by Katherine O. Rizzo
Twenty-six riders headed down center line this past week at the MARS Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill in the CCI5* division with Brittan’s Oliver Townend leading after the dressage phase. He rode Cooley Rosalent to a 23.1 with fellow Brits Piggy March in second with Brookfield Cavalier Cruise and William Fox-Pitt in third riding Grafennacht.
As expected at this level of competition, the cross-country course on Saturday, October 21 shook up the standings a bit with Townend keeping the lead but Fox-Pitt moving into second and U.S. rider Mia Farley moving into the third place spot with Phelps. Farley jumped double clean that day at her first ever five-star event. Just behind her in the standings was Irish rider Austin O’Connor aboard Colorado Blue.
O’Connor put in a perfect show jump round on Sunday, October 22 with Colorado Blue, putting pressure on the three riders left to go in the division. Farley had two rails down with Phelps, which dropped them to fifth place overall. Fox-Pitt dropped a rail with Gradennacht but remained in second place. Townend and Cooley Rosalent had two rails to drop down into third moving O’Connor into the winner’s circle.
O’Connor, who has represented Ireland in three Olympic Games, has had a long partnership with Colorado Blue, a 2009 Great Britain Sport Horse owned by The Salty Syndicate. Before the Maryland 5 Star, the pair had competed in three CCI5* since 2022 as well as the 2021 Toyko Olympics and the 2022 FEI Eventing World Championship. “He’s an unbelievable horse. He’s a proper, proper five-star event horse,” O’Connor stated in yesterday’s press conference.
The pair retired on cross-county at Burghley and rerouted to Maryland after a personal invitation from Maryland 5 Star committee member Tim Gardner. “When I was having a little bit of a down moment at Burghley, [he] put his arm around me and said, ‘You gotta bring Salty to Maryland’,” O’Connor said. “He was the man that convinced us to come here and I believed him and I’m delighted.”
O’Connor’s win marks the first time an Irish event rider has won a CCI5* in nearly six decades.
Maryland-bred Quantum Leap, bred by Elizabeth Callahan, finished in the top 10 in the CCI5* with U.S. eventer Doug Payne (NC). The pair scored a 35.9 in dressage to go into the cross-country phase in 16th place. After jumping clean on cross-country with a little bit of time faults they moved up into 11th place. Payne and Quantum Leap dropped one rail in show jumping to finish eighth overall.
Former Marylander Lillian Heard Wood, a Seneca Valley Pony Club “A” graduate, was in 17th place after dressage with her longtime five-star mount LCC Barnaby. Despite 24.4 faults on cross-country, the pair moved into 12th place heading into show jumping. One rail in show jumping had them finishing on a 64.8 for 10th place.
Unfortunately, Maryland rider Sydney Solomon of Dayton retired on cross-county after Early Review C had some trouble at the big crab water complex.
Fulton Finishes Third in CCI3*
Maryland was represented well in the CCI3* with Finksburg rider Savannah Fulton scoring a 31.4 in dressage to sit in eighth place before cross-country with Cash Point. The pair competed last year in this same division and Cash Point clearly has grown a lot in the past year having a perfect cross-country trip on Saturday, October 21. The pair jumped fault free on Sunday, October 22 to finish third in the CCI3* on a final score of 31.4.
The division was won by U.S. rider Caroline Pamukcu on HSH Connor. The pair lead from start to finish ending on their dressage score of 25.4. Lauren Nicholson rode Larcot Z to second place.
Fellow Marylander Ema Klugman of Clarskburg rode Slieve Callan Alpha to 23rd place overall while Sarah Cousins and Wizard (partially owned by Marylanders as part of the OTTB Syndicate) finished 28th.
There were three Maryland-bred horses in the CCI3* this year with Charmed Victory earning the highest overall ranking. The 2013 Thoroughbred gelding, bred by Sycamore Hall Thoroughbreds, was ridden to 23rd place by Erin Kanara. Brigantine, a 2009 Holsteiner mare bred by Elizabeth Callahan, finished 32nd with Stefanie Mazza in the irons. Phillip Dutton withdrew Lincoln’s Address, a 2016 Thoroughbred gelding bred by Larry Johnson, before cross-country.