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meet Maryland’s sole five-star debutant

  • Zachary Brandt is the only rider making his five-star debut at Maryland 5 Star this week.

    The 29-year-old has had a long wait to move up to the level, having been entered for the US spring five-star, the Kentucky Three-Day Event, in both 2014 and 2015 with his former top ride, Cavallino Cocktail.

    “For different reasons it didn’t work out, so to be here and have just done my dressage test just feels amazing,” said Zachary after his performance on Thursday.

    “I’ve sort of been pinching myself for weeks trying just to think of it as another event because at the end of the day, it is just another event and just another weekend. But to be here, on a horse that we got as a four-year-old, that my coach Jonathan Holling found for me in Europe and he’s helped me produce over seven years – it’s just surreal, cantering down that centre line.

    “The truth is, whatever happens this weekend, I’m just excited to be here, to get the experience and finally be at this level.”

    Zachary Brandt was pleased with his dressage test, a phase he and Direct Advance find difficult, and the pair scored 35.9.

    Looking ahead to today’s cross-country, the rider comments: “He can be really strong, so the short format can be pretty tough to be fast on him.

    “I’m really hoping, if nothing else, to learn about my horse on Saturday, because I think if there’s ever been a track that I’ve had to get ready for this is the best track that could suit him and and the way that he goes, because he’s as brave as they come and as aggressive as they get.

    “And so to be able to have this room, just to be able to settle him into the bridle and relax a little bit as he goes, and to have something that’s big and difficult enough to keep his focus and attention, is really exciting.”

    Asked about the 11-year-old chestnut’s personality, Zachary Brandt said: “He’s like a human being that was born to live at a comedy club. He’s the funniest character. You walk past his stall and he’ll turn his head because he thinks. he’s going to get a treat. He’s just the sweetest horse on the ground. He’s the greatest and I could not be more proud of him.”

    Zachary’s trainer Jonathan Holling explained that Direct Advance’s breeding – he’s an Irish sport horse by Night Cruise out of a Concorde mare – made him an obvious choice.

    Jonathan said: “Zach was coming off of an incredible mare, so I knew I had to get him something that was going to be a really good jumper, because he wasn’t going to settle for anything that wasn’t exceptional. It’s always a bit of a gamble when you’re buying a young horse, but I knew based on the breeding, the way he was put together, and the jump that the horse had, he would be a really nice horse.

    “And then it’s a little bit going on your gut – whether instinct says this will be a good match. Like Zach says, he’s a bit of character and I knew he liked that. He had that look in his eye like he just thought he was the best horse on the property and he’s kind of proven he was.”

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