The Donner Syndicate’s Donner has been a mainstay on the CCI4* scene since 2013 when he launched himself into the spotlight with a top-five finish at Kentucky in his debut at the level with Lynn Symansky. Now 14, Donner continues to show year after year that he is a world-class athlete, capping his 2017 season with a 6th place finish at Burghley and the best placing for an American horse.
As an off-track Thoroughbred, Donner is a true cross country specialist. While the first phase is not his favorite, his dressage has steadily improved throughout his international career. This year Donner delivered scores in the 40s in all of his runs, the first time he has scored sub-50 in all of his tests in a single season. Donner’s 2017 dressage average of 47.5 is the best 12-month average of his international career to date.
His personal best at CCI4* level of 45.5 came this year at Burghley, where an early error in the test kept the score from creeping even closer to the 40 threshold. But the quality of the work and dropping scores show that at 14 years old, Donner is moving closer to consistently delivering sub-45 scores — and the low 40s are clearly in sight.
Donner has proven he is fast across the country, and while he rarely makes the optimum time, he gets very close to it time and time again. If we remove Badminton as an outlier in 2017 (he lost a shoe early on course and effectively roller-skated around!) Donner averaged 2.1 time penalties in his three other runs this season.
He started 2017 at Carolina International, which attracts one of the largest CIC3* fields in America. Only one horse made the optimum time on cross country, and Donner cruised around with the second fastest round to pick up 1.6 time penalties and skyrocket 20 places up the leaderboard to finish 6th.
Badminton did not go to plan, as Donner lost a shoe early on cross country and lost the same shoe in show jumping the following day. One rail down plus the surplus of time penalties saw Donner finish 22nd, but the fact that he completed two four-stars this year should not be discounted. Only four of our 12 #ERHOTY nominees completed two CCI4* events in 2017!
Donner also competed on the USA Nations Cup team at Great Meadow CICO3*, and once again speed on cross country played to his advantage. He added 1.2 cross country time penalties to his dressage score to move up to finish 2nd and help America win their Nations Cup leg on home soil for the second consecutive year.
“I’ve really come to rely on him. He comes out and is so reliable and so quick that I could afford to take a few long routes.” — Lynn Symansky after Burghley cross country
Then it was on to Burghley for ‘Donner the Deer‘ — and he impressed right from the start with a personal best of 45.5 to sit just outside the top 10 after dressage. On cross country he truly proved that ‘nothing runs like a deer’ with a cracking clear round and 3.6 time penalties to move up to 8th. With one rail down in the show jumping, Donner finished 6th on a career best CCI4* finishing score of 53.1.
Donner’s best season to date makes him a clear choice for #ERHOTY17. We love 100% completion rates, and Donner has now delivered 100% completion rates in seven of the eight seasons in his international career. He has a 96.9% completion rate for his entire international career spanning 32 runs. (He has only one non-completion on his international record, a rider fall at Jersey Fresh CIC3* in 2014.)
Completing his eighth CCI4* this year is just the icing on the cake for Donner. He is a favorite at HQ, but will America rally to vote him 2017 EquiRatings Horse of the Year? We have seen it happen already when America stormed social media to vote Loughan Glen our 2015 Horse of the Year. Get ready to vote starting Christmas week!
Listen to the #ERHOTY2017 episode of the Horseware Eventing Podcast to hear how we finalized the list of 12 nominees. Keep checking back to the EquiRatings blog for analysis articles on all 12: fischerRocana FST, Nereo, Arctic Soul, Horseware Hale Bob, Ballaghmor Class, Bulana, Hunter Valley II, Donner, Cekatinka, Calle 44, Ivar Gooden and Foxwood High.