Mill Spring, N.C. – The championship title came down to a single rail in the show jumping phase of the 2020 Buckeye Nutrition USEF CCI4*-L Eventing National Championship on Sunday at the MARS Tryon International Three-Day Event. With the top five combinations finishing cross-country within four points of each other, the pressure was on for overnight leaders Elisabeth Halliday-Sharp and Deniro Z. They almost had the win in the bag until that one costly rail on the final fence.
Halliday-Sharp’s loss was Boyd Martin’s gain, as he and Christine Turner’s 12-year-old Trakehner gelding, Tsetserleg TSF, turned in a double clear round to take over the top spot and the National Champion title with a final score of 28.10. As the top finishing U.S. competitor in the CCI4*-L Eventing National Championship, Martin is awarded the Guy V. Henry Memorial Trophy and Martin and Turner are awarded the Gladstone Challenge Trophy.
Martin (Cochransville, Penn.) had three horses in the CCI4*-L, and after disappointing rounds with his first two, Thomas’s honest go around the course was an extra sweet victory.
“I had the old campaigner last, and Thomas went in and jumped like a champion,” said Martin. “The show jumping has been his weak phase over the years, and we’ve worked pretty hard at it. It’s very satisfying to get a good round out of him under pressure.I think that Thomas performs better when there’s pressure. I’m not sure if he knows which events are important, but he seems to do really well in dressage, cross-country, and show jumping when we need him.”
Phillip Dutton (West Grove, Penn.) and Z, a 12-year-old Zangersheide gelding owned by Thomas Tierney, Simon Roosevelt, Suzanne Lacy, Ann Jones, and Caroline Moran, also produced a double clear show jumping round to maintain their score of 28.8 and move into second place.
“I’m really pleased with Z,” said Dutton. “He tends to get a little wound up in the ring, but we spent a lot of time doing jumper shows and figuring out ways to kind of settle him down. I thought he was spectacular today.”
Woods Baughman (Lexington, Ky.) and C’est La Vie 135, last year’s CCI3*-L National Champions, were double clear on cross-country and show jumping, adding nothing to their dressage score of 29.10 and clocking a third place finish.
“The horse is amazing,” said Baughman of the 12-year-old Hanoverian gelding he co-owns with his parents, Kim and James Baughman. “He just comes out in all three phases and I can really trust him. I just point him and he never lets me down. Start to finish, he just came out swinging and really hung on to it.”
Martin and Dutton, who are veteran Olympic and World Equestrian Games competitors, both said that the pressure of being at the top of the leaderboard heading into the final day of competition doesn’t faze them too much. But Baughman, a relative rookie at the CCI4* level, admitted that he had some nerves before entering the ring on Sunday.
“I was definitely pretty nervous this morning. I skipped breakfast,” Baughman said with a laugh. “But I know if I just let [C’est La Vie] do his thing, stay out of his way, and keep my position, he’ll pull it out.”
The MARS Tryon International Three-Day Event came about after the cancellation of other events due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and all three top finishers expressed their gratitude to the Tryon International Equestrian Center for hosting the event and ensuring a safe venue for their horses.
“I think they did an amazing job,” said Baughman. “I showed up here on Tuesday and it was down pouring and flooding. I thought, ‘they’re going tocancel cross country.’ By the time we actually ran, the footing was great.”
“It’s so great for the sport and the riders and the horses that Tryon stepped up and did this,” said Dutton. “This is a very unique venue and we’re lucky to have it.”
Martin expressed his hope that the event becomes a permanent addition to the fall eventing calendar.
“I think Tryon is one of the best venues in the world,” said Martin. “I can’t tell you how much we appreciate all the guys out there making the cross-country course as horse-friendly as possible. I’ve been lucky enough to compete all over the world, and I’ve never seen so many people pull together to make the conditions fair for the horses.”
Watch the 2020 Buckeye Nutrition USEF CCI4*-L Eventing National Championship on-demand on USEF Network.