Thursday, Jun. 6, 2024

Alliston Aces The Cross-Country Test At Galway Downs

Temecula, Calif., Nov. 5

“It was tough,” was how James Alliston summarized Ian Stark’s CCI*** course at Galway Downs after galloping around it clean and inside the time not once but twice this sunny Saturday afternoon.



Temecula, Calif., Nov. 5

“It was tough,” was how James Alliston summarized Ian Stark’s CCI*** course at Galway Downs after galloping around it clean and inside the time not once but twice this sunny Saturday afternoon.

“There were some good horses that had a lot of trouble,” Alliston continued. “But Ian does a fantastic job. He rewards forward riding, and I have a feeling that the mistakes out there were made by people who were maybe just riding a little bit backward. You have to keep attacking the whole way ’round. If you ride that way, the horses come out of it like lions.” 

Alliston’s two “lions” are resting quietly in their stalls tonight, however; Jumbo’s Jake, a 13-year-old Irish Sport Horse owned by India McEvoy, jumped into the lead today by retaining his dressage score of 45.4. Alliston’s own 9-year-old Thoroughbred gelding, Parker II, rocketed 16 places up the leaderboard to ninth after his flawless performance (61.6). And the 27-year-old rider, who’s British but now based in Castro Valley, Calif., was thrilled to have his parents, Petey and John Alliston, in attendance to see it.

“I’ve never led a CCI***. I’ve never led a CCI at all,” James said. “I think [my parents] are my lucky charms, actually. Every event they come, I seem to do OK. I think I should fly them out more often!”

Nate Chambers logged a double-clear round as well aboard his partner of 11 years, Rolling Stone II, to move into second place (49.2). But like James, Chambers said he had to fight his way around the course.

“For me, the course rode exactly the way I thought it would,” he said. “That was: hard. It was impressive. There were some fences that were meant to terrify the riders and some that were meant to terrify the horses, but they didn’t really go hand in hand. So you had to really look out for the ones that would worry the horses.”

Chambers, 24, noted that the course was the biggest test he and “Rollie,” a 15-year-old Hessen gelding, had ever tackled—tougher even than the Dansko Fair Hill CCI*** in Maryland.


“I was glad I was on my horse, who I’ve been able to develop a bond with,” said Chambers, who works full time in financial services in Vienna, Va. “He’s usually the only horse I ride every day, but the little bit of edge that I don’t have in terms of my rhythm and style, he makes up for. I’m very, very lucky to have that.”

Don’t Take It For Granted

Many riders were far less lucky today, one of which was dressage leader Buck Davidson. He seemed to be haunted by the PRO Water Complex, fences 22AB and 23. Though Davidson piloted Titanium, the first horse out of the box in the division, to a double-clear round (the gelding moved up 15 places and now stands eighth), he picked up a run-out aboard his leading mount, Ballynoe Castle RM, at the brush out of the final water complex. Then he fell from Park Trader, who’d been in 19th after dressage, at the same water, and he had to watch the horse gallop around the horse park for several minutes until finally being cornered.

Jordan Lindstedt (Tullibards Hawkwind) and Ron Zabala (Che Cairo) also picked up 20 penalties apiece at the PRO Water Complex.

Ten of the 34 three-star pairs posted double-clear rounds, but 11 failed to finish at all, and problems were spread well across the course. Fence 5AB, the rail to trakehner, caused two riders to retire after two stops (Michael Pollard with Jude’s Law and Stephen Bradley with In The Fog) and two falls (visiting Dutch rider Merel Blom from Umberto Db and Tamra Smith and Mar De Amor, who was momentarily stuck in the ditch but eventually walked away). Martha McDowell also picked up a stop there with Gaelic Marriage before retiring at the following related jump, the triple brush.

“The wood [on the trakehner] was very new looking, and I think it made them look down into the ditch,” James offered. “I don’t know. The strides were fine. It didn’t walk that long. But certainly after riding it, I know I could have attacked it more with both of my horses, and it would have made it better. My guys are pretty experienced, but even on Parker, who’s usually dragging me to everything, I had to kick on to that. I don’t think you could override that fence.”

The Land Rover Splash and the Doug Hannum Orca, the second of the three water complexes at 16ABC and 17, also caught several riders out. Four horses picked up single stops there, while Pollard also retired his second mount, D.V.8., after a refusal there following an earlier disobedience at 10AB. In addition, Debbie Rosen pulled up The Alchemyst after two stops in the water complex.

Totally Poofect


Things ran much more smoothly in the CCI** division, where only one rider was eliminated and eight others had jumping penalties.

Amber Levine, who’d tied for the lead in dressage aboard Teresa Groesbeck’s Oz Poof Of Purchase, held on to her place atop the leaderboard with a double-clear round. Hawley Bennett-Awad moved into second from overnight third with a flawless go aboard SplendoroftheSun, while Max McManamy, the dressage co-leader, stands third due to 2 time penalties with Project Runway.

Levine, 23, of Santa Rosa, Calif., just got the ride on Oz Poof Of Purchase two months ago, and so far she’s enjoying the two-star experience with the Thoroughbred-Arabian cross gelding. 

“My friend Heather Bailey is good friends with the Groesbecks, and she called and asked me, ‘How would you like to have another upper-level horse to ride?’ ” Levine said. “And I said, ‘I think I would sell my kidney for that!’

“My other horse is a Westphalian, so he was game but definitely spooky—very backed off,” continued Levine, referring to Nantucket Red, the equitation mount she taught to event up to CCI**. “He was much harder to get fit, and when he was really fit he was a little bit of a screw loose sometimes. This is [Oz Poof Of Purchase’s] first CCI**, but I he’s got the fitness already, and he’s definitely bold and game without the spook!”

Levine grew up in the A-circuit hunter/jumper world, so show jumping is her strong suit. She’ll need to draw on that experience tomorrow, as she has not even a rail in hand over Bennett-Awad.

“It’s definitely not his strongest phase, but he’s been getting so much better,” Levine said. Hopefully I can pull through for us. He handled things today, so I’ll get tomorrow!”

In the CCI*, Sara Mittleider retained her dressage lead aboard Harry Houdini with a double-clear round, while Barbara Crabo did the same in the preliminary three-day event aboard Over Easy.

For full provisional results, visit 




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