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Kristi Nunnink and Corner Street win the CCI2* division at the Galway Downs International Three-Day Event Oct. 30-Nov. 1.

Amy McCool photo

Kristi Nunnink and Corner Street win the CCI2* division at the Galway Downs International Three-Day Event Oct. 30-Nov. 1.

TEMECULA — Kristi Nunnink and Corner Street were always leading in the Galway Downs International Three-Day Event in the CCI2* division held Oct. 30-Nov. 1 at Southern California Equestrian Center.

Nunnink riding Corner Street topped the 23-horse field in the Day 1 dressage phase with a score of 46.9, Day 2 cross-country phase, and stayed on top through the Day 3 climactic, show-jumping phase.

With her three closest competitors less than 2 points behind her as show jumping got underway, it looked as if Nunnink and the bay gelding would have to be absolutely perfect. But third-placed Tamra Smith dislodged two rails on Bubbles At Bricky before second-placed David Koss lowered three rails with Look Sweet. Those miscues gave Nunnink of Auburn, Calif., all the room she needed.

Corner Street was en route to a faultless round until Nunnink said she caused him to barely tick the final two fences and drop the rails to the ground. “I just got a little too excited because it was going so well!” said Nunnink, 48. “Even though they’d taken the pressure off, I still really wanted to jump around clean.”

Smith of Hemet, Calif., still grabbed second place overall with Bubbles At Bricky in the CCI2* division. Leigh Mesher of Redmond, Wash., moved up to third place in the end on Mar de Amor after recording a faultless jumping round.

Victory at Galway Downs climaxed a successful fall season for Nunnink. Two weeks before, she had finished a strong 10th on her mare R-Star at the Fair Hill CCI3* in Maryland. Next March, she will be aiming both R-Star and Corner Street for the CIC3* at the Galway Downs International Horse Trials before heading east for the Rolex Kentucky CCI4* with R-Star and for another CCI3* with Corner Street, a 10-year-old Holsteiner bred in Nevada.

“I think it’s so important for us as West Coast competitors to prepare for those big events in the East as much as we can out here on the West Coast, because organizers like Robert Kellerhouse have committed a huge fortune and so much time to make these events for us,” Nunnink said.

Smith, 34, has similar plans for Bubbles At Bricky, a 13-year-old gelding. Smith has only been riding him since May, but they’ve won three events at Intermediate and Advanced levels since then. Galway Downs was Bubbles At Bricky’s first CCI2*-level competition.

“I think we’re developing a good partnership, although we’re still trying to figure each other out,” Smith said. “I always like Ian Stark’s cross-country course, even though you’re not quite sure how some of the questions are going to work out when you walk it. But they always do.”

Mesher agreed, saying Mar de Amor “was phenomenal on cross-country.” The pair added no penalties to their dressage score of 57.2, which propelled them from the 11th place they earned in dressage.

“When I walked the show jumping course, I was pretty nervous because there were quite a few vertical fences, and I don’t usually ride them as well as I ride the oxers. But it all worked out,” said Mesher, 29.

Tamra Smith shines in multiple divisions

Smith’s successful weekend included more than the hard-earned second place in the CCI2*. Earlier in the day, a faultless show-jumping riding on Clark Kent moved the pair up from fourth to the top spot in the short-format CCI1*. They finished just ahead of Karen O’Neal of Rivers, Ore., riding True Avenue.

Clark Kent, a 9-year-old Thoroughbred gelding, competed as a show hunter before Smith found him–and changed his name. ”He jumps so big and so light on his feet that we thought of naming him Superman, but I thought that was a bit presumptuous. So we came up with Clark Kent, which suits him perfectly because he’s kind of an unassuming, plain bay,” Smith said. “I think he has a very bright future.”

Stephanie Cooper, a 38-year-old dental assistant from Hobart, Wash., riding Calvin seemed destined to win the short-format CCI1* until show jumping, when rails from five jumps hit the ground of the main arena. Cooper bought Calvin, a Thoroughbred, at Emerald Downs racetrack near Seattle as a 3-year-old. He’s now 7 and was competing in his first CCI1*.

MacKenna Shea excels in classic-format CCI1*

Two teenagers from Washington dominated the classic-format CCI1*. MacKenna Shea, 16, of Tacoma, only increased the substantial lead she grabbed in dressage on Landioso by adding no further penalties on roads and tracks, steeplechase, cross-country or show jumping. Tessa Beckett, 19, of Snohomish, moved up to second place, even though she earned 4 penalties in show jumping on Sound Prospect.

Shea had the cross-country ride of her young life with Landioso, 7. “He’s never felt better on course than he did today!” Shea exclaimed. “It was really a neat feeling. I’d like to do steeplechase and roads and tracks before cross-country at every event.”

Shea and Landioso completed the cross-country course 31 seconds faster than the 8-minute optimum time, “and he still felt like he had a lot left in him,” she said. But they weren’t the fastest finishers. Fourth-placed Sarah Vernlund crossed the finish line 47 seconds fast on KF MacGuinness, with Becket just 1 second slower.

Shea could afford to lower four rails by the time she started her round, but she said she still felt anxious. “I always put a lot pressure on myself to ride well, so I definitely still felt pressure,” said Shea, who performed a faultless round.

Like Landioso, Sound Prospect jumped impressively, just catching a toe on one rail and dislodging it. Beckett bought the Thoroughbred gelding, now 7, as a 2-year-old and has brought him along.

Beckett attended Fresno State College in California last year, but she’s transferring to the University of Washington after taking a break this semester to compete at Galway Downs. Shea is a junior in high school.

The two girls were part of a team effort from the U.S. Eventing Association’s Area VII (Oregon and Washington). The classic-format CCI1* was to have offered the USEF West Coast Young Riders Team Championship, but the Area VII team was the only one entered, causing the competition’s cancellation. So the Galway Downs organizers gave Shea, Beckett and teammate Brooke Bayley (who finished seventh) a prize of one free entry apiece to a future Galway Downs Event.

Olympian Gina Miles wins in Training Three-Day

Olympic veteran Gina Miles and student Fiona Graham led the two divisions of the Training-Level three-day event from the dressage phase to the last fence of show jumping. Graham of Portola Valley, Calif., won division A (for riders under 25) on Isengart, and Miles of Atascadero, Calif., won division B (for riders over 25) on Patronus.

A total of 49 horses started the Training-Level three-day event, the largest starting field of the eight Training-Level events held so far this year in the United States.

Graham, 22, attends Cal Poly–San Louis Obispo University. Galway Downs was Graham’s second Training-Level three-day event start with Isengart this year. In June, Isengart, a 6-year-old Trakehner gelding, finished seventh at Inavale (Wash.).

“He’s the first young horse I’ve brought along myself, and I want to really make sure he’s confident before I move him up to preliminary,” Graham said.

The training-level three-day event course was 600 meters longer than the regular training level course and included 11 fences that were not on the course for the training level horse trials. “This course was the right mixture, because it was longer and harder than the regular training level course. It was sort of between training and preliminary, and I think it was the perfect career step for him,” said Graham.

Miles, 35, said she hadn’t competed in a classic-format event since 2004 since no events have offered them above the One-Star level since 2005. “By riding here in this event, I hope to send the message to other eventers that I think it’s a great thing to do, that it’s a really important thing to do for young or inexperienced horses and riders,” she said.

Many riders said that the Galway Downs Training-Level three-day course provided the perfect intermediate step between Training level and Preliminary level.

“My horse really needed to learn to gallop and to get out there and get it done on the cross-country course, and that happened here,” Miles said. “It was really great for young horses.”

Miles and Graham each plan to run these two horses in the classic-format CCI1* at the Galway Downs International Three-Day Event in October 2010.

Chummin, a 7-year-old, Thoroughbred gelding owned and ridden by Lisa Peecook, expired on course in the short-format CCI1*. Chummin collapsed between fences 15 and 16, with no indication of distress prior to the incident. Full paramedic and veterinary teams were present within moments of Chummin’s collapse.

The preliminary necropsy revealed pulmonary hemorrhage and edema. The cause of the hemorrhage was unknown at press time.

Medical personnel checked Peecook on site and released her. The organizers and officials of the Galway Downs International Three-Day Event extend their deepest sympathy to the Peecook family.

For complete show results, visit the Web site: http://eventingscores.com/galway/t3d09/

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