Brit on young superstar leads after Maryland 5 Star cross-country: ‘She’s a privilege to ride’

  • Oliver Townend holds the lead after today’s Mars Maryland 5 Star cross-country.

    The British world number one came home with six time-faults after a great round on Paul Ridgeon’s Cooley Rosalent, who is just nine years old – young for horse to be competing at five-star, let alone leading going into the final phase.

    The pair were notably smooth through the Kelso Question in the main arena (fence 5abc) and only really had one risky moment, when the mare took off with all four feet simultaneously at the drop at the Fair Hill International Rollercoaster & Drop (fence 25abcd).

    “She’s so honest and loves her job – as long as I get her nearly in front of the fences she looks for the flags and jumps them really well,” said Oliver. “She’s been very keen all day and she’s a privilege to ride.

    “It’s huge thanks to Paul and Diana Ridgeon – they’ve been so good to myself and Andrew Nicholson, supporting us in the sport, and for them to get a superstar like this later on in life, after owning horses for so many years, is very special for the whole team.”

    Oliver’s time-penalties mean he maintains his dressage lead but doesn’t have a fence in hand over the chasing pack going into tomorrow’s showjumping.

    William Fox-Pitt and Amanda Gould’s Grafennacht got a little close to the final element of the main arena combination, the Kelso Question (fence 5abc), but aside from that it was an assured performance.

    The pair had to cope with a hold on course and William then decided to go the long way coming out of the Mars Equestrian Crab Water (fence 21abc), although he did it more quickly than most as he took a short cut by hopping over an extra obstacle. They came home with 5.2 time-faults and have moved up to second overnight, having been third after dressage.

    “I thought if I had a run-out at that water everyone would say, ‘Why didn’t you go the long way?’ but I would have been tempted to go straight there,” said William, adding that the mare was “easy but it was a bit of a weird round” because of his hold.

    Maryland 5 Star: William Fox-Pitt on Grafennacht

    William Fox-Pitt and Grafennacht at Maryland 5 Star in 2023. Credit: Amy Dragoo

    Piggy March’s 13.2 time-faults on Brookfield Cavalier Cruise drop her from second to fifth overnight, just behind Austin O’Connor (Colorado Blue) in fourth. Austin’s round, for 2.4 time-faults, was the second fastest of the day.

    Ian Stark’s Maryland 5 Star cross-country course was criticised by some last year because the time proved easy to get, but he had upped the challenge to prevent that this year, with just the one fault-free performance. US five-star first-timer Mia Farley put in the only clear inside the time on David O’Connor’s Phelps to move up from 10th after dressage to third.

    “Phelps has proven us all that he’s the world – he’s just a special horse,” said an emotional Mia. “It was fun.”

    Maryland 5 Star cross-country: Mia Farley and Phelps

    Mia Farley and Phelps go clear inside the time at Maryland 5 Star 2023. Credit: Amy Dragoo

    US rider Hannah Sue Hollberg is the second best of the home side, holding sixth with Capitol HIM, having finished with 7.2 time-faults.

    New Zealand’s Caroline Powell, sixth after dressage on Greenacres Special Cavalier, was another held on course and she finished with 12.8 time-faults to slip one spot to seventh. The mare did take a look at the big drop down at the Fair Hill International Rollercoaster & Drop, but she was not penalised.

    Boyd Martin held fifth after dressage on Contessa, but he fell off on the landing side of the oxer out of the first water combination at fence 3ab, the Maryland Sports Commission Splash.

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