Mill Spring, N.C. – With a clean and fast trip around the White Oak cross-country course at the Tryon International Equestrian Center on Saturday, Liz Halliday-Sharp (Lexington, Ky.) and Ocala Horse Properties’ 12-year-old KWPN gelding Deniro Z, added just 1.60 time penalties to their score in the 2020 Buckeye Nutrition USEF CCI4*-L Eventing National Championship, moving from second place to first after the second day of competition.
“Deniro is amazing, and I have a really great partnership with him, which makes a big difference,” said Halliday-Sharp. “He was phenomenal. Every combination rode the way I planned and he didn’t make it feel hard. I feel like it was a really great day because he finished feeling like, ‘oh, that was easy!’ He was super fresh when we finished, and I’m thrilled with it.”
Boyd Martin (Cochranville, Penn.) and Christine Turner’s 12-year-old Trakehner gelding, Tsetserleg, also added just 1.60 time penalties to stay close on Halliday-Sharp’s tail, moving from second to third on the leaderboard. Martin has three horses in the CCI4*-L, and his ride with Tsetserleg was his final go of the day.
“I had a couple of trips around already with On Cue and Blackfoot Mystery, so I sort of knew the spots that were quite deep and muddy and I really chose to slow down and protect Thomas in those dodgy areas,” said Martin. “He’s such a seasoned veteran now and he actually did the course quite easily. We haven’t really had these marquee events to go to, so it’s fantastic coming to Tryon and giving it a good crack yesterday in the dressage and having a nice run today.”
While the weather conditions on Saturday were ideal for cross-country, rain in the days leading up to the MARS Tryon International Three-Day Event brought questions about how well the track would hold up. Martin credits the grounds crew at the Tryon International Equestrian Center for putting in the work to make the course run as well as it did.
“The amount of effort that has gone into making this course rideable today is unbelievable,” said Martin. “It’s just brilliant seeing how many people care about the horses’ health and do everything they can [to make the course safe]. It’s greatly appreciated because it’s nice to win these competitions, but it’s more important that the horses are healthy afterwards. I think all the riders should buy [the grounds crew] a beer tonight.”
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, turned in one of the few double clear trips of the day in the CCI4*-L, sending them up from a tie for 12th place after dressage to third place heading into the final phase.
“Z was absolutely a superstar and jumped it all pretty easily,” said Dutton. “It’s exciting that he’s able to get the time when the conditions weren’t that ideal at the end…He’s a good athletic horse; he loves the cross-country.”
A total of eight combinations in the CCI4*-L turned in double clear cross-country rounds, and only eight pairs added jumping penalties to their scores. However, Captain Mark Phillips’ course did prove influential, with several riders opting to retire after difficulties on course, opening the door to some big shifts on the leaderboard heading into the final phase.
Competition in the 2020 Buckeye Nutrition USEF CCI4*-L Eventing National Championship will conclude on Sunday with the show jumping phase beginning at 10:30 a.m. EST.
Watch the 2020 Buckeye Nutrition USEF CCI4*-L Eventing National Championship live and on-demand on USEF Network.