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Ready for the Rolex

Alliston rides Tivoli to big Galway win as Kentucky 3-day event nears

Special to the Horsetrader - April 16th, 2015 - Feature Article, Show & Event News
Tivoli, ridden by James Alliston to the Galway Downs International Horse Trials CIC3* Championship March 29, looks fully recovered from an injury setback and ready to compete in Lexington, Ky., later this month.

Tivoli, ridden by James Alliston to the Galway Downs International Horse Trials CIC3* Championship March 29, looks fully recovered from an injury setback and ready to compete in Lexington, Ky., later this month.

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TEMECULA — Tivoli and James Alliston jumped brilliantly and faultlessly around the cross-country course to win the CIC3* at the Galway Downs International Horse Trials, finishing on their dressage score of 49.5.

Alliston and Tivoli took over the lead with a faultless show jumping round on Friday, and their fast cross-country round on Saturday kept them comfortably ahead of John Michael Durr on Esprit De La Danse (52.4) and Jolie Wentworth on GoodKnight (53.6).

Tivoli and Alliston won the Galway Downs CIC3* in March 2012, and that November they followed up that victory with another one in the Galway Downs CCI3*. But then foot problems and a dispute about his ownership kept Tivoli out of action for more than a year. Tivoli, 15, has since had surgery to remove a chip in his hoof, and Alliston is now his sole owner.

“He’s won a lot over the years, but I think I forgot what it felt like to win a big event like this,” said Alliston, of San Ramon. “It’s great fun to ride him around a big course - he’s so scopey. He makes big jumps feel not big, which is a very nice feeling. When they’re near the edge of what they can do, it’s a big deal if you make a mistake at a jump.”

Alliston and Tivoli stood fourth after the dressage phase on a score of 49.5 penalties. Alliston thought his dressage test was “pretty good,” even though they had one mistake.

“I did an extra flying change, and that sort of hurt the score a bit,” he offered. “The walk was good, though. I think if I hadn’t had that mistake, it would have been a really good score.”

Matthew Brown and Super Socks BCF took the lead in dressage with a score of 46.9, but two rails (eight faults) and five time faults knocked them all the way down to 10th. Jennifer McFall and High Times were second after dressage (48.2), but they lowered three rails to drop to 11th. Brown stood third after dressage (48.8) on his other horse, Happenstance, and a single rail kept them in the third spot.

CIC2* winner Barbara Crabo on Over Easy was the only rider to finish with no time faults.

CIC2* winner Barbara Crabo on Over Easy was the only rider to finish with no time faults.

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“I had a little bit of an off day show jumping-wise,” said Brown ruefully. “My horses were jumping out of their skin, and I think I have to work the cobwebs off. I had a couple of not-so-good turns.”

Durr and Ruth Bley’s Esprit De La Danse moved up to second place with a smooth, faultless round. They’d placed seventh in dressage (52.4 faults).

“She was amazing,” said Durr, of Castro Valley. “She was more rideable than she’s ever been. Today was the biggest leap forward she’s every made.”

Durr, Alliston and Wentworth are each using Galway Downs as their final prep for the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event at the end of April, and they saw this event as a key moment in their preparation.

“My wife [rider Kimmy Steinbuch] has told me that if I don’t go fast, I don’t get to go to Rolex, because I tend to stop for lunch,” said Durr with a laugh. “The point of the day is to operate at pace and to run through the gear box.”

Alliston had a similar plan. “I like to run him near the speed that you’re going to show at Kentucky,” he said. “No sense in going and having 20 time penalties. I don’t ride a billion advanced horses, so I have to use this run to make sure my eye is in.”

Tivoli was one of six horses in the CIC3* to finish the course with no time faults, a group that included Esprit De La Danse and GoodKnight. Their fast rounds put the pressure on Alliston to be speedy in order to hold his lead, as the last starter. (In the CIC format, horses start on cross-country in then reverse order of their two-phase standing.)

Third place represented a significant comeback for Wentworth, of Martinez, who gave birth to a daughter last September. She’d entered GoodKnight in last November’s Galway Downs CCI3* but withdrew him before cross-country because she didn’t feel fit enough.

Texan Heather Morris and Russell's Reserve capture the CIC1* championship.

Texan Heather Morris and Russell’s Reserve capture the CIC1* championship.

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“Things weren’t quite back where they should be then, but I’ve got my legs back underneath me now. I feel like I really have kind of come back,” she said.

Wentworth and GoodKnight had previously placed second or third at the Galway Downs International Events several times. But she said that the headstrong gelding saw several new jumps on Ian Starks’ cross-country courses.

“Ian is really good about changing the tracks, and it was still a new challenge for my horse. He felt amazing, and he was listening really well,” said Wentworth.

Stark, who’s been designing Galway Downs since 2007, said he wasn’t surprised by the number of fast rounds in the CIC3*.

“The standard of riding in the CIC3*was very good, and it wasn’t the most technical CIC3* I’ve ever done, so they were able to keep up a good pace to stay in the ribbons,” said Stark. “I wanted the CIC3* to be a good introduction for the younger horses to the level and an enjoyable final run for those going to Rolex Kentucky next month, and I think it did that. I’m happy with the outcome.”

But he added, “The CIC2* was more technical and a bit twistier. Level for level, the CIC2* had to work harder than the CIC3*.”

As a result, CIC2* winner Barbara Crabo on Over Easy was the only rider to finish with no time faults. Her score of 48.9 bested Brown on BCF Bellicoso, who finished with 2.0 time faults for a final score of 50.5.
Crabo and Over Easy finished exactly on the optimum time of 6:00. “Heck, yeah, I was going for it! I went out there to win, especially as I was only .4 behind Matt. I love Matt, but not that much!” said Crabo.

She also rode in the CIC3*, fishing fifth on Eveready with a faultless cross-country round, and she agreed with Stark’s comparison of the two courses. “The CIC2* definitely was very technical. It seemed like every other fence had some kind of combination. It rode beautifully, but the time was tough to make,” said Crabo.

After taking the lead in dressage (44.5), Brown and BCF Bellicoso lowered an unlucky rail at the final show jump but held the narrowest of leads (.4), which meant he had to complete the cross-country course 1 second faster than Crabo if neither finished faster than the optimum time.

“[Bellicoso] had a great day,” said Brown, of Petaluma, Calif. “We had the last fence down in show jumping, because I sort of relaxed too much and relied on him too much. He needed my help. He’s just a super-fun horse to ride in the dressage and jumping.”

Even though Brown finished 5 seconds slow to drop to second, he was pleased with his horse’s performance. “It’s always hard to give it up when you’re in first place, but my plan was always basically to test his fit ness after time off,” he said. “I knew that Barb wasn’t going to have time faults—that was a given.”

Heather Morris, of Lewisville, Texas, galloped Charlie Tango to third place in the CIC2* (52.8), but she won the CIC1* on Russell’s Reserve 44.0). Madison Temkin finished second on Kingslee (49.2), and Wentworth grabbed third on Catch Me If You Can IV (50.4).

Russell’s Reserve is a 6-year-old Irish-bred owned by Elizabeth Rader of Dallas, Texas. In 2014, Morris won the American Eventing Championship title at training level on him.

“He’s just a great little guy. I love him,” said Morris, who grew in Southern California and is moving back. “I expected him to go around great, and he really stepped up. He got a bit tired at the end, but he finished great. I couldn’t be happier.”

Morris said that Rader will now be competing Russell’s Reserve.

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