Paso Robles, Calif.—April 12
“Too plain” is not a description that fits the wire-to-wire winner of last weekend’s Twin Rivers’ inaugural CCI4*-L. But that’s what Amber Levine heard five years ago after importing Cinzano as a sales prospect. So, she kept him. His long-delayed debut at the 4*-L level proved the wisdom of her decision.
“By far, he exceeded my every expectation this week,” Levine said. “He was 100 percent with me every step of the way, in every phase.”
Like the inaugural Twin Rivers Spring International CCI4*-L itself, held April 8-11, Cinzano’s division debut was supposed to take place a year ago. COVID cancelled that. Then, a broken collarbone for Levine cancelled a Plan B run at Galway Downs (California) in the fall.
“Today, it felt like everything really came together,” said Levine, who led the four-horse division from start to finish.
The 10-year-old Holsteiner gelding was the first horse to receive the McKinlaigh Cup, donated by long-time West Coast eventing supporter Thom Schulz. Schulz and his late wife, Laura Coats, owned the Irish Sport Horse who partnered with Gina Miles to win individual silver at the 2008 Hong Kong Olympic Games. McKinlaigh was developed and lived out his retired life at the couple’s Rainbow Ranch in nearby Creston, California.
Of his motivation for boosting the 4*-L prize money and donating the McKinlaigh Cup, Schulz referenced his long-time friendship with the Baxter family, who owns Twin Rivers Ranch. Pointing to 5* eventer Andrea Baxter, he said, “I started riding with this kid. I was 49, and she was 10, I think. Laura and I supported what the family was doing with Twin Rivers then, and it has become such a wonderful venue for us to have.”
“Laura would have been tickled to be part of this four-star,” he added, noting that the McKinlaigh Cup is a trophy won by Laura at the Forum National Horse Show in the 1970s.
And McKinlaigh? “Oh, he would have loved it!” Schulz said of the horse, who enjoyed 10 years of green pasture retirement before his death last January.
As is typical of upper-level West Coast eventing, the FEI divisions were small compared with East Coast competitions. The inaugural CCI4*-L was all set for a big launch last year until the pandemic. This year, reshuffled schedules and general uncertainly likely contributed to a lower turnout, although nearly 500 horses competed from 4*-L through beginner novice.
With only four contenders after a fifth withdrew during Thursday’s jog, the 4*-L field still faced the level’s normal challenges. Second-place finisher Campari FFF, campaigned by Marc Grandia, was the only entry to have run the level before.
Levine and Cinzano added only .8 time faults to their dressage score to finish on a 32.3. Grandia and Campari picked up 2 time penalties over Marc Donovan’s twisty, technical show jumping course, holding their runner-up position on a 38.3.
Grandia, a Washington-based professional, has been designing Twin Rivers’ lower-level cross-country courses since he started wintering here four years ago.
Eighteen-year-old Alina Patterson of Washington and her own Flashback won their first CCI3*-L on a 35.2. They had two rails in hand after a clear, fast cross-country round, so the one they dropped in show jumping didn’t alter the standings in the three-horse field.
“He was incredible in all three phases, starting with being super in the sand box,” Patterson said. “On cross-country he never got tired, and he had plenty in the tank today.”
She thanked her coach, John Camlin of Caber Farms, and her parents for helping her achieve this win. Flashback’s trip home will include “all the treats he wants, then he’ll have two well-deserved weeks off.”
In the CCI2*-L, overnight standings in the 19-entry field were very tight, and show jumping shuffled them significantly. James Alliston and Calaro posted a double clear to move from fourth to first, finishing on a 31.4.
A full brother to Grandia’s Campari FFF, by the Holsteiner Camiros, the 9-year-old is “good at everything,” Alliston said. He arrived at James and Helen Alliston’s Alliston Eventing two years ago with a solid dressage track record and has won or been second in every event he’s run so far.
“He’s a full warmblood, but you wouldn’t know it because he is really energetic and fast. I’m hoping he can step into the same sort of class as his brother,” James said.
“They are very opinionated,” said Grandia, who recalled starting Calaro over fences. “It makes them fantastic when you can bring them along to your side, but they don’t want anyone telling them what they can and can’t do. He’s a fun one to watch, and I think he has found his match in James.”
Each member of the Baxter family organizing committee enjoyed seeing dreams manifest at their home property. As the owner of Whirlwind Excavating, Jeff Baxter took particular pride in “seeing all the new aspects of the cross-country that we built being used in one course.”
His favorites include the new “terrain park” along the Salinas River property border, the race track features and a flyover bridge and underpass.
In addition to working with Connie and Jeff Baxter to run the event, Andrea Baxter won the CCI4*-S with her homebred Laguna Seca.
“We are not deterred,” Andrea said of the low international entries. “Along with organizer Robert Kellerhouse and Sarah Broussard of Rebecca Farms, it’s our goal to provide a stepping stone so our people can go and absolutely shine on the world stage. It’s new for us and it’s exciting and it’s really important.”
For full results, click here.