Temecula, Calif.—Oct. 31
Notoriously busy East Coast professional riders Boyd Martin and Buck Davidson brought just one horse each for this weekend’s Galway Downs. But Martin and Davidson are once again proving they’re masters of quality as well as quantity, and at the end of the dressage, those two are tied in the CCI*** on Trading Aces and Copper Beech, respectively, with 44.4 penalties.
“I watched Buck’s test, and I thought, ‘Was I that bad?’ ” joked Martin.
“I picked Copper Beech to win this,” he added. “He’s looked very strong. I thought he’d be the pick.”
But despite their current identical standing, Martin and Davidson’s horses are here in California for very different reasons.
For Martin, he’s out to test Trading Aces a bit after the horse’s disappointing showing at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in France this summer with Phillip Dutton aboard. The gelding ran out of steam on cross-country about 2/3 of the way through, and Dutton retired him. Martin was forced to retire him after he struggled near the end of the Rolex Kentucky CCI**** cross-country in 2013, but he rebounded for a eighth-placed finish at this April’s event.
“He’s been a bit hit and miss,” said Martin, Cochranville, Pa., of the 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse (Coevers Diamond Boy—Ballyvannon Beauty VII, Leaburg) owned by the Trading Aces Syndicate. “He’s either been phenomenal or disappointing. After the WEG, we decided to try and make it a little easier on him here at Galway with the flatter ground and hopefully faster ground and smaller jumps than in Normandy. I think this event is a good turning point in his career. If he fails here—well, I haven’t really thought about that. But it would be pretty disheartening. We’re here to take a crack at it, and it’s going well so far.”
By contrast, Sherrie Martin and Cassie Segal’s 8-year-old Irish Sport Horse Copper Beech won his last three-day—the Jersey Fresh CCI***—but Davidson wasn’t thrilled with the ride the gelding gave him there. He’s seeking a better feeling across tomorrow’s Ian Stark cross-country track.
“I’d like to hope I have a better round here than at Jersey. I was lucky there; I’d like to think I won’t need to be as lucky here,” said Davidson. “He can get kind of stressed, and when he does, he kind of forgets the jumping part. But he’s been going much better. He’s brave and honest. We’ll see. If he goes like he did at Jersey, I’m in trouble. If he goes like he did at [the Plantation Field CIC***], I’ll be in good shape.”
Davidson’s attended this event every year since the three-star started in 2010, but this is Martin’s first time riding at Galway.
“I was quite impressed with the course,” said Martin. “I think it has all the questions. It’s big and technical, and there are a couple of four-star questions—like the bounce into water [fence 18ABC] and the double of corners [fence 15AB].”
“For the most part it’s a nice course, but the corners, if you saw those at Kentucky, they’d keep you up at night,” Davidson added. “To me, that’s the competition. We can never underestimate the ground here either. Our horses aren’t used to it. It’s a little more dead than what we have at home. But I’m really happy and thankful they made a big effort on the ground this year. They’ve worked hard to compact it.”
Maya Black is third in the three-star with Doesn’t Play Fair. She rerouted the gelding here after falling in the water at the Dutta Corp. Fair Hill CCI*** a few weeks ago.
Marilyn Little, leading the two-star on RF West Indie and the one-star on RF Scandalous, also decided to come west after her Fair Hill experience. She was eliminated after a fall from RF West Indie on that two-star course.
“This decision was so last minute, I can’t even tell you,” she said. “I think it looks like plenty of course in the two-star—three waters, lots of serious questions and plenty of galloping. I think the time will be tight to make.”
Riders head out on cross-country starting at 9:20 a.m. local time, starting with the two-star. The first of the 19 three-star riders, Jennifer McFall on High Times, leaves the box at 11:05.