CCI
Allentown, NJ, USA
by Karen Briggs
Purcellville, Virginia's Jan Byyny, however, proved she could handle whatever Mother Nature - and course designer John Williams - could dish out. And she did it on two horses who are as different as night and day. With clean cross-country rounds on each, and times as close to the optimum as anyone managed given the conditions, she rose from third place to first with Task Force (60.60 penalties on a two-day total), and from 14th to second with Waterfront (66.90 pp over the two days).
"My little chestnut horse (Waterfront) is confident and cheeky," Byyny said. "Everything is very easy for him. Unfortunately there's been one silly soundness thing after another with him, his whole career, so he's never really reached his potential. Task Force, on the other hand, has about eight different voices going on in his head all the time! But he's tough and he gives me 150% every time."
Task Force, an Australian Thoroughbred, was supposed to have run at the Rolex Kentucky CCI**** four weeks ago, but a schooling mishap shortly beforehand left him with a hyperextended shoulder. At Jersey Fresh, however, he was in fine form, despite running second-last in footing which, by late afternoon, had become chewed up and slick. Said Byyny, "The conditions were much harder for (Task Force) - it was much more slippery and he's a 'skiddy' type of horse anyway; his legs tend to go out from under him in all sorts of directions!
"I tried to stay in one lick and stay comfortable, rather than go for time," she added, "with the conditions being what they were."
None of the three-star competitors managed to make the optimum time, and only a handful even kept the damage under 20 extra penalties (among them Jennifer Libby and Draco, who rose from 16th to fourth, and Canada's Samantha Taylor with Livewire, who rocketed from 31st to 7th). Unionville, Pennsylvania's Bonnie Mosser, who improved from sixth to third aboard Rebecca Polan's Close the Deal (aka Bob) came close, with a well-oiled performance adding 20.4 time penalties to her total. Despite it being the 13-year-old Dutch warmblood/Thoroughbred gelding's first three-star event, Mosser said she definitely expected he'd be high in the placings. "He's an amazing cross-country horse," she enthused. "I knew if I could just put a good dressage score up, the cross-country would be straightforward."
The CCI***'s overnight leaders, Darren Chiacchia and Windfall II, didn't achieve the redemption they were seeking after a disastrous run in Kentucky at the end of April. Their last hope of consideration for the World Equestrian Games vanished when Windfall shot past #26B, the Corner Dock in the third water and final water complex - not once but twice. Though Chiacchia muscled him over on the third try, they both met their comeuppance scant seconds later on the exit to the water, when rider came unstuck from stallion and hit the dirt. The pair managed to finish, but with 125 jumping penalties and 57.2 time penalties added to that stellar dressage score of yesterday, they plunged from first to dead last in the standings.
Chiacchia did, however, have a good run with his second horse, Gaspar II, finishing with only time penalties to sit in 19th position.
Canadian fortunes were mixed in the three-star division, as is so often the case. The biggest shock came when Mike Winter and Kingpin crashed at #13 AB, the Camels' Back, a series of two giant mounds with hanging logs on the top of each rise. While the horse, who had reportedly been overjumping nearly every obstacle, proved to be fine, Winter was taken to a nearby hospital for observation overnight. His injuries are said not to be serious.
Samantha Taylor, however, had a take-no-prisoners ride on her dramatic gray, Livewire, who is liberally decorated with white "Tetrarch" splotches. With only 17.2 time penalties to add to her score, she is currently the top Canadian with 82.8 pp provisionally, and is good position for a ribbon tomorrow.
Also impressive was Calgarian Sandra Donnelly, aboard Whiz Kid, an Arabian/Hanoverian cross without a scrap of Thoroughbred in him. The pair might have found the humidity hard work as they racked up 42.0 time penalties, but jumping-wise they could do no wrong. Going into showjumping they're sitting in 16th.
In the two-star division, which ran Saturday morning, there were far fewer troubles and plenty of performances that impressed. Overnight leader Becky Holder slipped to fourth thanks to some time penalties aboard Glorious Joy, while 23-year-old Kate Ditchey, of Unionville, Pennyslvania, had a stellar go with her Dutch warmblood/Thoroughbred cross, Belmont, to take over the top spot. Wendy Bebie and Phoenix (fourth after dressage) slipped into second, less than two penalties behind her, and veteran Phillip Dutton piloted Tru Luck neatly into third.
Said Ditchey, an animal science student at the University of Delaware, and a student of Dutton's, "(Belmont) felt really good today. He tripped a bit going into the second water, but he always wanted to keep going." As for her expectations for Sunday's stadium jumping, she said, "I could choke tomorrow! I'll try not to get lost."
Nineteen-year-old Kelly List, of Bracebridge, Ontario, is the top Canadian in the two-star division. She and Minstral, an eight-year-old B.C.-bred Thoroughbred, cruised around their first CCI**, adding only 4.4 time penalties to their score, and currently stand eighth. "I screwed up a couple of times out there, but he took care of me!," she said proudly, of the gelding who has gone from Entry level to Intermediate in only two years.
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