Defending champion Boyd Martin, riding Welcome Shadow, clinched a superb victory to secure a historic third consecutive title with a score of 27.9 in the Land Rover Wellington Eventing Showcase at Florida’s Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington. Fellow U.S. rider Buck Davidson took second place with his bay mare, Petite Flower, on 30.9, with Doug Payne (USA) climbing four places in the cross-country to finish third riding Vandiver on 34.2.
Wellington’s glamorous setting and $100,000 in prize money attracted many top international eventers, including Sir Mark Todd, fellow Kiwis Dan Jocelyn and Joe Meyer, and William Fox-Pitt (GBR). Unfortunately, the New Zealanders finished out of the money.
USA’s Marilyn Little and RF Scandalous were at the top of the leaderboard after dressage, with an impressive score of 24.9. The overnight standings were very tight: just four penalties between the top six.
Marilyn Little continued her good form in the show jumping, steering RF Scandalous around clear and within the time, but Boyd Martin kept the pressure on, producing a flawless round on his grey mare, and was just 1.4 penalties behind Marilyn at the start of the last phase.
Mark Phillips’ twisting cross-country course proved a challenge, with only two riders coming home under the time. An unfortunate run-out and fall for Marilyn on her first horse, RF Demeter, resulted in her withdrawal from the competition and put Boyd into first place ahead of his round, although the pressure built when Buck Davidson went clear within the time, keeping his score of 30.9 and closing the gap.
In a nail-biting finish, Boyd held his nerve through the tricky Land Rover Offset obstacle and galloped past the packed crowds to victory, with just 0.8 of a time penalty.
“I have a wonderful horse in Welcome Shadow; we had some of the best riders in the world here and this was the toughest competition yet, so I am really pleased,” he said. The 12-year-old mare is a thoroughbred cross.
William Fox-Pitt finished seventh on Steady Eddie; Dan Jocelyn and Dukes Up were the best of the New Zealanders (16th); Toddy finished 22nd with L’Alezane and withdrew Anna Bella, and Joe had even worse luck – eliminated on South Paw and retiring on Clip Clop.