By US Equestrian Communicatons Department
Elkton, Md. – At the conclusion of a historic week at Fair Hill, Kurt Martin and D.A. Lifetime became the 2021 USEF CCI3*-L Eventing National Champions. In the first-ever running of the Maryland 5 Star CCI5*-L, it was Boyd Martin and On Cue wearing the tricolor after a nail-biting finish in Sunday’s jumping phase.
USEF CCI3*-L Eventing National Championship
Kurt Martin (Marshall, Va.) and D.A. Lifetime, Debbie Adams’s 2012 Holsteiner mare, started the week strong with a 23.5 penalty score in the dressage phase. They added nothing to it over the next two phases, maintaining a wire-to-wire lead on the way to winning the title of USEF CCI3*-L Eventing National Champion.
“Clarence,” nicknamed in honor of E-Street Band saxophonist Clarence Clemons, has proven that she has what it takes at the three-star level, and Kurt sees potential in her to go further in the sport.
“The cross-country was a great course,” said Kurt. “I think that Clarence has gained a lot of experience, and I think the jumps didn’t hold her yesterday, so maybe there are bigger things to come. But it was definitely a great experience.”
Clarence looked to have plenty of energy to burn during Sunday’s prize-giving as the electric atmosphere and stiff breezes came through the main arena at Fair Hill, but Kurt says her usual demeanor is much more relaxed.
“She’s very kind and laid back,” he said. “She’s definitely a blood horse, and once she’s up, that’s what you have to ride. We work together; I don’t force this horse to do anything.
“This was our targeted event a year ago,” Kurt said, reflecting on what it took to get to the championship. “It took a bit from Tim Bourke, it took tons of dressage lessons, it took going to jumper shows, it took cross-country schooling, and I truly believed that if we did our best, we could win. She’s been second and first in her last two FEIs, so I believed in the horse and I knew that she could do it. It’s hard to ride such a nice horse as far as your mindset because you don’t want to make a mistake for the horse, but that’s how I felt. I believed in her. In the show jumping, I just looked up and took a deep breath at every single fence, and what was going to be was going to be. And she did that for me and tried very hard.”
After a double-clear cross-country round on Saturday, Hannah Sue Burnett (Kennett Square, Pa.) and Christa Schmidt’s 2012 Irish Sport Horse gelding Carsontown sat in fourth place. With no jumping penalties and just 0.4 time faults, the pair moved up to second place after show jumping to become reserve national champions.
Rounding out the top three in the National Championship was Meg Pellegrini (Wayne, Pa.) and her own 2005 Holsteiner gelding RF Eloquence. As the top-finishing young rider, Meg also won the USEF CCI3*-L Young Rider Eventing National Championship. The pair were fourth overall in the division, placing just behind Great Britain’s Oliver Townend with Ulises.
As the top-finishing young horse in the division, Imperio Magic, the 2014 Warmblood gelding owned and ridden by Mary Bess Davis, won the USEF CCI3*-L Young Horse Eventing National Championship.
Maryland 5 Star CCI5*-L
Boyd Martin (Cochranville, Pa.) and On Cue, the 2006 Selle Français mare he co-owns with Christine, Thomas, and Tommie Turner, had a historic win in the Maryland 5 Star CCI5*-L. Not only did they become the first winners of this new event, but they became the first American combination to win an event at this level since 2008. After finishing dressage in third place with a 25.0, the pair held their spot with a double-clear cross-country day. They turned in one of only seven double-clear show jumping rounds, which pushed them up the leaderboard into the top spot.
“I really was just hoping to finish in the top five today, and On Cue just really gutsed it out today,” said Boyd. “Lady Luck was on our side. We bumped and thumped a few poles; I never heard one come down. I couldn’t believe it when I got a clear round. Today was On Cue’s day, and it’s great to win it.”
Boyd said he got the ride on “Cue” as a sales prospect for owner Christine Turner, but he liked the horse so much, he convinced Turner to let him keep working with her to see how far she could go.
“She’s everything you dream of in a horse,” said Boyd. “She’s got movement, gallop, full trier. She’s elegant, she’s a real mare. Coming into this thing, I thought I had a chance just because she’s been so good this year. She looked good at [the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event] earlier this year, and then was the backup horse for the Olympics, so I knew I had a fit animal.”
Overnight leader Oliver Townend of Great Britain with Angela Hislop’s 2005 Irish Sport Horse gelding Cooley Master Class had an uncharacteristic and very expensive rail in the show jumping, dropping them down to second place by just one-tenth of a penalty point. New Zealand’s Tim Price had a fast round with Trisha Rickards, Tim Price & Nigella Hall’s 2006 British Sport Horse gelding Xavier Faer, but with a rail down they ended in third place on a total score of 28.3. The three podium finishers at the Maryland 5 Star have been in the top three together before, and Townend expressed sincere appreciation for his competitors.
“This sport is tough. To be sat with Boyd and Tim is a privilege for me, because they’re riders that I have a huge amount of respect for,” he said. “They’re both working boys. They’re very normal lads and for all three of us to be in the position we’re in is a huge privilege. It goes to show that normal people, if you work hard, you can make it to the pinnacle of this sport. That’s the message I want to get out to any kid who’s thinking, ‘I can’t do it because I don’t come from a wealthy background.’ It is possible, and I’m very proud of Boyd and Tim and myself for continuing to work hard.”