James Alliston and Happenstance jumped clean around Ian Stark’s CIC3* cross-country course to claim the win in the Adequan USEA Gold Cup CIC3* at the Woodside International Horse Trials in Woodside, Calif. today. Just ten of the thirteen CIC3* pairs completed Stark’s course, and seven of those finished without jumping penalties.
Alliston piloted Mary McKee’s 11-year-old Holsteiner gelding, Happenstance (Hunter x S’Brina) around Stark’s course with the quickest time of the day, adding just 2 time penalties to his overnight score to finish on a 47.1. The pair held an overnight lead of 9.3 points heading into cross-country, giving themselves room for a few time penalties to maintain the lead over second place overnight leaders Helen Bouscaren and her own 13-year-old Thoroughbred gelding, Ben (Petersburg x Tough Duchess).
James Alliston and Happenstance. USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.
“He felt great,” Alliston said of Happenstance on cross-country. “I didn’t have much of a warm up [with Happenstance] because I had slipped and fell off of Parker around a turn on course, and it was quite a quick turnover, so luckily on the cross-country, [Happenstance] doesn’t take much warming up. We went out there and he was great.”
“I thought it was a hard course,” stated Alliston of the cross-country course designed by Stark, who has been designing the courses at Woodside for the last three years. “[Happenstance] is a big, sort of scopey, rangy horse and I thought it was quite twisty in and out the trees for a horse like him, but he handled it really well. He was really straight and honest.”
“All three phases I think were really, really good [on Happenstance], so I was really happy. It was nice because that’s the hard part about the sport, stringing all the three phases together at one show, and I felt like we did that this weekend. It feels really good. Hopefully we can replicate that performance at Galway next.”
The 3,400-meter track was comprised of 20 obstacles and a total of 34 jumping efforts to be completed in five minutes and 58 seconds, which was a tough time to make for competitors.
Bouscaren put the pressure on Alliston as they jumped cross-country in reverse order of standing, accelerating Ben around the course quickly to add just 2.8 time penalties to their score for the second quickest round of the day for second place overall. Ben and Bouscaren set the bar high, not allowing Happenstance to jump leisurely around Stark’s winding course with the tight optimum time and not allowing them any jumping faults. Bouscaren and Ben finished the weekend on a cumulative score of 57.2.
Helen Bouscaren and Ben. USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.
Bouscaren, who’s been working closely with this weekend’s Champion, James Alliston, said “[James] has really transformed both Ben and I with the riding and Ben’s jumping because Ben never looked very special as a young horse. James actually told me to sell him, and I tried, but no one would buy him. I’m glad I didn’t sell him. As he didn’t sell, James had to teach me how to ride him instead, which worked out well.”
“[Ben] was really relaxed [on cross-country], which is the main thing for him. He’s always really fast, but it’s whether or not I can keep him relaxed and jumping in a nice shape. If he’s a bit tight, he jumps like a deer sometimes. Today, he jumped real nice and soft, and he felt great.”
Bunnie Sexton and her own 18-year-old Thoroughbred, Rise Against added 8 time faults to their score, finishing the weekend in third place on a 65.8. The gelding, who is by Far Out East and out of April Betty had a lovely dressage test yesterday, claiming third place after the first phase, and knocked down one rail in show jumping, but still headed into the final phase of cross-country with a competitive score.
Bunnie Sexton and Rise Against. USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.
“I tried a whole new thing in dressage yesterday, and he was amazing,” Sexton explained. “I went in there and put my leg on, and told myself that if he starts getting antsy, I’ll move my fingertips and keep him between my aids. I softened and he came back, and it was heaven. I cried after dressage, he was so good.”
Sexton explained that the 18-year-old Thoroughbred had suffered some smoke inhalation and dehydration after some bad wildfires on the West Coast, and thus she had backed off his conditioning. “I had never ridden him where he was tired before, and he was tired when I ran him at Rebecca Farm in July. It was a scary feeling for me, so I put him back on a conditioning program for a full three-day event like we used to do. Heading into today, my concern was if my conditioning was working. He ended up going out there strong, and he was still so strong at the last fence. He was very game and very rideable today, and I’m just really excited. I’m really excited to keep pushing on him in the dressage as well. I’m thrilled, and this weekend has been a ball.”
Rebecca Braitling had a good weekend with Lauren Burnell’s 15-year-old Irish Sport horse gelding, Walterstown Don (Don Juan De La Bouverie x Walterstown Treacy), adding 10.8 time faults to their overnight score, finishing in fourth place on a 71.3. Ashlyn Dorsey and her family’s 11-year-old Hanoverian mare, RF Kinetic (Chico’s Boy x Fleur R) round out the top five, finishing on a score of 73.9.
Unfortunately, the only rider in the Advanced division, Anne-Sophie Levesque, had a fall at the coffin on course, and thus was eliminated with her 11-year-old Canadian Sport Horse, Eskapade (Portland L x Champagne Diamond). Horse and rider both walked away uninjured.
The Woodside International Horse Trials serves as the last Adequan USEA Gold Cup Series qualifying event in this calendar year, but the next qualifying competition for the 2018 Adequan USEA Gold Cup Final will take place March 8, 2018 at the Red Hills Advanced & CIC3* in Tallahassee, Florida.
To review today’s Adequan USEA Gold Cup CIC3* and Advanced cross-country courses, plus thoughts from course designer Ian Stark, click here. To view the full photo gallery of all the fences on those courses, go here.
All scores at the Woodside International Horse Trials can be found here.
The 2017 USEA Young Event Horse West Coast Championships took place this week at Woodside as well. Read the full report here.
About the Adequan USEA Gold Cup Series
The 2018 Adequan USEA Gold Cup Series features 11 qualifying competitions throughout the United States at the Advanced horse trials and CIC3* levels. The qualifying period begins August 2017 and continues through August 2018 with the final taking place at the 2018 USEA American Eventing Championships at the Colorado Horse Park in Parker, Colorado, August 29 – September 2, 2018. Riders who complete a qualifier earn the chance to vie for $40,000 in prize money and thousands of dollars in prizes and the title of Adequan USEA Gold Cup Champion in the Adequan USEA Gold Cup Final Advanced Division.
The 2018 Adequan USEA Gold Cup Series is made possible through the support of its many loyal sponsors: Adequan, Standlee Forage, Nutrena, Merck Animal Health, and FITS.