Dutton Saves the Best for Last in the Adequan USEA Gold Cup & PRO Tour Series CIC3* Division at The Fork

RELEASE: April 6, 2013

This article was originally published at

Phillip Dutton and Mighty Nice lead the Adequan USEA Gold Cup & PRO Tour Series CIC3* division after dressage (Leslie Threlkeld/USEA Photo)
Phillip Dutton and Mighty Nice lead the Adequan USEA Gold Cup & PRO Tour Series CIC3* division after dressage (Leslie Threlkeld/USEA Photo)
Though the day remained mostly cloudy with the sun making brief appearances, today's weather was much more pleasant than yesterday, and the CIC3* division wrapped up dressage with close scores, many ties, and an exciting two days of jumping to come. Phillip Dutton, competing three horses in the Adequan USEA Gold Cup and PRO Tour Series CIC3* division, topped off a day packed with phenomenal performances when he and Bruce Duchossois’ 9-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding Mighty Nice entered the ring as the last ride of the day, and left as leaders on a score of 44.7.

“I’m obviously very pleased. I rode him reasonably conservatively and erred on the side of softness and relaxation rather than if I gave him more movement, there is a little more tension there,” Phillip said. “The three-star level test is pretty standard and easy for him where a year ago he was working pretty hard.”

Michael Barisone and David O’Connor have both been helping Phillip this weekend and leading up to Rolex. “It’s great for me to have a horse like this. I know he’s going to be good so I’ve just got to train him well and ride him well.”

Phillip and Tom Tierney’s 9-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding Atlas, currently tied for 14th, competed yesterday “during the pouring rain. He’s getting there. He’s not quite as established as Mighty Nice, but I think this time next year he will be a super horse.” Phillip is also 17th in the three-star with Thomas Tierney and Ann L. Jones’ 8-year-old Dutch Warmblood, Fernhill Fugitive, and 14th in Advanced riding Team Rebecca’s 13-year-old Irish Sport Horse, Fernhill Eagle.

The leaders after lunchtime were Lynn Symansky and her own 10-year-old Thoroughbred gelding Donner. It looked like they might hang on to the top spot throughout the afternoon before Phillip entered the ring with Mighty Nice. Ending up second with a 46.4, Lynn was thrilled with her horse.  “He’s gotten a lot better this year. He’s getting stronger and he’s more mature. He’s just a tight horse that is very sound sensitive and can be a little spooky,” Lynn said.

Making matters more impressive, Lynn is riding with a spiral fracture to her pinky on her right hand. She is nevertheless aiming for Rolex at the end of the month. She laughed that maybe having a broken finger helps better her score. “I don’t think the horse noticed it. He’ll probably notice it tomorrow because I have a hard time holding onto the reins. It’s a stupid appendage to break because it seems like you don’t need it that much. The biggest thing I think will be going down drops just trying to get my reins back. I don’t think it will be as much of an issue here as it will in a few more weeks.”

Lying third in both the CIC3* and CIC2* is Marilyn Little with RF Smoke on the Water and RF Black Pearl, respectively. “Horses that went today really had an advantage. Yesterday was the worst possible conditions in a lot of ways, freezing rain for some. One of mine went yesterday and she was absolutely frozen. It was hard to get the same movement out of them that you might have been able to get today. Smoke was lucky enough to go today and quite fresh, but he is maturing nicely whereas a year ago that freshness we might not have been able to cope with. He handled it pretty well and he turned it into power in the ring instead of a loss of attention,” Marilyn said.

The Fork is only Marilyn’s second competition with RF Black Pearl, an 8-year-old Holsteiner mare owned by Company Raylyn Farms. “I was much happier with this performance than at Red Hills. I was coming into that pretty new so the things that were most important to work on, we attacked those and hopefully will keep building from there. She’s a really special mover so I think the challenge is really to leave that alone and get the discipline and accuracy.”

Fresh from an Intermediate win at Southern Pines, Caitlin Silliman and Remington XXV, a 17-year-old Hanoverian owned by Densey Juvonen, sit in first after dressage in the CIC2* division with a 42.8. “I’m very lucky to have him. It’s a pretty big learning curve. He’s obviously a very experienced horse; he’s been all over the world. It’s different to be able to go in the ring and really ride the test out of the horse. He knows what he’s doing and you can go in there and sort of go for it a little bit. It’s definitely training me to go in there and ride for every point out there,” Caitlin said.

In the CIC3* Caitlin was pleased with her and Bradford Johnson’s Holsteiner mare Catch a Star, whom she is aiming towards both her and the horse’s first four-star competition at Rolex. “We are both still so green in the three-star test, and I think this time next year we’ll be able to put in a really solid test. But it’s definitely the best one she’s done so far. So going into Rolex I was pretty pleased with that because she can be pretty hot, but she kept it together today. She was great.”

Although Caitlin and Remington are both qualified for a four-star individually, they are not qualified together and thus Remington will not come Rolex with Catch a Star. “It was a little disappointing at first,” Caitlin said. “But I think now it will be better getting to know him at the Intermediate level since I have to do a two-star on him, and then hopefully we’ll shoot for a three-star in the fall.”

The New CIC Format and The Fork as a Rolex Prep Run

One of the biggest topics of conversation this weekend is the new CIC format, which runs show jumping after dressage and cross-country in reverse order of go as the last phase. Opinions differ, often depending on the horse a rider is competing and its level of training.

“I don’t particularly like show jumping the horse after they’ve run cross-country,” Phillip said. “To me it’s a better show jumping experience if they haven’t galloped and aren’t stiff and sore. I like this—I think it’s a good way to train the horse. Obviously the ultimate test is a CCI and they have to jump after the cross-country, and as riders and trainers we have to learn how to ride a tired horse in the show jumping phase.”

Lynn prefers the CCI format for Donner. “He can be a tight horse and a bit spooky, and show jumping first can actually back him off a bit more on the cross-country.” To accommodate, she plans to gallop in the morning before the show jumping test.

According to Caitlin, both of her horses are easier to show jump when they are fresh and confident, “so training-wise at a CIC, it’s good to show jump first for a good experience.”

Though thoughts on the format vary, one thing most can agree on is the cross-country course, designed for the first time by Tremaine Cooper. “It’s changed considerably,” Phillip said. “It looks nice.”

Marilyn echoed the same sentiment more specifically: “The footing is great, and the course is beautifully designed. This is a great springboard for wherever you’re going to go for the rest of the summer. It’s a good time to know what you have. There are some questions that are obviously very pointed to Rolex. The water is hard enough, but if there was a mistake there is time for recovery, but it’s challenging. It’s ominous looking enough coming up to it you’ll know what you have in terms of boldness…and the coffin is accuracy, forward, it’s just a smaller version of what you have at Rolex. So it’s a great prep, and if this doesn’t go well you know you have some work to do before the end of the month.”

Though he is leading for now with show jumping still to come, Phillip does not intend to push for time on Sunday with Mighty Nice since his next stop is Rolex. “He will definitely get time faults Sunday. He can be a little bit arrogant on the cross-country and thinks he knows it all and can be strong,” Phillip said. “The best thing for the horse before Rolex will be to go around quietly and slow and respect the jumps and not get too aggressive.”

Lynn will utilize the hills and give Donner a good fitness run. Marilyn has the same idea with RF Smoke on the Water, an 8-year-old Wurttemburg gelding owned by Michael and Phoebe Manders and Raylyn Farms, Inc., but she will probably work a little harder to make time. The pair is entered at Rolex but Marilyn is hoping to receive a grant to compete at Saumur in France. “I want to really know what I have right now. So I expect him to gallop for the time. Same thing for RF Demeter—she’s going to Rolex,” Marilyn said.

Alexandra Knowles and Last Call are also aiming for Rolex, but the pair is already qualified and opted to have a final run in the Advanced division instead, which shares several cross-country questions with the three-star. “The difference mostly is that the Advanced has the option of taking the three-star line or the slightly easier line, and then obviously the three-star has to take that direct line. So I will take the direct lines and make sure what I feel like I have underneath me is as accurate as I think it is just as a final prep,” Alexandra said.

Last Call, a 13-year-old Mecklenburg mare owned by Alexandra and Christie Campbell, has returned to competition after having 2012 off due to an injury. “She came out guns blazing this winter. I think she is all around better, fitter, and more focused and quicker in her reaction times. I think that I’ve also improved in our time apart, so I think that we’ve come back as a stronger team.”

Putting in a lofty, relaxed test on Thursday, Alexandra and Last Call lead the Advanced division with a 29.4, but Alexandra is keeping Rolex in perspective as this weekend’s competition continues. “I know the task at hand and why I came here, and that was far more for cross-country than it was for show jumping and dressage.”

For full results from The Fork, check Event Entries Live Scoring.