Castle Larchfield Purdy hasn’t run a single FEI long format event since he competed at the 2016 Rio Olympics, but it hasn’t been for lack of trying on Lauren Billys’ part. The 17-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Karistos x Hallo Purdy) battled a bad bout of colic and a respiratory problem that has kept him from the start box. Billys, who rides for Puerto Rico, competed in the two previous Pan American Games, but wasn’t qualified for the upcoming games in Lima, so she turned to plan B – The Event at Rebecca Farm CCI4*-L.
“I didn’t qualify for the Pan Ams because Purdy had colic surgery last fall, but in a way it streamlined my goals,” explained Billys. “I was like OK what’s most important to me? I want to go to Tokyo [for the 2020 Olympics], and I want to do it on this horse. So the Pan Ams became a non-issue. I could come here at beautiful Rebecca Farm, so it ended up being a blessing.”
Billys and Purdy still need their qualifications for the Tokyo Olympics so this is a key event for them this weekend, and they got off to a great start by scoring a 31.0 to take the lead in the CCI4*-L field. “I need to be one of the top two ranked individual riders in the southwestern hemisphere of the world, so in all of Latin America basically, but that includes all countries south of the United States,” Billys continued. “At this point, I sit in the number one spot, but having a top-three finish this weekend would put me in a pretty good place there. If nothing else, I need to get an MER at this event, and then that qualifies me for Tokyo, and then beyond that, I will continue to compete in various four-stars this year and see where that puts me on the leaderboard.”
Dressage has always been a tough phase for Purdy, but he seemed to know the importance of this event for his future. “I could tell this morning in my pre-ride he knew which day it was, so when I warmed up I thought ok this could really be something,” Billys said proudly. He proved to be every bit of that. He comes into the ring now, he knows where he is, he knows who he wants to be and he knows how to show – and he just brought it today. I was just so elated that I could be riding him on a day like today. His canter is always been the weakest part of his gaits, so I’ve always had to work on preparing the canter and making it three-beat. He tends to get a little bit flat on the right lead canter so I can definitely improve. Little moments like that I’m working on, but there’s still room for improvement.”
“I’m so appreciative every day that I ride [Purdy], and I get to come here and show him – it’s a huge thing for me to appreciate,” concluded Billys. “We’ve gone through so much together over the last year, and we are going to go to Tokyo next year - come hell or high water, we’re going to do it. Coming here and competing and trying to get an MER is a huge part of that. Let the journey continue.”
Billys is just a point and change ahead of Jennie Brannigan and Stella Artois, the 11-year-old Holsteiner/Thoroughbred mare owned by the Stella Artois Syndicate. While Kim Liddell and her own 10-year-old Thoroughbred gelding, Eye of the Storm, sit in third on a 38.8.
Madison Temkin Debuts in First in the CCI4*-S
This is Madison Temkin and Dr. Hart’s first-ever CCI4*-S, but Temkin didn’t let that stop her from taking the lead after dressage on a 34.6. Last year Temkin and Dr. Hart, her own 12-year-old gelding, were at Rebecca Farm, but they competed in the CICOY2* for Area VI. With “Hollywood” ready for the higher level she made the choice to not do NAYC this year, but still supported Area VI all throughout the competition.
“Honestly, it’s kind of sad,” Temkin said when asked about NAYC. “But now I’m at the next step. Hopefully, my young horse will be here next year, but it’s fun to watch them as it is to be here too.”
Temkin channeled the spirit of Area VI, who is currently leading the CCIJ2*-L, into Dr. Hart’s dressage test. “Sometimes he gets a little ‘up’ going into the ring, it used to work not in my favor, but it’s starting to work a little bit in my favor,” said Temkin of her partner of five years. “He was kind of reliable in my test and relaxed and had a nice, steady test. I just have to continue getting braver on him. I have to believe in him for him to believe in himself. He was really good today and I was really happy.”
Temkin thinks her first CCI4*-S cross-country course “looks pretty good.”
“I looked yesterday and got lost in the grass, and today I walked with Leslie [Law] and my mom and it looks pretty good. This will be his third time around a track at the Advanced level. Hopefully he’s feeling on his game – he had a pretty good go here last year.”
Amber Levine on Cinzano, her own 8-year-old Holsteiner gelding, and Derek di Grazia on Ringwood Justice, his own 11-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Ringwood Harley Carol x Ringwood Venus) are tied for second having both scored 35.1.
The CCI4*-L will head out of the start box at 11:30 a.m. tomorrow followed by the CCI4*-S at 12:15 p.m. Learn about the course in the preview here.
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Bellamy, an Oldenburg/Thoroughbred gelding of unknown breeding, came to Tamra Smith’s farm in Southern California with his mane half-way down his neck and filled with burrs. Bellamy had been sitting in a field for a little over a year after unseating several riders in a row and Smith, known for being good with tricky horses, agreed to take him on.
Pan Am Games team gold medalist Tamra Smith and Mai Baum and five-star pairs Andrea Baxter and Indy 500 and Frankie Thieriot Stutes and Chatwin headline a strong Advanced field when Twin Rivers begins an exciting season of eventing competition this weekend.
The USEA Future Event Horse (FEH) and Young Event Horse (YEH) programs have around 30 qualifying competitions each, and youngsters around the country are about to begin their seasons aimed at Championships.