Michael Pollard Top at Jersey Fresh after XC
Allentown, NJ, USA
by Amber Heintzberger
"The course was difficult today," said Pollard. "It was a good course and had it been good going it would have been a decent three-star track but with all the rain and the heavy ground it was a bit more than that. The horse doesn't get tired generally and he was struggling at the end, he didn't have the gas left that he normally would."
Pollard was held for about 30 minutes in the start box so his warm up was an hour and a quarter and he said, "I think that contributed to him getting tired - he gets worked up and he was worked up all that time."
Law added a few time faults by taking the long route at the water jump, but he said he felt it was best for his horse. "I had a stop on the first horse at the corner in the water, so I took the long route with Mystere Du Val. The first horse's runout was more steering than anything and I ended up sticking its head in the flag which was a shame because he jumps well, it was a bit frustrating. I felt my second horse would have to be full of it there and I knew by the time I jumped through the coffin there wasn't enough horse left and that I'd have to go the long way there at the water."
While the competition was mostly a success, there was a sad note for Phillip Dutton when Acorn Hill Farm's Bailey Wick fell at fence 20 on the CCI*** course and had to be humanely destroyed as a result of his injuries. The owners decided not to perform a necropsy. Dutton was uninjured and went on to ride Tru Luck, now in 6th place, and Kheops du Quesnay, now in 9th place, in the CIC***.
After a week of rain the footing was wet and heavy on the John Williams designed cross-country course, and it seemed to take its toll on many of the horses running today.
"I rode three Warmbloods and one Thoroughbred today," said Martin. "The ground was a bit sticky and that labored Shatzi and Remi especially - I felt them getting tired about halfway around. I had them fit enough, but the ground sucked them down. Remington is still pretty green - I found it a bit hard to get a rhythm on him because it was a stopping and starting type course on the CCI***."
Martin, who has dual citizenship, is still riding for Australia after running into roadblocks from the FEI, but says that he hopes to be riding for the US by the time he competes at the Bromont three-day event in Canada next month. He came to the US to work as assistant trainer to Phillip Dutton, but said that he has recently broken away and started working on his own. He and his wife Silva are renting a barn at Dutton's farm and he said he and Dutton still get along well, trading lessons for schooling horses.
"Sometimes it can be awkward when you break away from working for someone - there can be a weird feeling - but we've been golden," he said.
Martin commented, "I think it was an unfortunate thing for Phillip today where he got to the fence a bit wrong - nine times out of ten you get away with it but today things didn't go his way. It was an unfortunate moment, and Bailey Wick was a wonderful horse. I was lucky enough to compete him while Phillip was away last summer and he was a really class horse. I think we're in a sport where you're riding a horse at high speeds at a fixed object, and these things are bound to happen occasionally; if you looked at the horse's history it deserved to be here, it wasn't as if the horse or rider wasn't up to the level, it's just one of those moments in the sport that is dreaded, just one of those things."
2008 US Olympic Team member Becky Holder also had a stellar day, with both of her horses in the top two: Anne Bower's Rejuvenate is leading the CCI** while Holder's Olympic partner, Courageous Comet, is second in the CIC***.
As an experienced four-star horse Comet was supposed to have competed at the Rolex Kentucky CCI**** last month but he pulled a muscle in his hind end and was off for a couple of days, and Holder said he lost enough fitness work that she didn't feel he was ready for a four-star.
"When they added this division it was a great chance for me to finish the season with a good run with him, because he hasn't been out a whole lot this spring. I want to protect and save him for big events. I was nervous about the footing today and while it did get a bit sticky and holding by the end of the day, I think they did a fantastic job."
Holder also explained, "Anne Bower is a veterinarian at Holder's barn in Minnesota who bred and raised the gelding from a Thoroughbred mare that she ran prelim with herself. She rides him when I skip out of town; she's done several one-stars on him and it's a wonderful thing for her."
The two-star had its fair share of stops and falls today and Holder commented, "The two-star is a big step up and I think maybe it was the first time a lot of the riders felt their horse get tired. It's a perspective you get with experience and a lot of people were doing it for the first time; they hit that last minute marker and the horse is tired and needs a different ride - it's a different feeling."
Emily Beshear, who is second in the CCI** riding Here's To You, a Thoroughbred gelding she purchased from Rebecca Polan, said, "I feel like the one thing that I stressed in my own mind was that the last three minutes of the two-star had the biggest questions. You saw a lot of the problems happen at the end; I think that maybe horses weren't fit enough to answer those questions in the end. It is important to make sure that you have enough horse left and that if your horse is getting tired you're able to help it."
Beshear's student, Young Rider Kate Samuels, is fourth riding Nyls du Terroir in the same division. "My horse is amazing and has never let me down," she said. "It's nice to be behind Emily in the standings too, she told me all the right things!"
The competition concludes tomorrow with the show jumping phase. The final veterinary inspection begins at 9:00am.
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