Friday, May. 24, 2024

Davidson Clinches Galway Downs CCI*** Win

Buck Davidson traveled a long way from his home base in Riegelsville, Pa., to Galway Downs, and he made sure to make it count by holding onto the lead in the CCI*** with Petite Flower.


Temecula, Calif. – Nov. 3

Buck Davidson traveled a long way from his home base in Riegelsville, Pa., to Galway Downs, and he made sure to make it count by holding onto the lead in the CCI*** with Petite Flower.

The win was all the more special because the 11-year-old Thoroughbred mare (Amber’s Lust—Tears Of A Loss) was bred by Davidson’s father, Bruce.

Buck rerouted the mare to Galway Downs after retiring her on cross-country at The Dutta Corp. Fair Hill International CCI*** (Md.).

After a double-clear cross-country round yesterday, he had one rail in hand over Jolie Wentworth and Goodknight, and he needed it as he dropped one.

“I came and didn’t know what to expect,” said Buck. “I expected a low-40s dressage and a clear show jumping. I got a mid-50s dressage and a rail down. I wasn’t sure about the cross-country, and I got a clear cross-country. Nothing really happened like I expected this weekend, but I know that she is world class. I know that beyond a shadow of a doubt, and it’s sort of my job to bring it out in her.”

Davidson admitted he still has a long way to go with “Flower,” but he was thrilled with the win.

“I’m excited that a lot of doors just got opened,” he said. “A lot of things just got easier. Now I can purposely train her for things and not have to worry about getting qualified. It’s about doing the right thing for Flower. That’s really exciting.”

Wentworth did her best to put the pressure on Buck with a clear round, but in the end, she had to settle for second place, just .5 behind.

“As long as I don’t get in there and start to panic and make a mistake, I’m pretty confident,” she said. “He’s jumped some really big show jumping tracks this year, so I was really hopeful. I thought he jumped really well.”

Wentworth was second in the CCI*** in 2011 and fourth last year. This spring, she got the chance to travel to Europe with “Ari,” an experience she found valuable.

“I thought we had a really good spring,” she said. “We were right on track. I was lucky to get an international travel grant. Our plan was to go to Rolex [Kentucky] and then go to Pau [France], but horses being horses, plans changed and we decided to go to Luhmuhlen [CCI**** in Germany] instead. That was an amazing experience. I came back [having learned] an amazing amount. I came back with a whole new perspective as far as the standard of the sport and what I need to do.”

Wentworth spent the summer working on some “holes” in Ari’s training, and she was able to accomplish what she’d hoped for at Galway.

“Now I feel like we’ve made it better,” she said. “We’re coming out the other side of a couple of different training blips.”


British-based U.S. rider Liz-Halliday Sharp traveled to the U.S. with HHS Cooley on a whim, but the California native made the trip worthwhile by taking third place.

It was “Cooley’s” first CCI***, and while Halliday-Sharp was confident in the 9-year-old, she knew he was green at the level having just started eventing as a 7-year-old.

“I’m really glad it went well,” she said. “It was kind of a leap of faith to come here and it took a lot of planning and a lot of begging to pull it all together. He’s a great horse and I really believe in him and I think he’s grown up a lot here. It’s been a really big step up for him.” 

A Crazy Day

Matt Brown moved to the top of the CCI** leader board with BCF Belicoso after Maya Black and Doesn’t Play Fair dropped a rail to finish second.

Brown brought an impressive string of horses to Galway Downs, and finished third in the CCI** with Super Socks BCF and 10th and 12th in the CCI* with Dassett Theme BCF and Happenstance, respectively.

His morning started out poorly though, when his third CCI** ride, Aida, came out of the barn stiff.

Brown decided not to present her at the jog. “This morning was a little crazy,” he said. “She’s just a little sore. Her feet can be a little bit sensitive and the ground was hard in places, so I’m hoping that that’s all it is. It was difficult for me to get focused on my one-star horses because I was mentally dealing with having to withdraw her. I felt like I was able to regroup by the time I was riding [my two-star horses], and I felt confident on those two.”

After the 2012 London Olympic Games, Brown and a longtime student, Valerie Fish of Blossom Creek Farm, started talking about his goal to represent the U.S.

“After this last Olympics, I thought, ‘OK, I can do it, and if I’m going to do it, I need to actually take it seriously,’ ” said Brown. “[Fish] and her husband started asking questions about what it takes, and they basically decided that they wanted to help me achieve that. I’ve never been a self-promoter. I don’t like talking about myself or selling myself to people. I think they’re just very generous, genuine people who want to help me reach my goals.”

Brown traveled abroad to pick out several upper level horses, including Belicoso and Super Socks.

“It’s a new thing for me to be riding horses of this caliber,” he said. “My first event horse was an Appaloosa-Thoroughbred. He could canter on the left lead and lengthen trot, and that was pretty much it. We went through advanced and I’ve always sort of come up with horses like that.”

He’s only has the ride on Belicoso for about six months, but they’ve already won the CCI* at Rebecca Farm (Mont.) and Galway Downs was the 7-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding’s first two-star.

“Every ride I have on him, I have a big smile on my face because that horse is so fun,” he said.


Super Socks has gradually come into his own, and Brown is looking forward to the future with him.

“There’s a whole lot to that horse,” he said. “He’s super-efficient on cross-country. He was full of running the entire time. His dressage next year I think will be really good. He doesn’t have the movement that Belicoso has, but there’s a lot more in there that we haven’t quite gotten to yet.”

A Dream Come True

Amateur rider Ruth Bley couldn’t believe it when CCI* leaders Tamra Smith and Fleur De Lis dropped the final rail in show jumping.

Bley was lying in third place after cross-country with Rodrigue Du Granit, but when Smith and James Alliston on Talisker dropped rails, she nabbed the win. She also picked up sixth with Silver Sage.

“I was so happy to be in third. If I stayed in third, great,” said Bley, 54. “The one-star was my goal for the year. It was practice, practice, practice. I was happy no matter what.”

Bley imported “Rodrigue” this year, and she’s found quick success with him.

“He’s just a fabulous horse,” she said. “He’s honest and brave and thinks about everything. As long as you explain things correctly to him, he’s happy. He’s just been getting better and better the whole time I’ve had him, our relationship kind of gelled, figuring out how much is enough and what’s not enough.”

Bley fits in riding after work. She owns her own electrical contracting company that works on projects as big as the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

“I can’t complain,” she said. “My horses are fabulous. They take care of me.”


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