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Lion King Takes the Lead at Fair Hill CCI***
Elkton, MD, USA
Photos: Anthony Trollope/
Jonathan Holling (USA) and Lion King II
With regal form befitting his name, Lion King II roared around cross-country at Fair Hill today to take the lead for Jonathan Holling in the USEF CCI*** championship after dressage leader Mara Dean retired after a stop at the fourth fence on course.

Phillip Dutton of West Grove, PA and his nine-year-old gelding Tru Luck (55.2) moved into second place and Gina Miles of Creston, CA and her veteran campaigner McKinlaigh (55.6) moved up to third while time penalties cost Jan Bynny of Purcellville, VA on Waterfront a top three slot, relegating her to fourth place followed closely by Darren Chiacchia on Better I Do It.

The cross-country faults were evenly weighted, with fence sixteen the most influential on course. Of 72 starters seven horses retired and seven were eliminated. 23 horses jumped around clear.  The weather was clear and warm, but footing was somewhat muddy after rainy weather on Friday.

Course designer Derek diGrazia said that sixteen, a drop to two narrow fences, required that riders maintain their position and keep control of their horses. "If you miss there's not a lot of room for error out there," he said.

Dutton said, "The terrain plays its part here. You have a lot of people moving up and doing their first three-star here, and the more experienced riders handle it pretty well."
Mike Winter (CAN) and King Pin
DiGrazia commented that he was impressed with how well those first-timers handled his course.

Jonathan Holling said, "I knew there was no way this was going to be a dressage show. I wasn't surprised by the shuffling in order."

Holling said that Lion King II has come a long way since he started riding him, comparing him to a puzzle for which he had to figure out the pieces. He was understandably pleased with the gelding's performance today and said that his outlook for tomorrow's show jumping phase is positive.  

Dutton said that show jumping is something of a weak link in his horse's training, since he gets a bit strong and hard to rate. He was happy with today however and felt like it gave his horse a good education. "It's a big stepping-stone," he said. "The course rides quite hard but it's good for the horse to do this and come out well."

Looking toward tomorrow Gina Miles said, "If there was no competition tomorrow we could probably all jump clear. The key is to stay calm and focused."

In addition to eventing, a top level combined driving competition completed the marathon phase today, giving competitors and spectators added excitement. In addition to equestrian competition, Fair Hill's increasingly popular Dog Agility Trials took place with over 400 canine competitors.  Many additional exciting activities are on the roster, including kids' activities, arts and crafts, classic cars, live music, entertaining exhibits and demonstrations, trade fair and more.

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