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Liz Halliday Wins Carolina International CCI4*S, From Soup to Nuts

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Heading into cross-country day at the Carolina Horse Park in Southern Pines, N.C., Liz Halliday had a tall order ahead of her.

The American 5-star event rider had four horses in contention for the win at the Setters’ Run Farm Carolina International Horse Trials CCI4*S. 

But it was Miks Master C, the 12-year-old bay gelding (Mighty Magic – Qui Luma CBF, by Flying Quite Easy 958) who held the No. 1 spot, heading out from the startbox as the last horse on course on a 22.5, after winning the dressage and skipping around a fault-free show jumping round the day before. 

But this is Advanced-level eventing, folks. Anything can happen out on the field. 

On Saturday, Halliday managed to get around the grass show jumping course on four horses with just one dropped rail. Cooley Quicksilver’s rail dropped him to sixth place in the competitive division at the end of Saturday. Cooley Moonshine was sitting in second—though Halliday chose to withdraw him before cross-country—and Cooley Nutcracker in fourth. 

Naturally, course designer Ian Stark’s series of 35 cross-country efforts shook up the leaderboard. But it couldn’t stop Halliday and “Mikki,” owned by Ocala Horse Properties’ and Deborah Palmer, who crossed the finish flags within the time to clinch the win. 

“He was very thoughtful and organized at all the questions and galloped well and came back to me, which was great. That was sort of the big question. He is always going to be a strong horse—we’re not going to take that out of him. But he did come back to me.”

Their top-place finish fulfilled EquiRatings’ 2024 predictions, where statistical models gave Halliday and Mikki the best chances at coming out on top.

“I felt like for the most part I was back in my groove again. I have jumped a few bigger classes this year, which Peter Wylde has helped kind of push me to do that, which is good. It’s been nice having him at the shows because he’s just such a great coach, and so is Erik [Duvander]. The two of them together, they just put me in my zen,” said Halliday, 46, of her Olympian coaches. 

“They’re chill, they keep me chill, we’re just all chill together. No drama. It’s super nice. I just want to say a big thank you to my awesome team because we had like zero time between horses. Everybody was a rockstar, it was like a military operation. It has to be efficient. It was awesome.”

Caroline Pamukcu and the formidable HSH Blake rose from third to second place with just 2.8 time faults after cross-country. 

“I keep talking about him being stronger and a year older, but it really makes a big difference,” said Pamukcu, 30, of her 2023 Pan American Games individual gold-winning mount, a 2015 Irish Sport Horse bay gelding (Tolan R x Doughiska Lass) co-owned with the Hoff Family.

“Having eight-year-olds go around a four-star is a big ask. Just having one more year for him to get a little bit stronger, have a stronger canter and a stronger top line, it’s just easier. He can show himself off more because it’s easier for both of us.

“In warm up, I wasn’t nervous. I was just looking forward to riding him,” Pamukcu continued.

“I don’t think I’ve ever had been in position my career on a horse that it feels like a schooling round at the four-star level. I think this is his third Advanced now and it feels like he’s been doing it for 200 years.”

Meghan O’Donoghue finished third on her veteran off-track Thoroughbred, Palm Crescent on a 30.9 score, adding just 1.6 time faults to their sub-30 dressage score. 

“He’s kind of the king of our stable because he is our only top horse and he genuinely appreciates it,” said O’Donoghue about “Palmer.“

“And I think that I feel like this weekend is just a relief because I feel like it’s a place he deserves. You know, he’s 18. And, you know, you sit back and you’re like, ‘Man, I wish I had like, five more years. I’m just lucky to be here and have this event with him, and whatever happens is icing on the cake.”

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