A two-day eventing showcase in the USA’s winter equestrian capital has proven a big hit with spectators and competitors alike, who came from four nations to take part.
It was former Australian rider Boyd Martin who claimed victory for the USA with his new mount Blackfoot Mystery, in the $75,000 Asheville Regional Airport Wellington Eventing Showcase at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center at the weekend.
Martin topped the class of 35 with a final score of 30.60, ahead of Colleen Rutledge (USA) and Covert Rights with 31.00, while New Zealand’s Daniel Jocelyn catch-rode Devil Munchkin to third with a score of 32.30.
A large crowd of spectators and fans packed the Global Pavilion and lined the fences of the polo and derby fields used to host cross-country competition.
The event was the brainchild of Mark Bellissimo, managing partner of Tryon Equestrian Partners and Wellington Equestrian Partners, who said it was a “high-risk strategy” bringing eventing to the centre. “We hope to see this event grow, and I think we’re going to up the stakes a bit. We will increase the prize money to $100,000 and a big part of that is to reward the owners and the riders,” he said.
The talk of the event was the gallop through the Global Pavilion VIP tent, which dropped riders into the sand ring on the other side for their final fence before the finish line.
Martin and Blackfoot Mystery, owned by the Blackfoot Mystery Syndicate, jumped to an early lead after going clear in the show jumping phase around the difficult track set by Richard Jeffrey. They then continued fault-free on cross-country to earn a double clear effort. The cross-country track was designed by Captain Mark Phillips and was built by Eric Bull of ETB Equine Construction.
“This year was a much more competitive field, and it was definitely of a higher standard. The course was a bit tougher, and it was harder to win this year than last year. By saying that, I knew this horse I had, Blackfoot Mystery, had a good chance,” said Martin. “We’ve just purchased him thanks to a group of supporters and this is the first time a few of the owners have come to see him. [There are] not many better ways to impress our owners than to bring them to Wellington in this beautiful marquee and have this horse win. I was very pleased on all levels.”
Blackfoot Mystery, a 2004 Thoroughbred gelding (Out of Place x True Mystery), has come into his own with the experienced Martin. The pair were only one of eight clear efforts (no jumping or time faults) in the stadium round, which has been an aspect of training Martin has focused on since acquiring the talented gelding in July.
Colleen Rutledge and her impressive home-bred Covert Rights made another bold statement early in the season, adding this top finish to their list of accolades over the past two years. The 2006 Thoroughbred cross gelding (Black Fox Farm Incognito x Let’s Get It Right) has amassed two FEI CCI 4* finishes to its resume over the past two years and looks primed to take the international limelight again, as the duo are headed to the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day CCI 4*.
“The cross-country course was fabulous today,” Rutledge said. “I was so proud of the way that CR went out and ran. The amount that he’s grown up since Rolex last year is just leaps and bounds. He’s a completely different horse. This was just fantastic to run on and the course was great. It asked some very good questions and for me, this was my horse’s first run of the year. It was a fantastic start, and I’m just thrilled with everything. I’ve had a great time and a great run.”
Daniel Jocelyn was one of two non-US based riders representing the nation of New Zealand who made the trip to PBIEC to test the waters of the event. Tim Price also made the journey to Wellington to ride in the showcase. Both Jocelyn and Price currently reside in Britain and were paired with two catch rides for the event. Jocelyn made the most of his time aboard Devil Munchkin a 2008 Dutch Warmblood gelding (Casiro I x Rhona), owned by Sable Giesler. Jocelyn had sat on the gelding just once before entering the dressage ring on Friday afternoon. They added nothing to their original score of 32.30 for third place.
While the notion of catch riding may be intimidating to most, especially at the Advanced level, Jocelyn took the opportunity in stride, noting that he actually enjoys catch riding and felt prepared on both mounts. He also rode Win the War, owned by Jessica Bortner-Harris to 21st place.