Clark Montgomery finishes off Great Meadow International victory in Olympic prep

Clark Montgomery’s United States homecoming couldn’t have been sweeter. The U.S. Olympian hadn’t competed on American soil since 2012, but he said he knew he had a shot at winning the Great Meadow International — and he lived up to those hopes.

Montgomery and his horse, Loughan Glen, galloped to victory after dominating dressage, clearing show jumping and making every jump during cross-country. It wasn’t smooth sailing, though, during the final phase.

“I had actually a couple hairy moments on the course today,” Montgomery said. “[Loughan Glen] came out in his true form of his nickname, ‘Beasty,’ now. . . . It was nice that it was here at Great Meadow and not at Rio. Had to argue with him a little bit. He’s such an honest horse.”

Montgomery and his Irish Sport Horse gelding’s only blemish on the weekend was the miniscule amount of time, three seconds , the pair were over the optimal time on cross-country.

Marilyn Little, riding RF Demeter, pats her horse as they take off after completing a pair of water jumps during the cross country portion of the Great Meadow Invitational. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

Coming into the cross-country phase, Maya Black was sitting in second behind Montgomery, but her horse, Doesn’t Play Fair, refused at the eighth jump on the course, resulting in 20 penalty points. They also didn’t complete the course under the optimum time, adding another 7.6 penalty points. As a result, Black and Doesn’t Play Fair fell all the way down to 25th place.

American Marilyn Little and RF Demeter placed fourth in dressage on Saturday, scoring 43.8 points, and retained that position and score through show jumping as she cleared the round. Little and RF Demeter cleared the cross-country phase as well, bumping up the leader board to second.

Going into the day, several athletes were nervous about the course. Those nerves proved warranted: Ten of the 40 horse-and-rider pairs had jumping penalties.

In addition to the faults, the timing of the course was difficult, too. Four pairs completed the course under the optimum time, and only those four pairs cleared the course in both jumps and time.

Jodie Amos and Wise Crack of Great Britain were one of those four pairs. The two placed third after coming into the third phase in 11th.

“I was really surprised,” Amos said of her cross-country outing. “. . . I was pleasantly surprised.”

The United States Nations Cup team waves after winning the eventing title during the Land Rover Great Meadow Invitational. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

In the Nations Cup portion of the event, the Americans came away victorious in the first Nations Cup held inside the country. The United States had a final combined score of 138.3. The Canadians finished second (188.6), and the Britons finished third (254.3).

Montgomery and Loughan Glen (first), Amos and Wise Crack (third), Boyd Martin and Welcome Shadow (sixth) and Phillip Dutton and Fernhill Fugitive (seventh) were the highest-placing Nations Cup pairs.

Montgomery, Martin and Dutton — in addition to Lauren Kieffer, who finished ninth with Meadowbrook’s Scarlett and 17th with Veronica — will represent the United States in the Olympic Games next month.

In Rio, Montgomery will be riding Loughan Glen, Martin will be riding Blackfoot Mystery, Dutton will be riding Fernhill Cubalawn, and Kieffer will be riding Veronica.

“I think we’re all in pretty good shape for a good Games in Rio,” Martin said. “All four horses have to keep working hard the next couple of weeks. Each rider and each horse has to polish up bits and pieces of their performance. Coach David O’Connor is making sure that we have a good chance.”

O’Connor said he felt the event was good preparation for what’s to come.

“The nice thing about having a place like this is that it created a bunch of atmosphere,” he said. “The atmosphere here with the community support, that’s very much what you’re going to feel when you go down there. Horse-wise, I felt it was a great prep. The cross-country was just right. These lovely Virginia rolling hills are great for their fitness.

“The questions were appropriate for what was needed, so the horses would have gotten a good feeling off of the last run before they go off and play the big game.”

The only other Olympic duo who participated in the Great Meadow Invitational were Lauren Billys and Castle Larchfield Purdy of Puerto Rico. That list may grow, as the Olympic eventing team for Australia yet to be named.

Amie Just