Temecula, Calif.—Nov. 4
“He’s the Galway king,” said Michael Pollard about James Alliston as the latter sat down for the press conference after the conclusion of the three-star at Galway Downs. And it would be a fitting title for Alliston, who won the CCI*** here last fall, the CIC*** here this spring, and then, today, finished first and second in the CCI***. Tivoli took the top spot on 53.4 penalties after pulling one rail in show jumping, and Jumbo’s Jake wasn’t far behind with 56.6 penalties. Pollard and Schoensgreen Hanni rounded out the top three.
“It’s great,” said Alliston, who rides for Great Britain but is based in Castro Valley, Calif. “I like this place, and I seem to do well here, and I’ve been on a bit of a roll maybe this summer with horses going really well. When you’re in one of those spells, you feel like you get the luck on your side. The wins seem to happen more easily than when you’re having a drought.”
There were no double-clears in the show jumping for the three-star. Phillip Dutton and Atlas didn’t have any rails but still picked up 3 time penalties to finish eighth in the field of eight. Alliston was also sixth aboard Parker after having one rail on that horse.
For Tivoli, the weekend was a steady climb up the leaderboard. He started out fifth after dressage, moved up to first after yesterday’s cross-country and then maintained that placing today.
“He’s a really brave horse by nature, but it was just relaxing him,” said Alliston of the work he did bringing Tivoli along. “He’s a real worrier, and I think, for sure, his ears are back a lot of the time. His head is up here, and his eyes are rolling in his head. He’s much, much better now though. These last few shows, he’s been great.”
But Alliston was equally thrilled with “Jake’s” performance. Jake and Alliston were eliminated in the Woodside CIC*** (Calif.) a few weeks ago after having run-outs on the cross-country.
“Going in I wasn’t sure what to expect from Jake,” said Alliston. “The last show didn’t go well, and his confidence has been a little shaky. He had a bit of a fright, and I wasn’t sure if I should do the three-star or not. But he likes this place, and I thought I’d give it a go, and it went great.”
Pollard, Dalton, Ga., also had one rail down with “Hanni,” but it was good enough to maintain his third-placed standing. For Pollard, who lost three advanced-level horses in a horrific trailer accident, Galway was a positive finish to the year. Hanni was also in the trailer wreck but escaped without serious injury.
“She’s got a lot of heart,” said Pollard. “I don’t think many people who saw her gallop at first would have thought she’d finish third in a three-star. It’s just a good way to end what’s been a pretty tough year in general. We’ve had a lot of success and a lot to be happy for, but it’s a way to close out 2012 in a good light.”
Billys Bests The Two-Star Field
You could see the happy relief spread across Lauren Billys' face when she realized her one rail down in the CCI** show jumping meant she’d still won the event. For Billys, this weekend was all about redemption, and a win was the emotional icing on the cake. Billys, who rides for Puerto Rico, and Ballingowan Ginger competed in the 2011 Pan American Games (Mexico) but didn’t finish the event.
“This was really important for me because I think it’s Puerto Rico’s first FEI win for eventing,” said Billys, 24. “I felt really honored to represent them, and just from last year and being so close at the Pan Ams, and then coming here to have this was just so sweet.”
Billys and Ballingowan Ginger, a 10-year-old Irish Sporthorse mare by Master Imp, finished on a score of 54.8 over Zachary Brandt and Cavallino Cocktail (57.5).
“Ginger has a huge heart, and she really knows what’s going on,” said Billys. “She’s normally a double-clean show jumper and to have even one rail down is not normal, but I was still nervous. I think that’s good because it means I care. I thought there were a lot of related distances, so I felt comfortable knowing if I jumped in well that I could get out well. But there were a lot of big oxers off narrow turns.”
Clear rounds were tough to get in the CCI**, with only six of 23 starters jumping double-clean. In second place after cross-country, Jennifer McFall and High Times had one rail and 3 time penalties to drop down to fifth. Brandt moved up from fifth after cross-country to second with his faultless trip. Barbara Crabo did not present Over Easy, third after yesterday’s cross-country, this morning. Brandt, 19, also won the young rider award in the two-star.
Flettner Flies To One-Star Victory
Double-clear rounds were also a valuable commodity in the CCI*. Julie Flettner and Ping Pong put in just one of 14 in a huge one-star division, and it earned them the win. Erin Kellerhouse, first after yesterday’s cross-country, dropped three rails with Roxabelle and finished eighth.
“I really liked the course,” said Flettner. “I tried to ride it more forward than I usually do because sometimes I have a tendency to pick. I felt like it flowed pretty well once I got going.”
For Flettner and Ping Pong, a 12-year-old Hanoverian mare, winning this one-star is the conclusion of an amazing year. The pair also won the Woodside CIC* and the Preliminary Rider Challenge at Woodside this year, and they completed their season last year by winning the training three-day here at Galway. Ping Pong started out this weekend second after dressage and put in double-clear jumping efforts on cross-country and show jumping to finish on her dressage score of 42.5 penalties. Maya Black was second on Doesn’t Play Fair with 43.1 penalties, also her dressage score.
“I still don’t believe this year,” said Flettner, who works as an optometrist in Petaluma, Calif. “It’s very exciting. She’s a very good girl, and I swear she’s better at shows than at home. During my dressage test, I was like, ‘You’re not this good as home, but thanks.’ At home she doesn’t care about hitting the fences either, but here she was really trying. I think the atmosphere helps a little bit. She’s just a great horse, and I feel lucky to have her.”