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Sir James of Galway

Alliston defends his CCI3* crown, collects $12,250 at Galway Downs

Special to the Horsetrader - November 15th, 2012 - Show & Event News

Amy McCool photo

James Alliston and Tivoli flew to the CCI3* title at Galway Downs.

TEMECULA — James Alliston should now be called “Mr. Galway Downs”.

The Galway Downs International Three-Day Event has offered a CCI3* for the last three years, and Alliston, of Castro Valley, Calif., has placed in the top three at all three events. He earned third place in 2010, first and seventh places in 2011, and this time he placed first, second and sixth.

Alliston rode Tivoli to victory (53.4), rode Jumbo’s Jake, the horse he won with in 2011 and finished third with in 2010, to second place (56.6), and rode Parker to sixth place, one position higher than he finished in 2010 and in 2011.

Michael Pollard, of Dalton, Ga., rode Schoensgreen Hanni to third place (57.2) this year.

Amy McCool photo

Lauren Billys of Visalia and Ballingowan Ginger take the CCI2* title at the Galway Downs International 3-day.

Equine Insurance of California, Land Rover, Professional’s Choice and the Professional Riders Organization were the presenting sponsors of the Galway Downs International Three-Day Event. A portion of all tickets sales benefited Operation Homefront, PRO’s charitable partner.

“I like this place. I seem to do well here, and I’ve been on a bit of a roll,” said Alliston with understatement. Alliston collected $12,250 of the $21,000 prize money in the CCI3*.

In these last three years, Alliston, 27, has emerged from being a hopeful international rider to a bona-fide international star. Still, he said that he didn’t feel more pressure because he won last year’s Galway Downs International Three-Day Event.

“I guess I didn’t really think about being the defending champion before the event,” said Alliston, who still represents his native England. Plus, Jumbo’s Jake hasn’t been jumping his customary clear cross-country rounds, even being eliminated in his most recent start.

Amy McCool photo

Ping Pong, with Julie Flettner of Petaluma aboard, win the CCI1* championship at the Galway Downs International 3-day.

“So I didn’t really think there was much chance of him winning again, to tell you the truth,” said Alliston. “Tivoli will probably be my best horse down the line, but it’s his first CCI3*, and Parker isn’t really there in the dressage. They’re all great jumpers, and I expected them to go well, but I didn’t expect to be at the head of affairs necessarily.”

I’m actually happier for Jake than the other two horses,” added Alliston. “I wasn’t sure what to expect, because his confidence has been a little bit shaky for the last few months, so I wasn’t sure whether to do the three-star or not. But he likes this venue for sure—he always goes well here.”

First And Final
Alliston had another challenge to overcome at Galway Downs—riding three horses in the 12-horse CCI3* field. That meant that he literally stepped off one horse and got right on the next one, on all three days. The demanding schedule kept his crew from Graceland Farm busy, even thought they had help from Alliston’s parents, sister and brother-in-law. For the second year in a row, his parents made the trip from England to support their son in the CCI3*.

“With Jumbo’s Jake, Alliston was the first starter on the three-star course, designed once again by Ian Stark of Great Britain. He rode Parker in the middle of the 12-horse field, and Tivoli was the last to go on all three days, as the sun was starting to set over Galway Downs.

“On cross-country, the first two were the physically most tiring, because you have to kick Jake a lot to make the time and Parker was really strong today. Tivoli was actually pretty easy after those two,” he said with a smile.

Tivoli’s victory represents years of careful work on Alliston’s part. He purchased the Dutch Warmblood gelding three years ago, after he’d completed a CCI2* in Europe. But when Alliston took him to a preliminary event for the first time, “I thought it would be a walk in the park, but he was frighteningly strong. I had to either slow him down or learn how to ride him. I didn’t show him again for a year and a half.”

Both Tivoli and Jumbo’s Jake lowered one rail on the show jumping course, but their competitors had given them breathing room with similar minor errors. Pollard and Schoensgreen Hanni also lowered one rail.

But for Pollard, that was a more-than-satisfactory round, to end a heart-braking year for him, one that included a devastating trailer accident. In June, a truck struck his trailer, killing three of the horses in the trailer. The only horse to survive the crash was Schoensgreen Hanni.

“She’s got a lot of heart. She’s a pretty special mare,” said Pollard with emotion.

“This is huge,” continued Pollard. “Coming into this event, she was tied for [the U.S. Eventing Association’s] mare of the year award, and I think this should put her on top. OK, it’s stupid point-chasing, but it means a lot to me this year. It’s a good way to end what’s been a really tough year for me.”

Stark’s Course Sorts Them Out
Seven of the 12 three-star starters jumped faultlessly, but only Parker and Hawley Bennett-Awad of Canada, on Gin ‘N Juice, added no time penalties. Phillip Dutton, of West Grove, Pa., who placed second in dressage on Atlas, had one refusal at fence 11, a narrow brush fence over a water-filled ditch, but then finished the course. Buck Davidson, of Ocala, Fla., and another of the international stars competing at Galway Downs this year, finished fifth on The Apprentice, with a fast cross-country round (2.8 time faults) but 8 faults in show jumping.

Bennett-Awad fell from her second mount, Five O’Clock Somewhere, after a refusal at fence 20; McKenna Shea and Landioso fell on landing at fence 20, the fourth element of the third water combination; and John Michael Durr fell from Warrick at fence 6.

Course designer Ian Stark said that he “was happy with the way everything rode.” He had planned to start the cross-country courses in the newly seeded infield of the Galway Downs training track, but organizer Robert Kellerhouse told him in late August that the grass wouldn’t be ready. “So there was a sudden panic about where to start and finish, but we worked it all out nicely, I thought,” said Stark with a laugh.

This year spectators could watch the cross-country action from four oases located all around the course. Each oasis offered different kinds of food and local wines and beers, plus water and soft drinks. During the breaks between the three international divisions, musicians performed at each oasis, a new addition that attracted a record 1,500 spectators on Saturday.

“The oases didn’t have any effect on my plans, but I thought they were an excellent idea,” said Stark. “I thought it was a really good idea. It gives a lot of family members and supporters who aren’t that horsey something to do. It makes a family day out.”

Stark, who has been designing the Galway Downs courses since 2007, is always looking to add more terrain questions to the basically flat grounds. “I have new ideas for next year that I’m looking forward to,” he said with a grin.

Billys Scores For Puerto Rico
With a fast cross-country round, Lauren Billys, who rides for Puerto Rico but lives in Visalia, Calif., grabbed the lead in the CCI2* on Ballingowan Ginger and held on in the show jumping, despite lowering one rail (54.8). Her score was enough to better Zachary Brandt on Cavallino Cocktail (57.5) and Bea di Grazia on Lad’s Night Out (60.5). Byllis won $2,000 for placing first.

Billys and Ballingowan Ginger finished the cross-country course 4 seconds slow (1.6 time penalties). “That was about as fast as she could have gone,” said Billys. She said that she was “a little nervous” before starting, since in her last three-day start with the mare, at the 2011 Pan Am Games, they’d fallen three jumps from the finish.

“So I wanted to redeem myself,” said Billys, who rides for Puerto Rico because her grandmother was born there.

Billys, 24, is a senior at Fresno State College, majoring in chemistry and wine making, but she plans to be a professional rider. She trains with di Grazia and her husband, Derek.

“This was really important for me, because it’s Puerto Rico’s first FEI eventing win that I know of,” said Billys. “Being so close last year and being able to come here and win was so sweet.”

Her next goals include riding in the 2015 Pan Am Games and, she hopes, the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. “This means a lot, because I get to represent Puerto Rico and because I hope it shows that I’m a rider worth supporting to go there. I hope it means that we’re already moving in that direction,” she said.

Flettner Climaxes Great Year
Julie Flettner, of Petaluma, Calif., emphatically climaxed a memorable year by winning the CCI1* on her mare Ping Pong (42.5), over Maya Black, of Clinton, Wash., on Doesn’t Play Fair (43.1) and Frankie Thieriot, of Occidental, Calif., on Uphoria (44.4). Uphoria was named the best-conditioned horse in the CCI1*.

In November 2011, Flettner and Ping Pong won the Training Level Three-Day Event at Galway Downs and then moved up to preliminary level. In May, they won the Preliminary Rider Challenge at the Woodside Horse Trials, and in October they won the CIC1* at the Woodside International Horse Trials.

“I still don’t believe this year,” Flettner, 37, an optometrist at a veterans’ hospital in Santa Rosa, Calif.” I still think preliminary looks big, even after this weekend. The training three-day was great, because it was bridge from training to preliminary, especially since it had been 20 years since I’d done preliminary.”

Flettner said that Ian Stark’s cross-country course “was great and galloping and asked all the questions. I was actually surprised that she looked at some of those jumps—she doesn’t usually. The stuff I worried about was fine, and the stuff I didn’t worry about I had to ride.”

Black, 24, began riding Doesn’t Play Fair in the spring of 2011 for owner/breeder Dawn Dofelmier. “I put him in training with the idea he’d be her novice horse, and now I’m going to keep riding him and see where he goes,” said Black of the Holsteiner gelding, 7.

She agreed with Flettner’s evaluation of Stark’s cross-country course. “I thought it was a blast and the next step for him. It was a very educational round, and he’s better for it,” she said.

Madison Kauffman added nothing to the dressage score she earned on Sky Captain (31.8) to win the lion’s share of the prizes in the Training Level Three-Day Event, including a Voltaire jumping saddle. She just nipped Canadian Olympian Hawley Bennett-Awad’s score on the Arabian mare Sienna (32.2) and Tylia Schoenewald on Arame (32.9).

Kauffman, of Fountain Hills, Ariz., bred and trained Sky Captain. Kauffman, 26, owns a day-care center, and she started showing Sky Captain, 8, in the show hunter ring, but the results were disappointing. So she turned to eventing, “And now I love it,” she said.

Kauffman said that she wasn’t sure how the Oldenburg gelding would act when he started on cross-country after trotting through two roads and tracks phases and galloping around the steeplechase course. “He was mentally different after steeplechase, and he was amazing on cross-country,” she said.

“I’m super-ambitious, and this year I decided to take a step back and let my coach, Barb Crabo, guide me on what to do,” added Kauffman. “She did mention going preliminary on Sunday—that we’re ready, so I’ll probably do that next season. But I’ll take it one day at a time.”
Schoenewald, of Camarillo, Calif., and Arame, a 9-year-old Thoroughbred-cross, won the best-conditioned award for the Training Level Three-Day Event.

“This is a capstone event to do,” said Schoenewald, 26. “The training three-day is tougher than a normal horse trial, and it’s an opportunity to showcase the hard work you’ve done throughout the year.”

The generous additional sponsors of the Galway Downs International Three-Day Event include: Gold— California Horse Trader, Equine Comfort Products, MDBarnmaster and Sunsprite Warmbloods; Silver— Charles Owen, Devoucoux Bairritz-France, Embassy Suites Hotel, Holiday Inn Express & Suites, Majyk Equipe and Temecula Creek Inn; Bronze—Advanced Protection Formula by Auburn Laboratories Inc., American Medical Response, the American Horse Trials Foundation, Big Horse Feed, California Riding Magazine, Cavalor, CWD, Geranium Street Equestrian, Point Two Air Jackets, Ride On Video, Smartpak Equine, Triple Crown Nutrition Inc. and Voltaire Design.

MORE ONLINE: http://bit.ly211B_3Day

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