Sunday, May. 26, 2024

Davidson Defies The Elements For Galway Downs Dressage Lead

Temecula, Calif., Nov. 4

Buck Davidson isn’t that excited about winning the dressage at the Galway Downs CCI***. Don’t get him wrong, he’s as proud as ever with his mount, Ballynoe Castle RM, especially considering the conditions the 11-year-old gelding endured today.

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Temecula, Calif., Nov. 4

Buck Davidson isn’t that excited about winning the dressage at the Galway Downs CCI***. Don’t get him wrong, he’s as proud as ever with his mount, Ballynoe Castle RM, especially considering the conditions the 11-year-old gelding endured today.

“But my girlfriend [Andrea Leatherman] was like, ‘Why aren’t you more excited about Reggie?’ and I said, ‘Because this isn’t a dressage show. It’s a three-day event,’ ” said Davidson. “[Cross-country course designer Ian Stark] has definitely ramped it up a bit from last year, and I heard that he said the time was too easy last year, so he’s made it harder this time. I might lose a few hours of sleep tonight.”

But Davidson, of Riegelsville, Pa., and Ocala, Fla., should be able to breathe a tiny bit easier knowing that his leading mount has four four-star completions to his credit. The last of those was the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton CCI**** (England) in May, where the pair finished as the top U.S. placers in 21st.

“He just keeps showing up,” Davidson said of “Reggie,” who’s owned by Carl and Cassandra Segal. “He’s sort of in his prime now, and every single weekend he steps up and does what he’s supposed to do.

“Reggie’s been scheduled to come here ever since he did Badminton,” he added. “Robert [Kellerhouse, Galway’s organizer] does such a good job here. California’s been good to me, and so I wanted to come and show my support. It’s exciting to have good prize money and courses and and a good ground jury and a top-flight event.”

Davidson and Reggie hold the overnight lead on 41.8 penalties after attaining almost identical marks from each member of all three judges. Angela Tucker of Great Britain (at C) and Jane Hamlin of the United States (at M) both marked him at 72.00 percent, while the judge at E, Cara Whitham of Canada, ticked him up to 72.40 percent.

The 35-year-old rider also piloted three-star first-timer Park Trader in to 19th place (59.0) and Titanium, another four-star veteran, into a tie for 23rd (61.2). Davidson noted that he felt bad for not giving the latter horse, his first ride of the day, the chance he deserved to perform his best test.

“I made a huge mistake in that I didn’t put any studs in, and mid-way through my medium canter circle, I about wiped out,” he said. “‘Ty’ was actually pretty good, for him, it was just completely my fault.

“My most exciting ride was probably Park Trader,” Davidson continued. “He was going preliminary this time last year—I fell in love with him in the show jumping warm-up at the Midsouth CCI* [Ky.]. He’d been with Kim Severson, Sally Cousins, Phillip Dutton and Elizabeth Stewart, so I got the phone calls and sort of heard his rap sheet. His dressage needed a little… ‘adjusting.’ So I was really thrilled with him today. He’s 9, and he’s as talented a horse as I’ve ever sat on.”

The Rarest Of Rains

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In many ways, the today’s competition resembled its East Coast counterpart, the Dansko Fair Hill CCI. Galway’s three-star division boasts 36 entrants—only nine fewer than the CCI*** national championship that took place in Maryland in mid-October.

Plus, the kind of cold, rainy weather that’s always expected at Fair Hill but is extremely rare in Southern California plagued competitors for much of the day. Judges in other arenas expressed their concerns for safety after several horses slipped in the saturated footing, and standing water collected all over the grounds, including on the road exiting the facility.

“The conditions were far from ideal,” said California-based Brit James Alliston, who rode Jumbo’s Jake into third place behind Michael Pollard, who flew out from his home in Chatsworth, Ga., just days after returning from the Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, with a team gold medal. Pollard scored a 42.2 aboard Jude’s Law for second place, while Alliston slipped into third aboard Jumbo’s Jake on 45.4 penalties. But he felt he could have done better.

“The arena was quite slippery and pretty deep, so it was tough to really ride full-power in the mediums and stuff like that,” said Alliston, of Castro Valley, Calif. “Two weeks ago at Woodside [(Calif.), where the pair won the CIC***] he got a 41, and I thought the tests were pretty similar. But maybe the conditions there were better, so I was able to ride him a little bit more. But this was a nice, consistent test, pretty mistake-free.”

Alliston also rode Parker II into 25th place (61.6) and said he thought both horses would run well tomorrow, especially if the rain soaks in as expected.

“I don’t really know about Galway too much, but I know Woodside a few weeks ago had a ton of rain as well, and I felt like the ground, by the time they ran cross-country, was great. If it drains like it did there, it’ll be perfect. I hope!” 

Like Davidson, Alliston was more concerned about the efforts on Stark’s course than the footing.

“I think it’s big,” he said. “I think it’s going to need a really brave horse. Particularly, you have the ‘mini Vicarage Vees,’ as I like to call them, over the moats, then no let-up fence before the two big corners. You go straight from one very hard test that’s maybe going to back your horse off a little bit straight to another one. Plus there are big jumps into the water and the big ditch and wall—I’m pretty sure Ian beefed that up a bit since last year. It looked like you could drive a car through it! I think it’s going to need attacking all the way around.”

The New Girl In Town

“Who’s that girl?” was the question buzzing through the crowd as the second rider of the division, Merel Blom, entered the arena aboard Umberto Db. The young-looking rider with orange lapels and a fancy-moving little chestnut turned plenty of heads, including the judges’. With her exacting and elastic test, she led the CCI*** division for most of the day on her mark of 47.0.

After representing the Netherlands at the HSBC European Eventing Championships this summer in Germany, Blom, 25, is one of her country’s top up-and-coming Olympic hopefuls. But she’s now in a race to get enough CCI*** runs to qualify for London 2012, which is why she and her two horses, Umberto Db and Rumour Has It, flew all the way from Europe to Southern California just a month after completing the Boekelo CCI*** in their home country.

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Blom now sits fourth on Umberto Db, a 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood, while Rumour Has It, an 8-year-old Holsteiner, stands eighth on 50.2 penalties.

Still Holding On

In the CCI** and CCI* divisions, the top placings remained the same from yesterday. No one could best the tied leaders in the two-star, Amber Levine on Oz Poof Of Purchase and Max McManamy on Project Runway (47.8).

“He was fantastic today,” McManamy, Templeton, Calif., said yesterday of the 7-year-old pinto Trakehner she bought four years ago. “We’ve been working really hard on getting him more energetic and expressive, and he was energetic and not lazy.” 

Levine, Santa Rosa, Calif., has only had the ride on Oz Poof Of Purchase, a black Thoroughbred-Arabian cross, for two months, but she was equally pleased.

“I was really happy with him—he was relaxed but energetic. I just wish he would hold still in the halt. He wiggles!” she said of the 16-year-old eventing, endurance and cattle-cutting veteran.

Oz Poof Of Purchase’s full sibling, Oz The Tin Man, stands fifth with breeder and rider Katherine Groesbeck on 50.8 penalties. Last fall at Galway, the two horses finished second and first, respectively, in the preliminary three-day event with Groesbeck.

Hawley Bennett-Awad stands third in the CCI** on SplendoroftheSun (49.7).

In the CCI*, Sara Mittleider and Harry Houdini also retained their lead on 46.6 penalties. Stacey Winter on Stella Brava (46.9) stands second, followed by Bea di Grazia on Lad’s Night Out (47.5).

For full provisional results, visit EventingScores.com.

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