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Davidson and Bradley Victorious at The Fork
Norwood, NC, USA
by Amber Heintzberger
Photo: Anthony Trollope/
Stephen Bradley (USA) and Brandenburg's Joshua
An overnight lead in the CIC*** and advanced horse trials at The Fork in Norwood, North Carolina gave Buck Davidson good odds of taking home a blue ribbon today. In the CIC*** he and My Boy Bobby jumped a textbook double clear round and secured the win with stylish ease.

Things didn't go quite as well with Ballnoecastle RN in the advanced division with two rails down, but he still finished in the top three, behind winner Stephen Bradley on Brandenburg's Joshua and Phillip Dutton on Connaught, his partner in winning last year's Rolex Kentucky three-day event.

Only seven horses out of the 48 that made it to the show jumping phase in the CIC*** jumped clear and in the time around Mark Donovan's technically challenging course, which proved highly influential in all divisions.

Davidson said that he felt the course was right on the money for this competition. "It was a hard course but they have a tough job in that some are trying to get ready for a three-day and some are qualifying. It rode fantastic," he said.

After solid cross-country performances yesterday Davidson said that he came into the show jumping phase looking at it as another day at the office, in spite of the pressure of leading two divisions. "I am lucky that I ride a lot of nice horses and am in this sort of situation often," he said. "I was more nervous on the two horses that I still needed to qualify, because they needed to keep the rails up. They're both nice horses but they're green and we couldn't afford to have a rail down, and they both jumped fantastic."

Pointing out that this success is just a stepping stone to the next competition, Davidson acknowledged, "It's been a good year for me so far but it's a marathon and we're right at the first hundred yards."

Leslie Law and Fleeceworks Mystere du Val had one rail down but finished inside the time to finish second in the three-star. "Cross-country yesterday rode really well and was beautifully presented," he said. "I was delighted with him yesterday - compared to 12 months ago there is a lot of improvement. I think he still needs another year at this level, to establish himself. Today was a good big show jumping track, but they don't take a lot of touching, these rails! You only have to breathe on them and they're out of the cups!"

Jennie Brannigan had a super introduction to the three-star level, finishing third overall on her already successful young Dutch gelding Cooper, who was the USEA Intermediate Horse of the Year. Brannigan has been working for Phillip Dutton since last fall and is preparing Bramham in England, which will be her first competition abroad.

"I definitely felt more pressure this weekend because I needed this to go to Bramham," she said. "This weekend brought out my greenness in the cross-country and dressage. Cooper still gave me a good test considering he was off his head from the wind, and on cross-country I rode the last water not very well, but he proved he's a champ. Show jumping has always been a strong point but I never guessed I'd move up seven places today."

Stephen Bradley was excited with his win on Brandenburg's Joshua, who had a bit of bad luck last year when he was withdrawn from Burghley due to an abscess, then developed another abscess right before the World Cup Finals. "We learned a valuable lesson then," he explained. "We had him in plastic shoes, which I put him in every year, and he had them on longer than usual, several shoeings in a row. We found out that moisture builds up under them and can cause abscesses. It was a tough lesson to learn so late in the game."

Bradley and "Josh" also won the intermediate at Southern Pines two weeks ago, and he plans to take the 14-year-old, off-the-track American thoroughbred gelding to the Rolex Kentucky three-day event, with the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky next summer his ultimate goal.

"I was really pleased with him in all three phases," he said. "That was the first rail he's had in about two years - touch wood! I think Mark Phillips did a fantastic job on the cross-country course; it was a perfect prep for Kentucky, both in size and in the questions asked."

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