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Barbara’s breakthrough

Crabo wins first CCI3* at Galway Downs International

From releases and staff reports - November 20th, 2014 - Show & Event News
Tamra Smith of Murrieta takes Irish Blend to victory in Training Level Division A action at the Galway Downs International Three Day Event, held Oct. 30 - Nov. 2.

Tamra Smith of Murrieta takes Irish Blend to victory in Training Level Division A action at the Galway Downs International Three Day Event, held Oct. 30 – Nov. 2.

Captured Moment photo

TEMECULA — Barbara Crabo rode Eveready II to victory in the CCI3* at the Galway Downs International Three-Day Event, scoring 53.2 penalties. Her faultless show jumping around, combined with the fastest time on the cross-country course, pushed her to the top when leader Buck Davidson lowered one show jumping rail with Copper Beech to finish second (54.0). Maya Black and Doesn’t Play Fair finished third (59.2).

For Crabo, of Scottsdale, Ariz., Galway Downs was her first victory in a CCI3*, and for it she received a check for $7,000.

“I’m trying not to swear, but it feels awesome. It means the world to me,” said Crabo.

Crabo bred Eveready II, now 15 years old, was the first person to ride him, and is the only person to ever compete him. “We’ve been working together so hard and so long. I think, why couldn’t he be 11 now and not 15? But when he was 11 he was unrideable.”

With the second-fastest cross-country time on Copper Beech, Davidson put himself in position to win the CCI3* at Galway Downs for the second consecutive year. Davidson won the CCI3* in 2013 on Petite Flower.

Buck Davidson and Copper Beach soar during a scenic moment at Galway Downs in the CCI3* competition. The pair was second, behind Barb Crabo and Eveready II.

Buck Davidson and Copper Beach soar during a scenic moment at Galway Downs in the CCI3* competition. The pair was second, behind Barb Crabo and Eveready II.

Captured Moment photo

But Davidson then finished 14 seconds slow (5.6 time penalties), and Crabo finished 9 seconds faster (3.6 time penalties).

Crabo said it was the fastest three-star round she’d ever had, that she met her minute markers for the first four minutes of the 10-minute course. “I’ve been working going faster for so long, and I feel like we kind of slew that dragon today,” said Crabo.

Davidson began the Galway Downs CCI3* by tying with Boyd Martin, his teammate on the U.S. team at the World Equestrian Games last summer, for the dressage lead. Martin rode Trading Aces to a score of 44.4, the same score Davidson achieved on Copper Beech.

Martin, of Cochranville, Pa., joked, “I watched Buck’s test and thought, ‘Was I that bad?’”

Davidson, of Riegelsville, Pa., just smiled.

But they weren’t joking on Saturday. Martin retired Trading Aces after a refusal at fence 19, the third of four water complexes.

Trading Aces went to the 2014 World Equestrian Games (with Phillip Dutton, because Martin was injured) and has placed in CCI4*s but he’s also struggled with his fitness. He retired early on course at the World Equestrian Games, and Martin retired him at Galway Downs after a refusal at the third water complex.

CCI3* winner Barb Crabo is the only rider to ever compete on her 15-year-old champion, Eveready II.

CCI3* winner Barb Crabo is the only rider to ever compete on her 15-year-old champion, Eveready II.

Captured Moment photo

“He’s been a bit hit and miss,” admitted Martin. “I brought him out here to give him a shot.”

Davidson was on course when Martin retired, and he said he saw Martin dejectedly walking off the course as he galloped between fences. “I felt badly for him—he’s a friend and a teammate, and you hate to see it not work for anyone. So I said to myself, ‘OK, let’s settle down and not do anything stupid,’” said Davidson.

Rain on Friday night caused event officials to postpone the start of cross-country phase by two hours on Saturday morning while crews harrowed the tracks to help the morning sun and wind dry the ground out. Davidson said the wetter-than-usual ground had minimal effect on the CCI3* by the time they went in the early afternoon.

“The footing was certainly way better than last year–huge improvements,” said Davidson.

Third-placed Maya Black agreed. “The rain and footing were on everybody’s mind this morning. He had one or two little slips, but I hardly kicked him at all. I kind of just let him cruise around,” she said.

Davidson had high praise for course designer Ian Stark’s work. “I like Ian’s theme of riding forward, of going forward. There’s nothing tricky that smashes you in the face,” he said. “I think it’s a great thing when you can make a course that rides easy but looks hard or looks easy and rides hard. And he does that every time.”

Crabo said that she always looks forward to riding Stark’s courses at Galway Downs. “Ian builds a phenomenal course. He rewards you so much for being brave, and it makes the horses braver and braver,” she said.

Fourteen of the 17 CCI3* starters finished, with two eliminated and one retiring.

Crabo said that, even though she knew Eveready II is a reliable show jumper, “Right before I went in, I was ready to vomit. I was thinking, ‘Just don’t mess him up. Go in there and be forward, gallop.’ So I just went out there and rode each fence, trying not to get too far ahead of myself. Then when I jumped the last fence and knew I’d jumped clean—the fence that everyone was having a cheap rail on–it was such a relief. It was such an incredible relief.”

Davidson, one of the country’s most accomplished riders, said he didn’t feel the pressure of being the lonely last rider in the warm-up ring or notice the hush that came over the crowd as he entered the ring. “I’m fortunate that I’m in that situation a lot. It never crossed my mind that I was going to hit a rail. I knew Barb was going to jump clean, and it never crossed my mind that I wouldn’t. But it depends on the day—at [the Fair Hill CCI in Maryland two weeks ago] I had four clears and hit a lot of rails. And today I hit one. But he had the best three phases he’s ever had this weekend,” added Davidson.

As always, cheering for Crabo were her daughter, Jordan, 11, husband Martin and his parents. Jordan also rode in the novice division at Galway Downs. “Martin’s also my vet, which is convenient. All three of us make a good team,” she said.

Davidson praised Crabo’s performance with Eveready II. “Barb deserved to win—she’s done everything with that horse and had a great weekend. To see him being born and do this is a dream. It’s cool to see what she’s made of a really difficult horse.”

Marilyn Little made her trip from Frederick, Md., more than worthwhile by winning the CCI2 and the CCI1*. With RF West Indie, her score of 56.0 edged James Atkinson on Gustav (56.7) and Caroline Martin on Spring Easy (68.9). Martin, of Springtown, Pa., won the Mia Eriksson Award, given to the best-placed young rider (21 and younger) in the CCI2*.

With RF Scandalous, Little scored 38.2 to defeat Tamara Smith on Sunsprite Syrius (42.2) and Ashlynn Dorsey on RF Kinetic (43.8). Little also finished fourth on RF Typecast (45.0). Little, who is also an international show jumping rider, scored faultless rounds with all three horses.

“All three horses were pretty solid in the level where they are, and I think they feel ready to move up to the next level,” said Little.

Atkinson, of Ramona, Calif., said he knew his only chance to win was to keep all the rails up and avoid time faults on the tightly measured track show jumping course. Gustav delivered a faultless performance, but so did RF West Indie.

“It’s great to have riders like Marilyn and Buck come here to Galway Downs, great for everyone from the novice riders to us in the international divisions,” said Atkinson. “I think it encourages all of us, to see the best quality in this sport. I think it grows our entries and keeps everyone excited. And for us as competitors it makes us better. It makes us keep working harder and trying harder to be at the level.”

Atkinson, who is also an FEI-licensed cross-country course designer, added, “The grounds crew guys had their hands full getting the course ready after the rain, and they did the best they could. For the most part, the footing was good; there were just a few places where I had to take a few seconds to be careful. Really, it was better than any of us expected when we woke up this morning.”

Atkinson said that he was surprised that the cross-country course was more influential in the CCI2* than in the CCI3*.

”A change in the footing, like we had today with the rain, can change the dynamic of the entire course,” said Atkinson. “We’re used to walking an Ian course and being a little bit impressed, but we didn’t feel this was the toughest two-star we’d ever seen. But maybe it was a little bit underestimated, and people didn’t attack it like it needed to be attacked, especially with the footing.”

In the CCI2*, Little and RF West Indie finished 25 seconds slow (12.0 time faults), and she said that she could have been about 10 seconds faster if she hadn’t had a big problem: the curb chain on her broke at the first jump. “All of a sudden I felt like I had nothing but a halter on, with the broken curb chain hitting her in the side of the head. I didn’t have a whole lot of control, but she kept looking at the flags,” said Little. “So I had be careful about being able to bring her back for the jumps.”

Little said that she was glad she’d made the trip across the country. “I think that Galway Downs is one of the friendliest events I’ve ever been to. Everything is done with the utmost care for the horses’ welfare in mind. It’s been wonderful to see and be a part of. I’d heard a great deal about it, and it lived up to what I’d heard,” she said.

RF West Indie is a 7-year-old, Hanoverian mare, and RF Scandalous is a 9-year-old, Oldenburg mare.Nicci Guzetta, on Queen of Spades, and Tamra Smith, on Irish Blend, won divisions of the Training Level Three-Day Event at the Galway Downs International Three-Day Event.

Smith, of Murrieta, Calif., and Irish Blend added nothing to their dressage score of 38.3 to win division A, over Kristen Schalk on Comet’s Flight (38.6) and Max Gerdes on Rhythm Royale (40.4).

Guzetta, of San Jose, Calif., stood third after two days, but a faultless show jumping round vaulted her to the top when leader James Alliston lowered one rail on Sunsprite Madeira and dropped to second (32.9). Charlee Marinovich claimed third on Dassett Theme BCF (333.8).

Guzetta, 17, completed high school at age 14 so she could go to work to pay for riding. She’s now a manager in the warehouse of a company that collects cell phones to sell their parts to foreign countries. She purchased Queen Of Spades, an experienced 15-year-old Trakehner/Thoroughbred mare, in May. After that, Guzetta said that she and trainer Anne Byron made the Galway Downs Training Level Three-Day Event their goal.

“It was kind of a far-fetched goal, but we worked our butts off and made it happen,” she said with a smile. “Winning this was a dream come true.”

Guzetta said she learned a great deal about conditioning and about her horse’s health preparing for the classic-format event, one of 10 held throughout the country this year. And she said that the clinics conducted at Galway Downs—on presenting your horse for the jog, on equipment and procedures in the vet box, and the steeplechase school—prepared her for the weekend’s challenges. Galway Downs was her first classic-format three-day event.

“And I had so much fun on the steeplechase!” she said.

Smith, a seasoned international competitor and trainer, believes that the Training Level Three-Day Event is an integral element of eventing in America. “I think it’s a really important piece to keep in eventing,” she said.

Smith added, “The classic format really teaches young horses and riders how to gallop. Every horse I’ve ever taken in one really learns how to gallop. I think it’s a part of our sport that’s missing from the upper levels. I think that having it come out of our sport has been a little bit of a detriment to our young horses and riders.”

Owner Emily Sandler-Burtness bred Irish Blend, who’s out of the Irish-bred mare Miss Congeniality and by the German stallion Rascalino. Smith and Irish Blend also won the Training Level Three-Day Event at Rebecca Farm (Mont.) in July. Smith said that she thinks the 6-year-old mare is now ready to move up to preliminary after experiencing two classic-format events.

“I really like the result of what I got from doing Rebecca and Galway Downs. She can be a bit spooky, and it’s really made her such a better horse,” said Smith.

The Jockey Club presented the Thoroughbred Incentive Award (a blanket and prize money) in each of the three CCI divisions to the best-placed Thoroughbred to encourage the training of Thoroughbreds into other disciplines.

In the CCI3*, the Thoroughbred Incentive Award, along with then Livingstone Award, went to Coal Creek, ridden by Lizzie Snow, who finished fourth.

In the CCI2*, the Thoroughbred Incentive Award winner was Prince William, ridden by Mary Burke. He finished in seventh place.

In the CCI1* the Thoroughbred Incentive Award winner was Chavez Ravine, ridden by Whitney Tucker. He finished in 11th place.

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