Aiken, South Carolina – Sept. 26, 2020 – After two pairs withdrew overnight from the Oktoberfest CCI4*-S at Stable View, there were 38 pairs to see gallop out of the start box on cross country on Saturday. The scores were tight following show jumping on Friday, leaving little room for error across Captain Mark Phillips‘ 35-element course if riders wanted to hold onto their current ranking.
Time played a significant factor throughout the day, and there were no rounds without time penalties when the day drew to a close. Tidiness and efficiency were to be the name of the game as riders fought through the finish to cross the flags as close to optimum time as possible. Of the original 38, only 35 would cross the finish line, however, as we saw one rider fall, one elimination, and one retirement on course.
There was quite a bit of movement all morning long with the biggest leap on the leaderboard going to Colleen Rutledge (USA) and Covert Rights, who were sitting in 17th following show jumping, but closed out the day in 6th after crossing the finish flags with only 3.20 time penalties to finish on a score of 38.30. The rider to finish the closest to optimum time was Zoe Crawford (USA) riding K.E.C. Zara, who came in just 2 seconds over time to place 10th on a score of 39.30.
Overnight leader Liz Halliday-Sharp made it clear that she was looking to hold her lead to bring home the win today with longtime partner Fernhill By Night, but with scores so tight, there was definitely room for other riders to move around on the leaderboard. The pair went later in the morning, and after closing out the clocks just 4.80 seconds over time, the door was left open for Doug Payne (USA) and Quantum Leap or Clayton Fredericks (AUS) and FE Always In Time who were both sitting on a 28.30 to gallop ahead in the standings with zero time penalties. While they both performed brilliantly across the country, both closed out the day with a bit of time, solidifying the win for Halliday-Sharp.
On her round today, Halliday-Sharp shared with Phelps Sports: “He was outstanding. I was so proud of him. It is just so nice because we have such a nice partnership now. We’ve been together nine years. He just went out there and fought for me the entire way, and we had a really tidy round. I went as fast as I could without doing something that wasn’t fair to the horse because he definitely likes to get ridden the right way. I definitely couldn’t have pulled the trigger any more than I did. He deserves the win.”
Following his big win, “Blackie” will get the remainder of the season off, but things won’t slow down for Halliday-Sharp. She returns home to her new home base in Lexington, Kentucky, for the Hagyard Midsouth Three-Day Event at the Kentucky Horse Park, followed by competing at Chatt Hills, Galway, and Tryon.
Payne had a great finish to his weekend, taking second aboard Vandiver on a final score of 31.10, as well as earning third with Quantum Leap with a final score of 32.80. Fredericks closed out the weekend in fourth with a score of 35.10, with Matthew Flynn (USA) and Wizzerd wrapping up the top five on a score of 35.50.