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Clark Montgomery Dressage Leader at The Fork CIC3*
Norwood, NC, USA
by Amber Heintzberger
Photo: Anthony Trollope/
Becky Holder (USA) and Rejuvenate
With the completion of dressage at The Fork CIC3* and horse trials in Norwood, North Carolina, Clark Montgomery maintained his overnight lead in the CIC3* riding Up Spirit (38.9). Leslie Law on Guy and Beatrice Rey-Herme's Fleeceworks Mystere du Val is in a three-way tie for second with Corinne Ashton on Dobbin and Michael Pollard standing third on Tia Lusso (46.4).

The competition began yesterday with torrential rain, and today the winds blew in and dried things out. While this improved conditions for tomorrow's cross-country phase of the competition, it made things tricky for riders dealing with distractions like flapping tents and potted flowers blowing over along the ringside. Numerous dressage tests were marred by tension and spooking as the winds persisted throughout the day. Even the vendors were affected - the Dubarry tent took flight early in the day, and was impossible to reassemble, so the company moved its wares into a tent shared with the US Eventing Association.

Last year Montgomery and Up Spirit finished second overall in the three-star at The Fork, then traveled to England and spent time training with Mark and Sandy Phillips and competing abroad. Montgomery said that he was happy with his horse's performance yesterday and noted that it's the first time he has scored below 40 penalties in a CIC competition.

"He really let me get in there and kind of pose, he let me put my leg on and ride him up into the bridle," he said. "I feel like he's really coming into himself now."

After walking the cross-country course he commented, "It looks like a good preparation for Rolex. There are lots of big wide fences and a lot of corners. I had a really good spring last year and I was on the first short-list for the Olympics; that's the first time for me to experience anything like that and I am now just trying to be over prepared and not screw up!"

Leslie Law was also pleased with his horse's performance, especially since he rode in today's windy weather. "I played it a little conservative because there was a bit of wind and flapping going on. I took it steady," he said. "Tomorrow's course means you have to stay straight, straight and straight! There are a lot of questions, like ditches and banks and water, and about a thousand corners! It's very well put together and this is a wonderful venue - it's really good leading up to a three-day."

Last year Mystere du Val, a nine-year-old Selle Francais gelding, had numerous wins during the summer, but problems arose at the Fair Hill CCI***, where he had several stops and was eliminated on cross-country. "Over the winter I played around a little more with schooling cross-country and stuff," said Law. "His dressage is really solid; he's usually in the top three, so I concentrated on getting him out and seeing as many things as possible."

In the advanced division Becky Holder and Rejuvenate put in a solid test to score 28.8, stealing the lead from overnight leader Phillip Dutton on Woodburn (30). Buck Davidson and Ballynoecastle RN also had a steady performance and are now tied with Dutton, followed closely by Davidson's student, Lainey Ashker riding Anthony Patch (30.8).

Tomorrow's cross-country begins in the morning with intermediate level, and the CIC3* started at 10:11am, followed by advanced level with the first horse on course at 12:58pm.

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