Temecula, Calif., March 31
James Alliston had a good Saturday—a great one, even—at Galway Downs today. He won the CIC*** aboard Jumbo’s Jake, and he placed second in the same division on Tivoli. He’s also leading the advanced on Parker II after a solid cross-country run. But while he’s enjoying the moment, Alliston’s thoughts are already shifting towards another Saturday in the not-too-distant future.
“I think today was the perfect tune-up for Rolex,” said Alliston, who’s aiming Parker and Jumbo’s Jake for the four-star in April. “It has all the questions—corners, narrows, ditches, big jumps into the water, jumps in the water, sunken road—to get them ready. I think Ian [Stark]’s courses always reward forward riding, and they help horses be brave and ready for their big three-days. If you ride them forward and go for it, horses normally come off Ian’s courses full of confidence.”
The time proved tight in the three-star, with no one making it home without penalties. Cross-country was the final phase of this CIC***, with horses running in reverse order of placing for an exciting conclusion. Alliston and Jumbo’s Jake, a 14-year-old Irish Sporthorse (Jumbo—Lake Princess) owned by India McEvoy, had the third-fastest round of the day with 5.6 time penalties. Their score of 51.2 penalties was good for the victory over Tivoli and his 61.3 penalties. Barbara Crabo and Eveready II, also entered for the Rolex Kentucky CCI****, moved up to third with 8.4 time penalties and a final score of 67.8.
“Jake was awesome through all three phases,” said Alliston, who rides for Great Britain. “The time was very tight. I think I had a bit of a gap in the scores; I could have gone a bit slower and still won, but I wanted to give him a bit of a fitness run before Rolex. He finished full of running, and he was super, super brave out there. I definitely have him much fitter than I did last year. He has more mileage now, and he’s become very consistent, touch wood.”
There weren’t any horse or rider falls in the CIC***. Twelve out of 13 starters finished, with Jil Walton retiring on My Sedona after two run-outs at fence 14, a corner. Mackenna Shea picked up 20 penalties with Landioso at Fence 16, the Voltaire Water Complex. The Alchemyst, piloted by Debbie Rosen, had a stop at the first of three angled brushes (fence 6), and Canada’s James Atkinson and Gustav had two refusals at separate obstacles. Some new features on the course—including a one-stride line of two upright verticals near the end of the course and a new line of fences along the racetrack—didn’t cause any problems with horses.
Tivoli, a 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood (Guidam—Zacharia, Roeland) owned by Alliston and Chuck and Peggy Moore, only ran one advanced before this weekend.
“He’s nervy and aggressive to the jumps, but he’s got a ton of ability,” said Alliston. “He’s a full warmblood without a drop of Thoroughbred blood, but he’s got a good wind, and he’s quick on the cross-country. He’s a big cob. If I didn’t clip him I think he could drag the arena. He may not like that, but he could.”
Parker picked up 10 time penalties around the advanced track and doesn’t have a rail in hand for tomorrow’s show jumping. “I just took it easy with Parker,” said Alliston, 27. “If I can run him relaxed it’s easier to go faster on him later. He’s quite difficult if he thinks he’s going to run fast because he can get strong. I cruised around and had him relaxed today. He jumped really well, so I was happy with that.”
Only four of eight starters in the advanced made it around without jumping penalties. Maxance McManamy, second after dressage with Project Runway, retired after three refusals. Alliston and his catch-ride, Shannon Lilley’s Ballingowan Pizazz, picked up one glance-off at the second element of the Voltaire Water Complex.
“It was weird because he was giving me a beautiful ride,” said Alliston. “We went into the last water, and he kind of shot off to the side instead of jumping out. He came around and popped over it and went on his way like nothing had happened. I think it’s out of character for that horse. I don’t think you’ll see much of that in his future. I think he’s going to be a real top horse.”
Tin Man Takes Takes Home First
Yesterday’s CIC** leaders, Oz The Tin Man and Katherine Groesbeck, clocked easily around the cross-country track today. They put in one of only two double-clear trips for the win over Teresa Harcourt, 20, on Bonza Twist of Fate.
“Everything rode like I thought—really forward and, as long as you came to everything strong and committed, the lines rode nicely. I got a little flat coming up to the Normandy Bank, but my little horse just climbed up and over. He got a lot of pats on the neck,” said Groesbeck. “For a smaller horse, he really opens up. We have the benefits of a big stride and the benefits of a compact horse.”
Oz The Tin Man, a 15-year-old Anglo Arabian (Sidi Of Magic—Regal Batim) gelding, and Groesbeck, 22, picked up a stop coming into the water during the November Galway CCI**. Groesbeck was determined not to let it happen again.
“I was really committed to riding the second water tough because of having the stop there in November,” she said. “Even though technically it was more straightforward than in November, I rode that like it was a four-star fence. I overcompensated.”
The CIC** division also ran without any rider or horse falls. Three of the 10 starters had at least one stop, and Jennifer McFall and High Times had two.
"Everything just rode beautifully," said Groesbeck. "It's great galloping ground here, and there are always empty spaces to gallop, which is really fun."
"This was my first two-star," added Harcourt. "My horse is so bold and willing. I wasn't completely worried about anything, but I obviously wasn't taking anything for granted. The course just needed to be ridden really forward."
It was uncharacteristically cool in Temecula today, and the temperature caused Groesbeck some concern after her round.
“I did not care for the weather,” she said. “I was so worried about him getting stiff and tight. I thought it was going to be warm and sunny when I woke up this morning, and when I finished it was almost raining and there was a stiff wind."
Barb Crabo and Over Easy, a 6-year-old Swedish Warmblood (Quite Easy—Olivia Of GCF, Amiral) mare, topped the CIC* after putting in a flawless cross-country trip. The pair finished on their dressage score of 41.9 penalties. Crabo and Over Easy topped the long-format CCI* here at Galway last fall before being eliminated because Over Easy was too young. But Crabo still credits the experience with providing her horse a much-needed education.
“Before we did steeplechase last fall, we couldn’t have thought about coming in less than 20 or 30 seconds slow. Doing the steeplechase was exactly what needed to happen. I couldn’t have cared less about the disqualification, because we got to run steeplechase,” said Crabo. “It clicked something in her brain. She’s definitely learning to move her legs forward and not just up and down.”