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November 6, 2011

It’s All Alliston In Galway Downs Finale

James Alliston had two rails in hand for the win in the Galway Downs CCI***, but he and Jumbo's Jake finished on their dressage score. Photo by Kat Netzler.

Temecula, Calif., Nov. 6

Placing second on your dressage score in a CCI**: check. Winning a CCI*: done. And scoring your first CCI*** victory: oh yeah, did that too. 

Those accomplishments were all in a day’s work for James Alliston at Galway Downs. The 27-year-old California-based Brit asserted his dominance at every level, claiming the three-star title aboard India McEvoy’s Jumbo’s Jake and taking seventh on his own Parker II, snagging the runner-up spot in the CCI** with Tivoli, and scoring a surprise win in the one-star with Mojo.

“It was a nice moment hearing the national anthem. That was fun. I saw my mom in the crowd singing and my dad crying,” joked Alliston, of Castro Valley, Calif.

Alliston was the overnight leader in the three-star, and he had two rails in hand over Jolie Wentworth and GoodKnight, but he didn’t need them. He and “Jake” finished on their dressage score of 45.4. Parker also finished on his first-day score (61.1), moving up 18 places over the course of the weekend.

“It means a lot,” Alliston said of his three-star victory. “There was a lot of pressure. I was feeling quite nervous, actually. I jumped a nice round on Parker, but I was pretty nervous before I went in on Jake, because I’ve never been in that [lead] position before. But it was a real thrill crossing the finish line, for sure.

“I think it was a real help having the earlier rides in the day, since it was a similar track,” Alliston added. “I got a feel for the footing, and obviously I put huge studs in. On my one-star horse [the first to go today] I only put in medium ones, and it was pretty slick.”

While the sun shone bright for cross-country yesterday, the cold and rainy weather that riders battled on Friday returned again today, and many seemed to struggle, especially in the CCI**, where only nine of the 26 horses managed a double-clear round.

Two-star winner Amber Levine didn’t think the conditions were bad at all, however, nor did her horse, Teresa Groesbeck’s Oz Poof Of Purchase.

“He jumped great in the mud,” said Levine, who works for hunter/jumper trainers Hope and Ned Glynn in Petaluma, Calif. “I heard as I was going in that I had a rail in hand, and we used that at fence 3, so the rest was a little bit nerve-wracking. But I felt like he jumped better and better as he went. He seemed totally fine in the footing, and I took all the inside turns.”

Wentworth, who took second in the three-star with GoodKnight on her dressage score of 53.6, also felt her mount dig in and tackle the conditions.

“He really tries hard to be careful. He really does not want to have a rail down,” said Wentworth, of Martinez, Calif. “Before I had this horse, I would get horribly nervous and ride worse than I needed to. I could never really get it together. But now that I have this horse, I’m like, ‘I’ve got it. The fences aren’t big enough. The courses aren’t hard enough.’ He’s really improved my confidence. We’ve been really good together. I help him in dressage, and he helps me in show jumping.”

Wentworth noted that she was relieved that when her farrier had come to reshoe GoodKnight two weeks ago, she’d had the presence of mind to opt in when he’d asked if she wanted his shoes drilled and tapped.

“Tracy [Bowman, GoodKnight’s owner] was like ‘Naw, we don’t need that. We never do that for Galway—it’s always perfect there.’ Luckily I said, ‘Well… Just in case...’ ” Wentworth said with a laugh. “But my one-star horses weren’t drilled and tapped. We were not prepared for this in any way. Fortunately GoodKnight is a horse that doesn’t care about the conditions, no matter what. He says, ‘Bring it on!’ ” 

Barbara Crabo also had a doubly pleasing day at Galway, following up her win in the preliminary three-day event aboard Over Easy (54.3) with third place in the CCI*** with her longtime partner Eveready II (55.2).

“He wanted it,” she said of Eveready, who jumped double clear today. “He just wants it bad. I’ve given him about a half a bag of cookies for 6A and 6B. He totally saved me there!”

The majority of riders put in one- or two-rail rounds, but a few disasters did also occur. Nate Chambers, who’d been second in the CCI***, had hoped his hard work with coach Karen O’Connor in the final phase would show today, but he and Rolling Stone II still dropped six rails and plummeted all the way to 16th place.

And in the CCI*, Bea di Grazia, who’d been third out of 34 riders and had a shot at the blue ribbon, rode a flawless round until the very end. Her horse Lad’s Night Out misjudged the first fence of the last combination—a triple—and sent his rider down into the slop. Di Grazia was unharmed, but eliminated.

For final results, visit EventingScores.com

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