CCI*** Fall Champion Marilyn Little with RF Scandalous. Photo by Shannon Brinkman
The final day of competition for The Dutta Corp./USEF Two- and Three-Star National Championships took center stage on Sunday at Fair Hill International. Winning the Three-Star title from a field of 48 horses were accepted during the first inspection was Marilyn Little with RF Scandalous. Little held the top two spots on the leaderboard throughout the weekend with RF Scandalous and RF Demeter. RF Scandalous ultimately won the National Championship while RF Demeter took Reserve Champion honors. In the Two-Star, Jennie Brannigan and Stella Artois bested 43 competitors with a foot-perfect in show jumping round to hold onto their overnight lead and earn The Dutta Corp./USEF Two-Star National Championship title.
Little (Frederick, Md.) began her successful weekend with solid dressage performances aboard both horses. On day one of dressage, Little rode a focused test with Jacqueline Mars, Robin Parsky, and Phoebe and Michael Manders' 2005 Oldenburg mare RF Scandalous, who was fluid and obedient throughout the test to score 41.50 for the lead. On day two, Little laid down another good test with Jacqueline Mars, Raylan Farms Inc., and Patrick Witte's 2002 Oldenburg mare, RF Demeter. Though a bit tense at times, the mare managed to earn a 44.50, putting Little one-two going into cross-country. RF Demeter cruised over the Derek di Grazia-designed course to remain on her dressage score and take over the lead.
A former Grand Prix level show jumping rider, Little took her time with RF Scandalous, as the mare is relatively new to this level, and added 4.80 in time penalties to her score to sit in second overall. RF Scandalous turned in a foot-perfect show jumping round on Sunday, though, to win top honors in The Dutta Corp./USEF Three-Star National Championship with a score of 46.30. Little's second ride of the day, RF Demeter, had an unlucky rail, dropping the pair from first to second, ending with a total of 48.60 and taking home Reserve Champion honors.
"I really couldn't of had a better day with those two," said Little of her winning mares after show jumping. "RF Scandalous was lovely out there. She showed what an exciting horse she is now and for the future." Commenting on her ride on RF Demeter, Little observed, "I truthfully thought it was Demi's weekend. It's just the way the chips fell but she's just as deserving and is truly an incredible horse and partner, and has made my time in eventing so special."
With rails causing problems for the top horse-and-rider combinations, Hannah Sue Burnett (Reddick, Fla.) piloted Mary Ann Ghadban's Under Suspection to a clean round to move the pair up from sixth to a third-place finish with a score of 49.60.
Brannigan Wins Two Star
In the CCI2*, Brannigan (Kennett Square, Pa.) brilliantly rode her own and Elsbeth Battel's Stella Artois throughout the weekend to win The Dutta Corp./USEF Two-Star National Championship on her dressage score of 44.50. On the strength of a double-clear cross-country round, Brannigan moved up from second going into Sunday's show jumping phase. The 2008 Holsteiner/Thoroughbred mare made light work of the Sally Ike-designed course to secure their title.
"With Toddie, (Stella Artois) it's a connection," said Brannigan. "I'm just thrilled. I had her overly fit for this event. I'm so happy; she jumped well. Even though I was feeling nervous going into it, she felt fit and ready to go."
Reserve Champion honors went to Emily Beshear (Somerset, Va.) and Deep Purple Eventing's 2006 Irish Sport Horse mare Silver Night Lady. The pair led after dressage thanks to a brilliant test that earned a score of 43.00. Adding two time penalties on cross-country, the pair slipped to second, but maintained its position on the leaderboard with a clear show jumping round to end the weekend on 45.00.
Beshear commented on her ride aboard Silver Night Lady, "I'm thrilled mostly for the group that's behind me, the Deep Purple Eventing group. My goal from the beginning was to get a two-star qualifier done this year. Coming here and finishing second really helps to make everyone realize the effort we all put in. To me it's balancing her out and keeping her focused in the ring without messing with her too much. She was jumping out of her skin. I'm certainly happy with that."
In third with a 45.80 was Lauren Kieffer (Ocala, Fla.) riding Jacqueline Mars homebred, Landmark's Monaco, to round out the top three in the Two-Star National Championship.
Earning the USEF Developing Rider National Championship as the top-placed rider in the CCI3* that has not completed a CCI4*, was Jenny Caras (Cartersville, Ga.) with her own Fernhill Fortitude. Chelsea Kolman (Versailles, Ky.) and her own Dauntless Courage won USEF Two-Star Young Rider National Championship while Matthew Flynn (Reddick, Fla.) and Flynn Sport Horses, LLC's Wizzerd took the USEF Young Horse National Championship.