Boyd Martin and Tsetserleg Sail to Redemption with CCI 4*-S Win at The Fork

©Shannon Brinkman Photography

Boyd Martin and Tsetserleg sailed clear through the cross-country course to take top honors and conclude CCI 4*-S competition at The Fork at TIEC presented by Lucky Clays Farm at Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC). Martin stopped the timers in 6:47 to finish on a total score of 35.00, improving from a third place rank throughout the week. Felix Vogg and Colero earned second place after their clear cross-country effort to garner a score of 39.80, while Elisabeth Halliday-Sharp and Fernhill By Night completed the podium on a score of 40.00. Halliday-Sharp also collected fourth place awards aboard Deniro Z, with a final score of 41.70.

Twenty-six pairs tested the track set by Captain Mark Phillips, hosted on the White Oak Course at TIEC and mimicking the same course used for the FEI World Equestrian Games Tryon 2018 (WEG). Martin was happy for some redemption over a particular sailboat obstacle that he admitted was less distracting than in September: “At WEG I got the wrong ride in, plus there was a lot of other stuff around it to distract the horse and that wasn’t there today, so it was a little bit easier to get him over it today,” he explained. “But still, it was a good feeling getting over it and I got a big, big cheer from the crowd. I could distinctively hear the owner shrieking, Christine Turner, who has been a great supporter and I could hear her cheering on her horse,” said Martin. “It was good to get that behind [me] and come here, and to be honest the horse, Thomas, is a little bit more seasoned now and a little further on. He’s probably learned a little bit more in the last 12 months, so he feels a lot more seasoned now, so he’s a lot easier to ride.

“He’s not so distracted and I’ve learned how to ride him a bit differently and a bit better, too,” Martin continued of the 2007 Trakehner gelding owned by Christine Turner. “It was good to have a win because I had a bit of an awkward start to the year – just sort of bouncing around, a bit injured here and there, and missing a few shows, and it was good to win one, but [it’s] also good to always remember that some of the best horses here chose to run a bit slow to prepare for Kentucky, so we still got a little bit of work ahead of us. But he was good and strong in all three phases.”

Martin allowed that he did plan to go a bit quick due to missing some prior events in the year, but didn’t go “flat out.” He continued, I thought [he needed] a good run and a bit of a fitness run, but not to go so fast that you risk an injury or anything like that. He felt very, very strong around the whole track and was quite fit. He jumped really well and I think we’re in good shape.”

The White Oak Course, which hosted CCI 4*-S, CCI 3*-S, CCI 2*-S, Advanced, Intermediate, and Preliminary divisions for cross-country, is one that Martin knows very well. “I like it down there. It’s a really, really good track,” he elaborated. “It’s not as easy to ride as you think just because it’s an old golf course, so there’s all these little humps and lumps and the ground is not quite flat. So sometimes it’s a bit deceiving, especially on the galloping jumps, you think you see a good line and then it changes just a little bit just because the undulation of the ground.

Martin concluded, “It was good coming here just with a handful of horses and here for a few days just to concentrate and zero in on them. I think it’s a great show and a great preparation for Kentucky and a really good show for the young horses to get them ready. Obviously, I love this place. On top of that, I think Captain Mark Phillips is such a great course designer and he really knows how to build a good track. I think he’s building better tracks now than ever.”

Vogg was also aiming for another crack at the White Oak Course after WEG and analyzed that Colero “did a good job, but just needs more preparation for the jumps [on the way to them]. I tried to ride him a little bit differently than I did at WEG and I think the mistake at the water [at WEG] didn’t happen at the water, but I think it happened in the jumps before and I couldn’t prepare him that well. I saw it a bit different and rode him differently today and it worked out pretty well,” he recapped.

Having cruised through a competitive track at TIEC, Vogg is feeling well-prepared for his trip to Kentucky. “There’s always something to fix and some little stuff to do that I’ll try to get done in the next two weeks. It’s never perfect, but I’m pretty sure he’s more ready for Kentucky this year than last year, or maybe than he was for WEG,” Vogg conceded of the self-owned 2008 Westphalian gelding. “I think the course [at TIEC] is pretty difficult because it’s so quick between fences and so many things after each other, so I think Kentucky will be easier for Colero.”

Halliday-Sharp held on to her podium position in the aboard Fernhill By Night, the 2003 Irish Sport Horse gelding owned by Deborah Halliday, and finished just behind with Deniro Z in what she was hoping to use as a Kentucky schooling round. “Blackie [Fernhill By Night] was really, really good. He got a little bit sort of tired towards the end, but it would be quite an intense course for him. He hasn’t probably done a course that intense for a while, but I was really pleased. He got a little bit bogged down near where the squirrels were, but he fought for me there, and then he was just feeling like I was running out of push as I got near the end, so I chose the easier route through the water because I thought that was the right decision,” Halliday-Sharp recalled. “He really tried and he’s not a racing snake, so he did the best he could, so I’m pleased with where we ended up.”

“Deniro [Z] had a really great round and I was really, really happy, Halliday-Sharp described of her trip aboard the 2008 Dutch Warmblood gelding owned by the Deniro Syndicate & Ocala Horse Properties.”He was just so fast at Carolina, and a little bit wild, and the plan today was to really put the pieces in place 100% with Kentucky in mind.”

Halliday-Sharp was able to hear Martin’s time announced and knew she wasn’t going to be going “quite that fast,” she said. “I sort of went out with a plan and I think executed the plan exactly how I had planned, and I had a super round.” Though the plan was to go quick with Fernhill By Night and pay more attention to rideability than speed with Deniro Z, their times were within a second of each other in light of Deniro Z’s fitness, Halliday-Sharp revealed. “He was really ridable, and he made it feel easy. I was really thrilled and he finished fresh and never really got out of fourth gear, so it was great! I think I’ve got Deniro [Z] where I want him if I’m really honest.”

Of the course, Halliday-Sharp commented, “I really enjoyed that. It was a good course, it was a good, strong course, intense and basically what we needed before a 5*, so I thought it was perfect. It was a lot stronger than in previous years and I thought that was necessary, so it was good.”

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