Mittleider Steps Into The Spotlight At Galway Downs CCI4*-L

Nov 4, 2019 - 8:06 AM

Temecula, Calif.—Nov. 3

Tamie Smith put her new United States Equestrian Team pinque coat on in hopes of scoring a third Galway Downs International victory, this one in the CCI4*-L, but after two rails with Ruth Bley’s fast-rising star, En Vogue, it was Sara Mittleider’s turn to take the top spot thanks to a double clear with La Paz over Marc Donovan’s show jumping track. It’s the rider’s first major international victory and the Hungarian Sport Horse’s first long format.

“I’ve been doing this since I was 15, and I’ve been second a lot!” said a very happy Mittleider. They were fault free all week to win on their score of 33.3.

1#14 Sara Mittleider & La Paz Winners Galway CCI4-L-4643
Sara Mittleider earned her first international victory aboard La Paz at the Galway Downs CCI4*-L. Sherry Stewart Photo

The rigors of the format seemed to take little toll on 9-year-old gelding. “He felt really good in his body, he warmed up really rideable, and he jumped incredible. I’m thrilled with him,” said Mittleider.

Since getting him in Hungary as a 4-year-old, La Paz has been a bit tricky until just recently. “He’s a funny horse and has been very difficult, but moving up to this level, now that things are starting to match his scope, he’s been a lot more consistent than even I was expecting.” A move up to the five-star level may be in the cards next year.

Mittleider made the trip from her professional base in Kuna, Idaho, all the more worthwhile by also winning the open preliminary division on RHF Peterzano.

1#14 Sara Mittleider & La Paz Winners Galway CCI4-L-4518
Sara Mittleider and La Paz. Sherry Stewart Photo

En Vogue’s two rails didn’t diminish Smith being “super proud” of the 14-year-old Hanoverian mare, who she’s only been riding since March and is new to this level. “She tried her guts out,” Smith said. Both were back rails, not front rails more typical for the mare, and one was such a “barely touched it” that Smith had to look back to confirm it had hit the dirt and lost the win. “We have a few more ‘parts’ to tick off, but she just keeps getting better and better.”

Although she had horses in three divisions today, Smith only donned her pinque coat for the CCI4*. “There are no real rules for when you can wear it,” said the 2019 Pan Am Games team gold medalist. “But my personal rule is only wear it in the 4*. It’s such an honor and something that I worked my whole life for.”

1#19 Tamie Smith & En Vogue 1St CCI 4-L-1939-2
Tamie Smith and En Vogue, leaders after cross-country in the CCI4*-L, had two rails down in the show jumping to finish second. Sherry Stewart Photo

“Oh my god, he’s amazing,” were Gina Economou’s first words when crossing the timers after a double clear in show jumping to finish third on the 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood Exclusive. She imported him as a 6-year-old, but it’s been a rocky four years getting him to this level. Having some faith in him has been key to “a season of real maturity for both of us,” Economou explained. He has a wicked spook and spin in him, but also ample heart and carefulness. “In the past, when I’ve seen a big distance, I’d panic. Because I didn’t trust that I could allow him to be bold. But he’s earned that trust,” she said.

Remembering an early stretch when “I fell off of him five times in 10 days—at the walk,” Economou was thrilled to complete with only 1.2 stadium time faults to finish third on a 41.6.

Galway Downs organizer Robert Kellerhouse was the next recipient of Economou’s profuse praise. “It’s huge to run this level for this few,” she noted of the six-pair starting roster. “He didn’t have to do it, and if he hadn’t, we wouldn’t have had the qualifiers, we wouldn’t have had this experience. The venue has changed so much, all for the better, and it’s great we have a place to compete with lots of excitement and electricity going on. Robert loves this sport as much as we do.”

Leah Breakey and Master Class were fourth in the division on a 43.4. Two other starters, Marissa Nielsen and Vinetta M and Marc Grandia and Campari FFF, had tough cross-country days and did not advance to show jumping.

#1 Tamie Smith & Danito 1st CCI3_-L-1245
Tamie Smith and Danito topped the CCI3*-L. Sherry Stewart Photo

On another of Bley’s young superstars, Smith stayed atop the CCI3*-L field with Danito, even with one rail. Smith attributed it to a bit of bad luck and to also not having a sense how the 10-year-old Hanoverian’s first long format would affect him for the final phase. “You have to know when to soften or keep an extra feel,” Smith noted.

Erin Kellerhouse and her own Woodford Reserve moved from third to second with a double clear jumping finish, adding just .4 penalty in cross-country time to finish on a 32.9. Although he’s only 8, “people have often asked me why we haven’t moved up already,” says Kellerhouse of the Irish Sport Horse she imported at 4. Uphill conformation makes him a natural star in the dressage court, and he’s bold and scopey on cross-country. After a winter break, Kellerhouse plans to catch up to everybody’s expectations for Woody and move him up to advanced.

Smith picked up this division’s third place, too, on her own off-the-track Thoroughbred No App For That, who finished on his dressage score of 36.2. Of all the week’s victories, Smith may have been most elated about those of her daughter, young professional Kaylawna Smith-Cook. Riding her own Passepartout in the three-star, she had the same score, 36.2, as the elder Smith. Mom’s cross-country time was closer to the optimum, earning her the higher placing.

Winner Danito earned the division’s Yogi Cup, and No App For That received the Livingstone Award for the highest placed OTTB.

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David Koss and Stunner topped the CCI2*-L. Kim F. Miller Photos

Just as the announcer relayed that David Koss and Stunner had a rail in hand in the CCI2*-L, the pair riding last in the 46-horse field lost that rail at the very first fence. They were clear from then on to keep the win with a 30.2 score. Koss felt the 6-year-old Hanoverian homebred was a bit tired and said they have show jumping work ahead over the winter. Nicknamed “Banger” for his playful barn antics, the youngster has always lived up to his name in dressage and Koss looks forward to mental and physical maturation helping to fulfill his early promise.

Professional Olivia Loiacono-Putrino finished second in the division aboard Under The Spotlight, but she refused to take credit for the 8-year-old’s accomplishments. The mare is owned by her longtime student, 16-year-old Lauren Gillis, “who has produced her all up to this point.” Gillis has competed Under The Spotlight at preliminary and had planned to ride her at Galway, but later decided to take a bit more time for that step.

For full results, click here.

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