Little Leads the CCI*** after Cross-Country at Fair Hill International
Shannon Brinkman Photo
It was a stellar day of cross-country at The Dutta Corp. Fair Hill International CCI in Fair Hill, Maryland. Blue bird skies and crisp temperatures graced Fair Hill as riders tacked up to run renowned course designer Derek di Grazia’s bold CCI*** and CCI** cross-country courses. Marilyn Little, a Frederick, Maryland native, held onto the lead in the USEF CCI*** Fall Championship, holding the top position with RF Demeter and as well as second with RF Scandalous. In the USEF CCI** Fall Championship, Jeannie Brannigan of West Grove, PA with Stella Artois took the lead heading into Sunday’s culminating show jumping phase.
Showcasing what powerhouses RF Demeter and RF Scandalous are on cross-country, Little maintained the lead, however switching the ranking of her mounts. RF Demeter, Little’s second ride of the day, left the start box sitting in second on her dressage score of 44.60. Running a double clear cross-country round, Little and RF Demeter made light work of the course to move into first place. RF Scandalous, the horse on whom Little won double gold medals at last year’s Pan American Games, also produced a brilliant performance, adding only 4.80 time penalties to their dressage score to drop to second place with a new score 46.30. As the scoreboard continued to shuffle throughout the day, Emily Beshear of Somerset, VA and Shame on the Moon rose from sixth to third with a score of 48.10 after adding 1.2 time penalties.
“Derek did a beautiful job presenting it for horses and I thought it rode well,” said Little. “I thought Demi was good from start to finish. She was focused and looking for the fences. I had a little cross country moment at the second water where she got a little slow but she picked herself up and off she went. That’s just her experience and heart. She gave me a great run round.”
On her round with RF Scandalous, Little remarked, “Scandalous is green to the level and got a little excited getting into the start box and had a hard time settling into a rhythm. It’s only her second run at the CCI*** level and it rode very true for her. She is a courageous horse and finished comfortably.” When asked about the advantage of having two horses in the top three, Little did not mince words and highlighted the importance of the partnership she has with both. “I would have loved to have ridden Demi (RF Demeter) first because there’s an invaluable partnership there. At the same time, RF Scandalous is very straight, adjustable and always wants to do a good job. I had a feeling that if I presented it well to her she would try to get the job done.”
Beshear also commented on the course and her partnership with Shame on the Moon. “She was super. She came out this year much bolder but less focused. I was a little more defensive in my riding at the end of the course than I needed to be but she was awesome. She had tons of gallop left. I feel like I got my girl back!”
With only nine double clear runs in the USEF CCI** Fall Championship, Brannigan brilliantly piloted Stella Artois around Di Grazia’s course producing a double clear round and moving into first place on her dressage score of 44.50. Emily Beshear and Silver Night Lady finished the day in second place after accruing only two time penalties for a total of 45.00. In third position is 2016 Rio Olympic veteran Lauren Kieffer of The Plains, VA, on the first of her two mounts in the CCI**, Landmark’s Monaco. They completed a double clear round and Kieffer will continue into Sunday’s show jumping phase on her dressage score of 45.80.
“My main goal was to give the horse (Stella Artois) a good go,” said Brannigan. “I think she is a three-day horse and has all the right stuff. She’s always been that horse that I feel is probably one of the most talented horses I have, but have yet to pull it all together. I’m happy, she’s a nice horse. I want the horse to have a good day and to prove she is of the grade.”
Beshear said of her ride on Silver Night Lady, “This is her first CCI**. I know when she gets tired she just keeps pulling and that is something I will work on for the future. I thought the course rode fantastic. It definitely encouraged forward riding and Derek gives you approaches to set the horse up and balance while riding forward.”
Show jumping for the USEF CCI** Fall Championship will start on Sunday at 10:30 a.m. and the USEF CCI*** Fall Championship will follow at 1:30 p.m.