Friday, May. 24, 2024

Smith Scores A World-Cup Win At Rebecca Farm

She and Bantry Bay V are already aiming higher after winning the Montana CIC***-W.

Since their last big win more than a year ago in the Twin Rivers CCI** (Calif.), Tory Smith and Bantry Bay V have been knocking hard at the door for an advanced-level victory. That door finally opened at The Event At Rebecca Farm in Kalispell, Mont., July 24-27.

Smith and “Corky” topped the FEI World- and USEA Gold-Cup-qualifying CIC*** by a margin of more than 20 points, and now Smith has her sights set on even bigger and better things—a fall CCI.
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She and Bantry Bay V are already aiming higher after winning the Montana CIC***-W.

Since their last big win more than a year ago in the Twin Rivers CCI** (Calif.), Tory Smith and Bantry Bay V have been knocking hard at the door for an advanced-level victory. That door finally opened at The Event At Rebecca Farm in Kalispell, Mont., July 24-27.

Smith and “Corky” topped the FEI World- and USEA Gold-Cup-qualifying CIC*** by a margin of more than 20 points, and now Smith has her sights set on even bigger and better things—a fall CCI.

Smith, Camarillo, Calif., bought Bantry Bay V in England through Natalie Rooney Pitts five years ago as a well-jumped youngster with little flatwork training. Now 10, the Irish Sport Horse gelding (Puissance—Hedda Hopper) has come into his own in all three phases.

“I think he’s a better advanced horse than he was a prelim horse,” said Smith. “He’s sort of taken the responsibility and power that comes with the upper levels and has flourished with it. He likes the challenge.”

A senior at UCLA (Calif.), Smith embraces plenty of challenge as well. She’ll soon complete her psychology degree, but is also on the pre-veterinary track, so grades are top priority. Commuting 11⁄2 hours from school to Debbie Rosen’s barn in Somis, where she keeps Corky, doesn’t make for much free time, but Smith has ridden with Rosen for the past five years and knows the drive is worth it.

“She’s definitely been a big part of our success,” she said. “It’s nice to go [compete] with a good group of people and friends that I can trust and talk to about things.”

Smith and Corky began the weekend at Rebecca Farm in second place, posting a 49.4 in dressage.

“That ring’s been troublesome for us in the past, and I think he gets kind of explosive in there because the atmosphere is kind of electric,” Smith explained. “But he’s matured in the past few years, and my riding has gotten better, so I can work to calm him. I was a little nervous as to how it was going to go, [but after he settled] I was sort of so elated that I started going off course in the walk.

“He was great and springy and fluid,” she continued. “We’ve been working a lot on the lateral movements, like the half-pass, and his changes are clean, but sometimes he’ll explode into them, so I was just so happy with how obedient he was in them.”

Dressage leaders Jolie Sexson and Killian O’Connor widened their margin on cross-country day, posting 2.8 time faults with the fastest round of the division. Smith and Corky retained their second-placed standing, however, logging 5.6 penalties.

“I think it was a great preparation for [the fall competitions],” Smith said of Capt. Mark Phillips’ course. “There were a lot of challenging combinations, and it required a forward, bold ride.”

Unfortunately, despite her healthy post-cross-country lead, Sexon chose to withdraw her mount before the jog on Sunday morning, leaving Smith at the top of the leaderboard.

“We talked about it the previous day, and she told me she was going to withdraw right before she did,” Smith said of Sexson. “She said, ‘You know, it’s your turn—go get ’em.’ It’s really nice to be around people like that and have a good camaraderie going on. I know she’s gone through a lot with her horse, and she’s such a great sport.”

With four rails in hand over her trainer, Rosen, who sat in second place with The Alchemyst, Smith knew she could afford to relax a bit in show jumping. Choosing to keep the pressure on herself, however, she and Corky completed the course fault-free. Rosen pulled two rails, while the other two finishers dropped
four apiece, giving Smith a final winning margin of more than 20 points.

 “He didn’t even feel like we had run the previous day,” she said. “Sometimes I’ll feel him rub one every now and then, but he was so good on that course.”

Although the 100 World Cup points she earned with her Rebecca Farm win put her in a tie for ninth place in the international standings, Smith said competing at this year’s Final isn’t one of her goals. Even if she had been able to fundraise for the trip to the competition—to be held in late September in Deauville, France—Smith is in no hurry to push herself and her horse too far too soon.

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“I’d like to get more experience and feel more comfortable at this level before going to something international,” she said. “I want to be really solid and get our dressage even better. Maybe next year.”
Since there are no CCI***s in California, Smith hopes to bolster her experience at the Fair Hill CCI*** in Maryland in October. That event won’t be her first competitive excursion eastward, however. She and Corky also completed the Jersey Fresh CCI*** (N.J.) in May with a slow but clear cross-country round and a double-clear performance in show jumping.

“I loved it,” Smith said of competing on the East Coast. “If I could, I’d move there in a second. I think it’s good to get out and do something new and bigger and better. We’ve been to a lot of the shows in California several times for several years, so it’s good to see how we fare out East.”

Her Chance To Shine

As the wife of Canadian Olympic eventer Nick Holmes-Smith and mother of three riding daughters, Ali Holmes-Smith is accustomed to working behind the scenes at all levels of competition, but at Rebecca Farm the spotlight was all hers. The Chase, B.C., rider topped the 11-horse CCI** field on her dressage score.

Ali earned the victory gallop aboard her longtime mount Paddington, a 14.3-hand Welsh cross the couple discovered at one of Nick’s clinics as a 4-year-old nearly a decade ago.

“We were both just really impressed with him as a jumper,” Ali said. “He’s a complete rogue pony on the flat, but there was an 11-year-old girl riding him. Toward the end of the camp they said they had him on trial and asked if we thought they should buy him. Nick and I sort of looked at each other, because we really liked him, and said, ‘Yes, we think you should buy him, and if you don’t buy him, we will. And if you do buy him, we want first dibs on him when you outgrow him!’”

“Paddy” found his way back to the couple two years later, and Ali has campaigned him up through the levels for the past seven years. They placed fourth in the dressage at Rebecca Farm on a score of 60.2.

“He put in a pretty good test, although he was a bit tight,” Ali said. “They ran the cross-country for the lower levels on Friday while we were doing dressage, and he was quite distracted by that. He kind of felt like a little kid being kept in for violin lessons while everyone else is out playing baseball.”

Paddy stepped up to the plate the following day, however, and the pair moved up to take the win with a fault-free cross-country run and the only double-clear show jumping round in the two-star.

“He’s extremely smart and experienced now,” Ali said. “Often he doesn’t take a lot of setting up. At a lot of the water lines and road crossings, you can just sort of sit up and he backs himself off and then keeps coming. I wouldn’t say he’s extremely fast, but he’s actually extremely smart, and he’s efficient cross-country.”

Ali hopes Paddy will become her first advanced horse, but finding time to travel to larger events can be tricky.

Until 2003, the Holmes-Smiths ran the Chase Creek CCI** at their farm, and now they offer summer cross-country training camps. In the winter they run their own ski resort, Mustang Powder, in the Monashee Mountains of British Columbia.

“He stays in light work in the winter, but he has not campaigned heavily,” Ali explained of Paddy. “We do a lot of events in British Columbia, Washington, Oregon and Montana. They run spring and fall [in California], but it’s starting to get really busy for us.”

The entire family usually travels to events together, and Ali and Nick’s oldest daughter Carmen, 10, competes at the novice level. She placed sixth at Rebecca Farm with her 26-year-old, Mustang gelding, Hoof Prints. And while Nick no longer events, his presence at competitions is always invaluable to the whole family.

“I really get a huge amount of help and support from my husband,” Ali said. “He walks all my courses with me and is basically my coach. He’s always there.”

Staging A Comeback

California rider Kelly Prather was thrilled to lead a Rebecca Farm victory gallop for the second consecutive year, though 12 months ago she didn’t picture herself winning the short-format CCI*.

Prather and Ballinakill Glory topped the CIC***-W at Rebecca Farm in 2007, which seemed like the perfect run-up for her Fair Hill CCI*** bid in the fall. But the 24-year-old rider didn’t have the autumn she’d hoped for.

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“I stayed with Bruce Davidson for about two months, which was such an amazing experience,” Prather said. “But I ran a couple of events out there, and once we had an unfortunate, silly stop for both of us. Then she was going great and got really fit, but before we left to drive over to Fair Hill she got really bad boot rubs on the back of both of her front legs. She left the [cross-country start] box kind of hesitantly and felt like she was landing very carefully, so I retired her halfway around the course.”

The disappointment of a transcontinental journey for an “R” on her record compounded when Prather fell off in show jumping at their next event, an intermediate horse trial. Then this spring they retired at one advanced event and were eliminated at another.

“We’ve just been having some little different things,” Prather explained. “My confidence has been affecting her confidence a little bit. She’s a really talented horse, so we just backed it down a little bit, because we just wanted both of us to get some confidence back.”

That confidence was back in full force at Rebecca Farm, where Prather and “Pippa,” a 9-year-old Irish Sport Horse (Mark Twain—Ballinakill Topsey) owned by her coach, Andrea Pfeiffer, captured the CCI* lead in the dressage by more than 10 points and never relinquished it. They finished on the same score.

Prather, who has ridden with Pfeiffer and her husband since childhood and now works at their Chocolate Horse Farm in Petaluma, Calif., found Pippa in Ireland while working abroad after high school. The Pfeiffers agreed to purchase the then-3-year-old filly for their student, and their partnership has been solidifying ever since.

After her recent reassessment, Prather now plans to join Smith and Rosen, who also train with Pfeiffer, on their trip east to Fair Hill this fall. This year she’ll aim for the two-star, however.

“I’m very excited with the success this weekend,” Prather said. “I wanted her to feel like the weekend was really easy for her, and that’s what I got. I think she’s feeling great and ready to go out and do more now.”

One For The Future

Nick Cwick has found plenty of success on the West Coast with his advanced horse, Asterix, but Rebecca Farm saw a new star stealing the spotlight. Cwick piloted Sir Donovan, his up-and-coming mount, to a win in the long-format CCI*.

Cwick took over the ride on the 6-year-old Irish import (VDL Arkansas—Flown) two years ago after his client Nicole Hamilton purchased the gelding as a sale project. Cwick liked the horse so much that he found investors to make the purchase himself.

“I just think he’s something special,” he said. “I didn’t expect it. He had hunted a few times in Ireland and was just barely broke when we got him here, but I’ve done all the work with him.”

Cwick, who works as a co-trainer with Shannon Lilley and Dayna Lynd-Pugh at the latter’s Flying Tail Farms in Gilroy, Calif., had the gelding going preliminary by the end of his 5-year-old year. After topping a 25-horse field at the Galway Downs CIC* (Calif.) in March on their dressage score, the pair encountered a slight bump in the road at their first CCI*.

“I did a CCI* [without steeplechase] in April at Twin Rivers [Calif.] and he had a stop going into the coffin,” he explained. “He’s just green still and was a little impressed when he jumped in and stopped at the ditch. That was kind of a new thing for him at this level.”

Unhappy with the mistake, Cwick jumped at the chance to run in a classic-format CCI* at Rebecca Farm.
“I wanted to redeem myself and do one with steeplechase,” he said. “I thought it would be good for his education.”

The pair sat in third place after the dressage on a score of 54.0 and proved on Saturday that they’d been doing their homework, skipping through the long-format endurance phases with ease. After the overnight leader, a student of Cwick’s, incurred two stops on cross-country, Cwick moved into second with a double-clear round.

“He went out onto the cross-country and was just brilliant,” Cwick said of his young mount. “I didn’t really know what to expect because he’s got kind of a laidback attitude about life in general, and everything seems to come pretty easy for him, so I’m always a little concerned because he never really has to try for much. But he ended up being just spectacular.”

Cwick noted that the horse is usually a good show jumper, but he was impressed again with the gelding’s attitude on Sunday. Cwick moved into the lead with another double clear performance, finishing on his dressage score of 54.0.

“This was the first time at this level that he really went into the ring and really tried hard for me,” he explained. “I was really impressed considering he had just run steeplechase and all that and done roads and tracks. I wasn’t sure if he was going to be tired and not make as much of an effort as I was hoping for,
and he ended up making a lot more than that.”

Kat Netzler

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