Friday, May. 31, 2024

Spectacular Gold Goes The Distance At Biltmore

Valerie Kanavy has a new star on her hands.

May 2 saw the historic Biltmore Estate come alive with activity as an impressive line-up of who’s who in the endurance community converged on Asheville, N.C., for what has become one of the most competitive races in the East, the Biltmore Challenge Endurance Ride.



Valerie Kanavy has a new star on her hands.

May 2 saw the historic Biltmore Estate come alive with activity as an impressive line-up of who’s who in the endurance community converged on Asheville, N.C., for what has become one of the most competitive races in the East, the Biltmore Challenge Endurance Ride.

Leading the line-up were three out of four of the U.S. team’s Pan American silver medalists, fresh from their successful competition in Uruguay. Valerie Kanavy and Steve Rojek competed in the 100-mile division, while Cheryl Van Deusen rode in the 75-mile division.

Kanavy proved she’s on a roll, winning the 100-mile ride on Spectacular Gold. Though she owns the horse, this was Kanavy’s first competition on Spectacular Gold. Teresa McCarty, a member of Kanavy’s staff, and Kanavy’s daughter Danielle have been his primary riders while Kanavy campaigned her notoriously tough-to-ride King’s Ali Gold.

Kanavy rode LM Francesca Pharr, a horse training in Uruguay, in the Pan Am Championships, instead of shipping a horse there.

“Teresa was warning me that ‘Spec’ was really competitive and that he’ll pull you, but he was nothing! I kept thinking, ‘Is it that he’s really this nice or am I so used to Ali?’” Kanavy commented.

The ride filled early with a long list of FEI riders scrambling to achieve their Certificates Of Completion to qualify for the World Endurance Championships pre-ride this fall and ultimately the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Lexington, Ky. Of the 46 entries in the 100-mile distance, 26 were also riding FEI, as were 18 of the 34 entries in the 75-mile division and 38 of the 81 50-mile entries.

Considering the history of bad weather and difficult footing at this ride, it was no surprise when weather forecasters called for showers on the Friday before the ride and “scattered thundershowers, some severe with possible golf ball sized hail, lightning and high winds” for ride day.

Racing The Rain

At 3:30 a.m., as if on cue, the rain began to fall as 100-milers emerged for the morning feeding. The light shower was mercifully short, and some hope was kindled of at least starting the ride dry. At 6 a.m., 46 horses trotted out of camp in the dark, their silhouettes indistinguishable as they followed the headlights of the all terrain-vehicle that led the horses in a controlled start until it became light enough to see the markers.

After completing the first 14.8 miles in 1:23, Samantha Sandler on Elliptic and Ruth Anne Everett on Royel-T Razzmatazz held a 3-minute lead over Kanavy on Spectacular Gold, with Farzad Faryadi on Hot Desert Knight in fourth 1 minute after Kanavy.


Though the skies stayed heavy, the rain continued to hold off, and riders made the best of the good footing and cool temperatures to make excellent time.

By the second vet check at 33.6 miles, Faryadi had made up 10 minutes on the front runners, covering the second 18.8-mile loop at approximately 11 mph. Sandler, Everett and Kanavy left the 50-minute hold 6 to 8 minutes later on the “Red 3” 18.9-mile loop.

The top five stayed much the same throughout the day, as did the weather. Though promised rain often threatened, it limited itself to short showers and the promised downpours never materialized. 

As the day wore on, the front runners maintained their 10-mph pace in spite of impressive changes in elevation and rugged footing. And at the end of the day it was the two-time World Champion Kanavy who took the win, riding her homebred 7-year-old Arabian gelding Spectacular Gold.

Faster Than She Wanted

A last-minute e-mail from ride organizers changed riders’ ride preparation. They warned riders that the estate had put down a mile of bluestone gravel on a stretch of road with no shoulder.

This caused rushed decisions on the part of riders who often avoid hoof pads for this ride due to threat of mud. “Yes we padded, absolutely,” Kanavy said. “I don’t think I could have done it without pads. He hasn’t seen a hill since November.” Spectacular Gold wintered in Florida, conditioning on sand.

“I started out real easy,” Kanavy said. “Samantha Sandler and Ruth Anne Everett were way the heck gone, and I was with Farzad and Ed Kidd. I felt like we had a wonderful start.”

Kanavy caught Faryadi on the second loop, but Kanavy wasn’t thinking acceleration. “I’m thinking, ‘This is faster than I want to do cause he hasn’t seen any hills.’ I just needed a completion—I didn’t want him to be really tired or anything,” she said.

Soon however, Faryadi experienced a broken breast collar and dropped back to repair it. Kidd and his horse Merlin caught up with Kanavy, and she chose to continue to pace with him even after Faryadi caught back up and passed.


Unfortunately, after being separated at the next vet check, Kidd missed a turn on the next loop and was sent out to correct the error, taking him out of contention. Kanavy’s horse soon teamed up with Everett and her horse Razz.

Sandler soon joined them, and the three traveled together, finishing the first half of the 100 miles well within striking distance of the leaders.

By the next-to-last loop, after 70 miles, Kanavy had caught Faryadi. The records of the two horses predicted a tight race. Spectacular Gold has 685 career miles and 11 career endurance competitions, with 10 top 10s, five wins and five best conditions.

Hot Rivals

Though Faryadi’s Hot Desert Knight has been competing longer and has 1,990 miles, he started peaking in 2008 when he was second (to Kanavy on Ali) and won best condition in the National Championship 100.

Kanavy and Faryadi rode the next 15-mile loop together, and it was obvious that recoveries at the last key 85.4-mile vet-point could settle the win.

“I got him on the pulse,” Kanavy said. “We came in together. He was trying to slow down so his pulse would be good, but I just kept going and he had to come with me.”

Spectacular Gold had been recovering in approximately 1 minute all day. Spectacular Gold out-recovered Hot Desert Knight by 3 minutes, a lead he maintained throughout the last 14 miles of trail, winning by the same 3-minute interval.

Kanavy sealed a perfect weekend when Spectacular Gold also received the coveted best condition award. “I actually didn’t think we’d win [best condition]; Farzad’s horse trotted very well too. I thought with his weight and only a 3-minute lead he might get it,” she said.

Nicki Young Meuten made a strong late run, finishing third on her Anglo-Arabian mare, Not Tonight. Everett on another Anglo-Arabian, Royel-T Razzmatazz, finished a strong fourth, and Lynn Kenelly on Reminisonce rounded out the top five in fifth. Sandler, who ran up front much of the day, was pulled at the finish line.




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