by Katherine O. Rizzo with photos by Amy Flemming Waters and Chelsea Spear

With the afternoon forecast calling for strong winds and thunderstorms, the Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill officials moved up the start times for Saturday’s (October 16) cross-country schedule. The CCI3* competition lead the day with a 9 a.m. start and the time between each rider’s start was condensed. The CCI5* began almost a full hour earlier than scheduled with all but the last two riders starting before the rain rolled in.

Course designer Ian Stark laid out two championship level courses over the ever-undulating terrain that is Fair Hill. Both courses started up near the main arenas in the new Fair Hill Event Zone with the five-star course finishing near the star and the shorter three-star course finishing near the bottom of the Saw Mill field. Statistics being shared on social media before the event showed that the terrain changes and uphill climbs on these courses were greater than those at Burghley five-star in England and the five-star at Kentucky.

The forecast however did not deter the crowds of people who flocked to the Fair Hill Natural Resources Management Area in Elkton to watch the first ever running of a five-star in Maryland. Maryland 5 Star officials estimate the attendance being over 10,000 spectators. A popular highlight of the spectator experience seemed to be the Maryland 5 Star Beer, Wine & Spirits Showcase that was set up behind the main grandstand and offered tasting from local breweries, wineries and distilleries. The Vendor Village was also a fairly busy place throughout the day with plenty of options for both horsey and non-horsey shoppers.

Daniel Clasing & Olney Uncle Sam move into second place in the CCI3*.

The CCI3* course had 36 jumping efforts spread out over 4,625 meters with an optimum time of 8 minutes, 25 seconds. There were 30 clean jumping rounds but only 18 of the 49 starters completed the course with no jumping or speed faults. One of those starters was Daniel Clasing (VA) riding the Maryland-bred Olney Uncle Sam. The pair completed the course fault free in 8 minutes, 19 second to move up into the number two spot.

Clasing said at the afternoon press conference, “I’m thrilled to be in second. I thought the horse was really good. It maybe wasn’t the cleanest round we’ve ever had, but he’s a phenomenal horse and can do things really easily.”

Oliver Townend and Juli Hutchings Sebring’s Ulises also jumped clean on a time of 8 minutes, 23 seconds. They moved up from 10th place to seventh.

The big bugaboo fence on the course seemed to be the Four Star Trailers Double Brushes at fence 10AB where there were a total of five horses with one stop and three that had two stops. Four riders elected to retire at this point in the course after multiple stops. One of these riders was Sydney Solomon of Oxford riding Mactan. The pair had a strong start on the course and made the tricky Rolltop to Trakehner at fence 4AB look easy before pulling up at the Double Brushes.

Former Marylander Lillian Heard (PA) also elected to retire on course with Cooley Gentleman. The pair had a run out at the B element in the Fox Mill Farm Foundation Ban at 15 before retiring near the end of the course at 19A, the Open Oxer.

Kurt Martin (VA) continues to lead the division with D.A. Lifetime. The pair jumped clean and inside the time to remain on a 23.5 going into the final phase of competition… show jumping on Sunday (October 17). Caroline Martin (PA) rode HSH Vamonos to a clean jump round but added two time faults to stay in third place.

Valerie Pride & Favian jumping the first element of the Maryland Crab Water at 15ABCDE.

The inaugural Maryland 5 Star CCI5* course contained 43 jumping efforts over 6,270 meters. Optimum time was exactly 11 minutes with exactly 11 competitors finishing with no jump and no time faults. Overall, there were 26 clean jumping rounds out of the 42 starters. Six were eliminated, one retired on course and there were three fall of riders and three fall of horses.

One of those rider falls was Colleen Rutledge of Frederick who popped of Covert Rights at the A element of the 4AB Viaduct to Ditch Brush combination. Both horse and rider walked away from the fall unharmed.

Ema Klugman of Clarksburg was having a gorgeous run with Bendigo until the second to last fence when they had a stop at 27B in the Brown Advisory Oriole Bird Water. Klugman elected to retire at this point and hopped off Bendigo to walk him back to stabling. She reported on social media that Bendigo “ran out of puff in the later stages of the course. I retired and got off at the final water” and stated that both she and Bendigo are “absolutely fine.”

Heard had a stellar round on her five-star mount LCC Barnaby jumping clean and nearly within optimum time. They ended the day six seconds over, which added 2.4 time faults to their score. The pair head into the final jog and show jumping sitting in 14th place on a score of 35.4.

Valerie Pride of Harwood had a flawless jump round aboard Favian to complete the pair’s first CCI5* cross-country course. Although Pride admitted that “no one knew what to expect and that had me so nervous in all of my final preparations,” she told The Equiery, “Favian rose to the occasion and then some! He was a little too impressed by the tailgating [along the gallop lanes] until the first water and then kicked it into gear.”

Pride and Favian finished the day just outside the time adding 12.4 time faults to their score. They remain in 23rd place. “I had plenty of horse left at the end and am looking forward to a strong finish tomorrow!” she added.

The top of the five-star leaderboard remains the same after cross-country with the top three riders jumping double clean. Oliver Townend (GB) and Cooley Master Class are in first followed by Tim Price (NZ) on Xavier Faer in second and Boyd Martin (PA) in third with On Cue.

The final horse inspection begins at 8 a.m. Sunday (October 17) morning followed by the CCI3* show jumping at 10 a.m. and the CCI5* show jumping later in the day at 1 p.m.

Don’t forget to check out more photos from cross-country day on The Equiery’s Facebook and Instagram pages.