New faces and old shine on cross-country day at Foxhall

Eventing has always been designed as a test with cross-country at it's heart, and the Foxhall Cup CCI*** proved no exception. The day dawned hot, and it only got hotter, but thanks to the efforts of riders, vets, grooms, and support staff most of the 87 horses finished the day in good form.Eventing has always been designed as a test with cross-country at it's heart, and the Foxhall Cup CCI*** proved no exception. The day dawned hot, and it only got hotter, but thanks to the efforts of riders, vets, grooms, and support staff most of the 87 horses finished the day in good form.

Story originally posted by: Heather Bailey

Eventing has always been designed as a test with cross-country at it’s heart, and the Foxhall Cup CCI*** proved no exception. The day dawned hot, and it only got hotter, but thanks to the efforts of riders, vets, grooms, and support staff most of the 87 horses finished the day in good form.

The first horse out of the box on cross-country was the Olympic star Australia’s Phillip Dutton on the youngster I’m So Brite. He smoked around Mark Phillip’s track and made it look easy, coming home with no jumping penalties and no time penalties to go double clear. His clear round would eventually move him from 24th to 8th.

Jan Thompson on Task Force came out of the box a few horses later, and she too came home double clear, moving from 13th to 5th.

But four horses after Thompson came the overnight leader Bruce Davidson on Welton Tangle. It was only the third time the veteran had ridden the bay gelding cross-country, and only the second time at the advanced level. He started carefully, but the more brilliantly the horse jumped, the faster Davidson went. The pair handled the difficult combinations with ease, and the horse flowed across the ground. But at the final combination, the downhill bank and brush to the narrow mushroom, Davidson opted for the long route. That decision brought him home with no jumping faults, but garnered him 3.2 time faults for a final score of 50.41. All there was left to do now was wait, and see if anyone could best him.

The answer came 38 horses later when Heidi White and Northern Spy came home double clear. The pair had been standing 5th after dressage. Her score of 50.00 is so close to Davidson’s, she can’t afford a rail or even a single time fault in show jumping tomorrow, but for now, it’s enough to be in the lead.

The second-placed pair Darren Chiacchia and Windfall couldn’t shake their jinx from last year, and had a run out at the number 6 Bayer’s Bump coffin jump, as did Davidson on his third placed Squire’s Cap. Fourth placed Shannon Ewing and Moment’s Notice came to grief at the first of the double corners in the water, number 18, as well as the sunken road at numbers 22 and 23. These problems opened the path for White to slip in to first.

"It was my day to step up and ride well," said White of her triumphant ride. "I knew I had a good horse, and we [White and coach Phillip Dutton] talked about it and walked it, and I knew it was just time for me to do my job."

White purchased the 9-year-old English Thoroughbred gelding from Wash and Margaret Bishop two years ago. Though the horse had already done a CCI**, White dropped him back, and they have ascended the levels together.

"I needed a steddie-eddie type, and he’s the most calm and collected competitor," said White. "He’s not at all quirky, just so sweet and quiet."

Davidson was equally pleased with his mount’s performance, despite their slip to second place, and says the horse reminds him of another of his famous partners. "He’s very sweet, and a very good jumper. He holds his lines, and was just on the money today. He’s a JJ Babu type-a tidy jumper and exceedingly kind," he said.

"I was riding a horse I didn’t really know," continued Davidson. "But I wanted to be competitive. I started out a little slow on him, and jumped the long way at the mushroom-on another day I might make a different decision. But he jumped just great."

The future for Davidson and Welton Tangle isn’t clear, since his owner Amy Ruth DeWind (a student of Davidson’s) is a rider herself, and competed the horse up until this spring when she had a few problems with him. "I imagine he’ll either go on the market, or go back to his mother," said Davidson. "I’d love to keep riding him, but that was never my purpose in getting on him."

Dashing in to third place was Bonnie Mosser and Jenga, who went double clear to move from 7th. She was thrilled with the bay gelding’s performance, especially how easily he made the time.

"It’s been my plan to make time here-that was the goal, and what I was working towards all spring. I’m really proud of him. I have to step up to the plate and get going you know-I’m not getting any younger," laughed 39-year-old Mosser.

"I rode my plan completely," she said. "He was brave and answered all my questions. I didn’t know how fast he was, but every time I kicked him after a jump, he just jumped right ahead and kept galloping."

Like White, Mosser works with Phillip Dutton at his True Prospect Farm in West Grove Pennsylvania. Mosser in fact, is Dutton’s assistant trainer. According to White, the team involved at True Prospect is the key to her and Mosser’s success. "The people on the ground, and Phillip, and the entire training and condition plan is made to get you to the right place at the right time on the horses.

"He teaches you to be smart and safe first, then how to be fast and take shortcuts and be competitive," she concluded.

Twenty-two horses went double clear on the cross-country, with and additional 51 jumping clear with only time penalties. Of the rest, 19 came home to complete and 12 were eliminated or retired on course. The two water jumps, the coffin at number 6, and the sunken road caused the majority of the problems.

Interestingly, the change of light seemed to affect fence 6, as most of the early horses jumped it cleanly and most of the problems occurred later in the day.

Of the original 87 horses, 71 will go forward to the final vetting tomorrow morning, and the ones accepted there will then show jump. With the scores as tight as they are, every rail and every time fault will take a toll, as the top 11 are within one rail of each other, and the top 18 are within two rails.

Sadly, Horsecity.com’s profile Paul Ebersole and Connor II had their weekend cut short by popping a splint. "I couldn’t do what I wanted here, and it wouldn’t have been right for my horse to try," said a disappointed Ebersole.

Photo gallery of Cross-Country day!

To read about the dressage phase of the Foxhall Cup, click here.

To see a report about show jumping day, click here.