Lauren Billys and the Purdy Syndicate's Castle Larchfield Purdy held a 4.6-point lead before the cross-country phase of the Adequan USEA Gold Cup and PRO Tour Series CIC3* at the Woodside International Horse Trials, and she used every bit of that lead to eke out her victory over James Alliston on his own Tivoli. Billys added 4.4 time penalties, to win by just .2 penalties.
"It felt a lot like you were at the end of your reins, pushing on to the narrows. My horse answered all the questions and I'm proud of him," said Billys, of Carmel Valley, Calif. "I knew I had 10 seconds, and I wanted to be fast, but I always get time penalties--it's something I'm working on. But, he was a good boy and came in just under, so I got lucky today. I lost this three-star two years ago by .4 (penalties), so I was really happy that I made it this time."
Billys represents Puerto Rico and her win elevates her points standing within the group of Central and South American countries that are eligible to send a qualified individual rider to the Olympics next year in Rio de Janeiro. Billys was also awarded the CTETA Founder's Cup perpetual trophy, presented to the winner of the CIC3* in honor of Robert E. Smith whose idea and drive started and sustained the Combined Training Equestrian Team Alliance, the original founders of the Horse Park at Woodside.
Of the 10 CIC3* horses that started cross-country, seven completed the course with no jumping penalties, but only three-Alliston with Tivoli and Parker, and Mary Burke with Prince William-finished double-clear.
Said Alliston, "I thought the time was quite tight. [My first horse] Parker is really fast usually, and he wasn't way inside the time like he can be, and since Tivoli isn't as fast as Parker for sure I had to go really fast."
Both Billys and Alliston had positive comments about the changes to the course that British Olympian Ian Stark had created.
"I thought it was really a forward and galloping course that required you to be on a very forward but accurate step," said Billys. "I thought it suited my horse really well-he loves to gallop, and he's a big-strided horse."
"I thought it was really good, very gallopy, which is nice, and a lot of left-hand corners, right-hand corners, skinnies-every question really," noted Alliston. "The last water complex was something different we haven't seen at Woodside for a while, so something different for the horses."
In the CIC2* flawless rounds kept the top spots unchanged after the cross-country test. Kelly Pugh and David Garrett's Corazon jumped double-clear to maintain their lead of 39.8 over Amber Levine and her own Carry On, who added just 0.8 time penalties to finish on 43.6 penalties. Levine and her second mount, her own and Valerie Mackey's Guiness St. James moved from eighth place to fourth on a double-clear. Sara Selmer and her own TK Kreisler held their third-placed position.
"I'm still getting to know this horse," said Pugh. "He has a lot of gallop and is really confident out there, so galloping but then coming back are the kinds of things I was trying to do. There's a lot of questions out there that helped back him, but he's a pretty honest guy-you do your job and he does his.
"This was by far our best course," she continued. "He's easy to make time on, pretty quick across country, and I was able to take my time to set him up properly and get the striding I wanted. I felt like the questions didn't let up the whole way round."
Of the 21 CIC2* starters on the cross-country course, 13 finished with no jumping penalties and four-Levine and Pugh plus Josh Barnacle and Celtic King and Kim Liddell in Eye of The Storm-finished double-clear.
In the CIC1*, there was a shake up in the overnight standings, but Ruth Bley and her venerable Silver Sage kept the top spot, adding nothing to their overnight score of 42.7. Overnight second-placed Julie Flettner and Ping Pong came to grief at The Equine Insurance Splash; third-placed Megan Traynham and Lord Lombardi had a stop at the oxer at fence 9. When fourth-placed Whitney Tucker and Chavez Ravine withdrew before the start, it propelled fifth-placed Kelsey Holmes on Heart of Gold SE in to the second spot.
"I loved it; it was great," said Bley. "There were some tricky parts, especially the first water. I was surprised on my first horse [Rodrigue Du Granit] when he got a little sucked back, and I thought my second horse [Silver Sage] would be stronger, but he actually sucked back more."
Of the 25 cross-country starters on the CIC1*, 18 completed without jumping penalties, and 10 went double clear.
"I was close [to the time] with [Rodrigue Du Granit], the sports car," said Bley. "And it felt like I was really going, so I really went on with [Silver Sage] and he was not so close so it worked out well.
"[The course was] such a change from last year--a world of difference between the one-star and the prelim. It's nice for Sage to finally win one," concluded Bley with a smile.
Top placings in all the CIC divisions were substantially rewarded for their efforts at a celebratory awards dinner overlooking the main arena. Prize money, ribbons and gifts from generous sponsors were awarded. In addition, a special award was presented.
About the Adequan USEA Gold Cup and PRO Tour Series
The Woodside International H.T. is a qualifying Adequan USEA Gold Cup Event for the 2016 Gold Cup Finals which will be held September 1-4, 2016 in Tryon, N.C. The Adequan USEA Gold Cup Series features 11 qualifying competitions throughout the United States at the Advanced Horse Trials and CIC3* levels. Riders who complete a qualifier earn the chance to vie for $40,000 in prize money in the Adequan Advanced Division and the title of Adequan USEA Gold Cup Champion.
The Adequan USEA Gold Cup Series is made possible through the support of its many loyal sponsors: Adequan, Standlee Forage, Nunn Finer, Nutrena, Broadstone Equine Insurance Agency, Point Two, Dubarry, and FITS.
The PRO Tour Series consists of 13 premier destination events in the United States and Canada, featuring the best riders and most entertainment. Riders and Horses are awarded points on the PRO Tour Rider Leader Board and PRO Tour Horse Leader Board.
The Professional Riders Organization would like to thank the following sponsors for their support of the 2015 PRO Tour Series: KER Optimum Time, Tex Sutton, Triple Crown Nutrition, and SSG Riding Gloves.