Oct. 20—Elkton, Md.
Hannah Burnett has never made time at advanced with Harbour Pilot. So she was shocked to discover she’d finished fastest in the three-star division at the Dansko Fair Hill International, coming in 18 seconds under the optimum time of 10:00 minutes.
Her double-clean round kept her in first place and gave her more than a rail in hand over second-placed rider Marilyn Little, who kept her dressage placing with 3.6 time penalties on RF Smoke On The Water. Phillip Dutton moved up from 11th place to third with Fernhill Eagle with the second-fastest three-star ride of the day.
“He gallops loftier, so I don’t feel like I’m going very fast on him, which is why I went so fast!” explained Burnett. “My goal was to just go out and get a rhythm and not take back in front of the fences.”
Asked to compare “William” to her other Fair Hill three-star winner, St. Barths (2010), Burnett, 26, said “Nike” was very businesslike, while William, a 9-year-old Irish Sport Horse (Cruising—Shannon) owned by Jacqueline Mars, was greener and looked at the crowd. “I have to kick William on to get him focused on what he’s supposed to do at that moment,” she explained. “He was pretty difficult as a young horse. David [O’Connor] rode him for a full year, which is saying something. He was very quirky and quite an individual. He’s the type of horse, where, four years ago, we weren’t so sure about him, but every time we move him up, he keeps going and keeps impressing us.”
Little was also dealing with a green horse on course, as RF Smoke On The Water is only 7. “I started out a little slow, which wouldn’t have been my first pick,” she said. “David [O’Connor] said give him some time in the beginning. It was pretty hard to make it back at the end of the day.”
Despite her time penalties, Little, of Frederick, Md., was thrilled with how the Wurttemberg gelding (Samos—Rapaula, Rapaulo) answered all the questions course designer Derek di Grazia asked. “I thought the general theme was that the horses were coming out of it quite a bit more confidently than they went into it, which was a fantastic thing for a three-star at this time of year, to leave the horses confident but challenged,” she said. “It’s a great way to leave them. I’m really pleased with the day.”
Watch a video of Little discussing how far she's come in two years and how she handles the heartbreak of horse sport.
In contrast, Dutton said he expected Fernhill Eagle would jump around easily. “He’s done a couple of four-stars,” he said.
Dutton did mention that he was unhappy with one combination on course, the Winery Complex at fence 23, where riders jumped a rolltop, then headed under an open structure with a roof before making a sharp right-handed turn to a brush at the B element. “Apart from that it was a good learning day for the horses and riders, and the footing held up great,” said the four-time winner of the event. “Fair Hill should be pretty proud and pleased with themselves.”
No riders had any issues at 23.
Heavy rain overnight meant the day started off quite wet, but the advanced horses didn’t head out on course until 1:10 p.m., and by that time the footing appeared to be in excellent condition.
Of the 32 riders who left the start box, 23 finished. Will Faudree was the only rider to fall, taking a tumble off DHI Colour Candy at fence 5, the Springhouse Water. Although he was very sore after his fall and had to withdraw his later ride Pawlow, Faudree suffered no serious injuries. Six riders retired after stops on course. Selena O’Hanlon and A First Romance were eliminated for refusals at fence 11, the Farmyard Corners, and Danica Moore and Utah B were eliminated for cumulative stops around the course.
Heather Gillette, who had been in third after dressage with Our Questionnaire, moved down to 13th with 20.8 time penalties. On the other hand, Lainey Ashker, who finished 20th after dressage, was able to move up to fifth on Anthony Patch with a double-clean round. Daniel Clasing made a similar leap up the leaderboard from 22nd to sixth.
The standings in the two-star shifted quite a bit as Jennie Brannigan was able to jump into the lead on Indie with one of only four double clears in the division. She moved up from fifth place, but young rider Connor Husain, 19, who also claimed individual gold at the Adequan North American Junior and Young Rider Championships in the two-star division this summer, is hot on her heels. He was tied with Brannigan after dressage and finished only 2 seconds over the time, so he’ll head into show jumping just .8 penalties behind her.
Brannigan, 25, went out on cross-country with the goal of being aggressive. “I’ve had Indie from the beginning, and he can be a bit spooky. Phillip [Dutton] was in warm-up, and he helped me get him in front of my leg,” she said. “He felt more confident as the course went on, and he’s actually quite a quick horse, so I found the time pretty doable for him. I felt like he got better and better as he went around.”
The 7-year-old gelding (Vechta—Indulga, Conveyor) belongs to Nina Gardner and was bred at William and Pippa Funnell’s Billy Stud. Brannigan started competing him in 2010 when she bought him from Kelli Temple and Carl Bouckaert. They moved up to intermediate last year.
Husain was delighted to find himself in second. “It’s unreal. I just wanted to come here and have a really positive ride and do well in the young rider placings. To be on the top of the leaderboard after cross-country is a dream come true,” said the sophomore at George Mason University (Va.). “ ‘Bruno’ is a really good galloping horse, so it was a really good course for him with the long gallop stretches. It was a little muddy, and I haven’t really ridden him in anything like that before, so he kind of just held my hand through it.”
He rides with Skyeler Voss, who trains out of Husain’s family’s Morningside Training Farm in The Plains, Va. Watch a video of Husain describing how he felt on cross-country day and why he trusts Bruno to help him get the job done.
Of the 58 two-star starters, 54 finished. Four riders finished clean and inside the time, while 40 finished without jumping penalty. Jan Byyny retired Why Not after stops at fence 7, the Chesapeake Water. Ashley MacVaugh retired Fernhill Can Do after refusals at fence 4, the Sneaky Snake, and fence 11, the Steeplechase Angle. Lara Borson-Knight was eliminated with Shooby Do after four stops on course.
Jessica Phoenix and Erodium suffered the only horse fall of the day. Erodium hung a leg at the C element of the Springhouse Water, fence 20, but neither one was badly hurt. Dressage leader Susan Beebee incurred 9.6 time penalties on Wolf, which dropped her down to eighth.
The final horse inspection will take place at 8 a.m. tomorrow morning, and show jumping begins at 10 in the two-star.