Mara Dean First Off The Mark at Red Hills
Tallahassee, FL, USA
Riding her veteran 15-year-old Irish-bred Nicky Henley, who was coming back into competition after sustaining a tendon injury at the 2007 Pan-Am Games, Virginia-based Dean held off the always serious challenge of Phillip Dutton (USA), riding Truluck, 4th at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials (GBR) last year.
Big prize pot
She now stands an excellent chance of capturing part of the US$180,000 prize-pot which will be shared by the 15 most successful riders across the 12 events 2010 FEI World Cup Eventing accumulator series.
Dean, who has waited patiently for her horse's return to form, also might consider the forthcoming first leg of the HSBC FEI Classics, the Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event next month, but says: "Nicky Henley doesn't owe me anything. It would be nice, but I'll do whatever is best for him. It's just so nice to have him back."
Dean led the dressage with a score of 42.6 from Dutton, going on to post a clear Cross Country round for 9.2 time penalties over the course newly designed by locally-based Hugh Lochore (GBR), who has taken over from Capt. Mark Phillips (GBR).
She said: "It wasn't an easy course for him because of the twists and turns. He's a strong horse, but this was easily one of my best rides on him. He was looking for the flags and was really genuine and adjustable - for him!"
Lochore has been principle builder at Red Hills for 10 years, giving up his native Scotland to settle in the area, where he has married a local girl. He commented: "Mark Phillips involved me from the outset and has been instrumental in developing the courses to world class. He's left me with a good feeling for what can be achieved with this venue."
Will Coleman (USA) on Nevada Bay moved up five places to 3rd with the fastest Cross Country (6.4 penalties). Ten riders completed this phase, with 3 eliminated and 2 withdrawn.
Dean added a Jumping rail down and 4 time penalties in the final phase, but was lucky that, although Dutton had jumped clear, he'd accumulated 5 time penalties.
The Jumping course, designed by Fuzzy Mayo (USA), who has been in the trade for 41 years, was challenging, with tight turns, differing terrain - Will Coleman (USA), 3rd on Nevada Bay, was the only rider not to incur time penalties - and plenty of atmosphere as a good crowd lined the arena, anxious to spot clues for Kentucky.
Dutton commented: "It's good for us riders to get the experience and be in front of a crowd and on a galloping stage. The arena creates quite an atmosphere with the crowd surrounding it. This is a wonderful event."
"I had a little bit of panic in the middle," admitted Dean, who jumps Nicky Henley in a hackamore. "You definitely had to think the course through and keep the horse careful, but forward. It was good and testing."
"My win hasn't sunk in. I'm just so thankful to have the horse back. Winning a 3-star is amazing. Not in my wildest dreams did I think I'd be back here."
Results and Standings
1 Mara Dean/Nicky Henley (USA) 59.8 - 71 points
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