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O'Connor Leads the Three-Star at Fair Hill
Elkton, MD, USA
by Amber Heintzberger

Karen O'Connor and her 2008 US Olympic team partner Mandiba were the only pair to break into the 30's in the dressage phase at the Dansko Fair Hill International CCI*** in Elkton, MD. The athletic 10-year-oldThoroughbred gelding owned by Joan Goswell has had a great year, winning several times out including recently at the Middleburg Horse Trials with Phillip Dutton in the irons, while O'Connor was recovering from an injury sustained on a motor bike five weeks ago.

Karen has not been sitting idly on the sidelines however: she has been observing as both Dutton and her husband, FEI President David O'Connor, have kept Mandiba in training. "My husband David and Phillip Dutton have been working the horse while I have been a student watching them from the ground," she said. "It has given me a better perspective on where Mandiba is right now and what he can do. It's been a while since I've been in this (top) position here at Fair Hill!"

John Williams and his wife Ellen's 10-year old Thoroughbred-cross, Sweepea Dean maintained second place with 42.6 penalties followed by Mara Dean on Nicki Henley and last year's winner, Californian Kelly Prather on Ballinakill Glory in third, who recently finished 16th at the World Cup Final in Poland.

Head trainer from The Fork Farm in North Carolina, Canadian Rebecca Howard took the lead in the two-star riding Roquefort, a Dutch warmblood/Thoroughbred cross onwed by The Fork Stables, with 42.2, followed by overnight leader Leslie Law from Great Britain riding his own Hugo Fast, a seven-year old English Thoroughbred, 45.3 penalties. Lauren Kieffer is breathing down his neck with 46.10 on Ultra Tim.

"He's a real worker, he tries so hard," said Howard. "This is his first CCI**. He wasn't bothered going last, I just had to figure out how to keep him warm today."

Turnout is excellent for the event this year with a record 73 entries in the two-star, which is only in its second year, and a record 66 entries in the three-star. The event is the US Equestrian Federation's fall eventing championship.

Wet and cold weather prevailed through the first two days of competition and there is no sunshine in sight as riders prepare for tomorrow's cross-country phase over a challenging course designed by Derek diGrazia and built by Eric Bull and crew.

The Spalding Labs/USEA Young Event Horse East Coast Championships wrapped up today with the Jumping Suitability and Potential phase of the competition. In the Four-year old Division, the Swedish warmblood/Thoroughbred Stallion Accolade had the top combined score of 84.65 for the three sections: Conformation and Type, Dressage, and Jumping Suitability and Potential.

Owner Hope Thomas and co-owner and rider Dr. Kim Keeton, DVM, were delighted with the stallion's performance. "We have been developing him slowly; we really just started him at the first of the year. The Young Event Horse program has really worked for him," said Dr. Keeton. "He's out of a Ribot-bred Thoroughbred mare-he's actually here because of a frozen semen experiment while I was in vet school!"

In the Five-year old Young Event Horse division, Matt Flynn rode the Dutch warmblood, BreakThrough, owned by his parents, Patrick and Kathleen Flynn, to a winning combined score of 80.22.

Flynn enthused, "This is a great program to showcase young horses. BreakThrough was bred in Ireland, and had done the Four-year old Show Jumping classes over there. We wanted to support the program here."

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