Liz Halliday-Sharp enjoyed a productive outing at Rockingham Castle Horse Trials last weekend (May 2-4) where both of Chailey Stud’s USEF High Performance Training Listed horses were making their final competitive appearances before Saumur’s CCI3* competition later this month.
Although only intended as a final warm-up for the classic French event, Blackie (Fernhill by Night) and Cooley (HHS Cooley) made the perfect start on Sunday morning to give British-based Californian Liz a one-two at the head of the 60-strong Advanced Intermediate section. Blackie’s foot-perfect performance saw him clock up a score of just 25.8, with Cooley – whose Saumur entry has been endorsed by USEF’s Land Rover Competition Grant – only 1.3 marks behind in second.
A clear Show Jumping round helped Blackie maintain his lead heading into the Cross Country. But with the emphasis firmly on Saumur, Liz was content to ease around the course and incur a handful of time penalties that ultimately dropped the pair to sixth.
Meanwhile, an uncharacteristic two rails down in the Show Jumping – mainly caused by a lack of controls after an unsuccessful bitting experiment – largely ended Cooley’s victory prospects before the Cross Country, where a good clear round containing just four time faults helped him and Liz finish 15th.
“Rockingham provided the perfect preparation before we travel to Saumur,” confirmed Liz. “I was very pleased with both horses in the Dressage and although there are a few little things still to work on, it is starting to feel much more polished at this level. Despite my lack of brakes in the Show Jumping on Cooley, which led to us having two rails down, he still performed well and I know he has the ability to jump clear on the final day. Blackie jumped another great clear round so fingers crossed we can keep that up in Saumur! Both horses felt fantastic Cross Country and I suppose I could have won the class had we gone inside the time, but keeping both of them sound and happy is the main priority now and I wasn’t prepared to risk it. Having said that, both went faster than I’d intended as they are quite fit and covered the ground so easily!”
Elsewhere, two of Chailey Stud’s younger horses were also in action at Rockingham where Courage (Cooley Master Courage) produced a fine double clear to recover from a higher-than-expected Dressage score en route to finishing 12th in his BE100 section. His next competitive outing, and first attempt at Novice level, takes place at Aston-le-Walls on May 14-17.
Meanwhile Chaco (Cooley Ground Control) was making his third appearance at Novice, and despite a rather lively Dressage performance, still came away with a decent score of 32. He then composed himself sufficiently to produce a good Show Jumping round, rolling just one pole going into the treble combination, and also performed strongly around the Cross Country course to eventually end up 16th in the busy section.
“To be honest I thought Courage was slightly hard done by in the Dressage,” explained Liz. “But he only added 1.2 marks to his initial score and I was very happy with how he has improved, so I’ve got no hesitation moving him up to Novice next week.”
While continuing to put Chailey Stud’s younger horses through their paces, Liz’s main focus for the coming week is keeping both Blackie and Cooley fit and prepared ahead of the Saumur CCI3*, which takes place on May 22-25.
STOP PRESS! Fresh from commentating at the Rolex Kentucky CCI4*, FEI TV has invited Liz back behind the microphone as part of their Badminton CCI4* coverage this weekend. You can catch Liz’s commentary of Saturday’s Cross Country at the world’s biggest Three Day Event at www.feitv.org.
Image courtesy of Julia Shearwood Photography