Steering clear of the spooky-fun graveyard in the middle of this afternoon’s Woodside International show jumping course, CCI4*-S, CCI3*-S, and CCI2*-S contenders vied for pole position on Saturday’s cross-country in front of a VIP dinner crowd. The mood was festive, but the competition fierce while navigating course designer Marc Donovan’s creative multiple-choice test of skill and scope.
Helen Bouscaren and Ebay, her own 10-year-old Oldenburg gelding (Escudo x Contessa) sit atop the CCI4*-S standings, even after a heartbreaker rail at the very last fence and a slight overtime offense added to their dressage score for a 36.10. She blamed herself for the rail. “I turned around to look – which you’re not supposed to do and it was still up. But later they said it had fallen. He jumped fantastic, though, so I’m not too upset.” Planning for Ian Stark’s cross-country track tomorrow, Bouscaren's priority is making the time. Ebay, who she’s owned for three years, has two CCI4*-S under his belt, but has yet to make the time in this phase. Of the course, Bouscaren says, “It’s big and hard and there’s lots of new elements. It looks like a good four-star course, so hopefully we are up to it.”
A partner with her fiancée James Alliston in Alliston Eventing, Bouscaren and Ebay slid into the lead over Amber Levine and Cinzano, who sit second. Amber and her more experienced partner, Carry On, were in the lead on their 30.80 dressage score until two rails and time faults dropped them into third on a 40.
Levine was thrilled with both horses’ performance. Cinzano just moved up to this level in the spring and Carry On is returning to the level after time off. The Chocolate Horse Farm trainer praised the course as having nice flow and 4* challenges.
“It was super fun to have the options at fences 8 and 9, plus the Liverpool, the triple bar and all the fill in the jumps,” Amber said. “The Grand Prix Arena has an energy and presence to it, with the flags and the barns along the berm. And it was even more so with the big white VIP tent today.”
“It was fun!” summarized amateur rider Asia Vedder of a lovely dressage test with Isi, her own 9-year-old Thoroughbred gelding (Ibisco x Unique) that earned a 24.40, for a wide margin over the runner-up going into show jumping. Judges Gretchen Butts and Richard Baldwin rewarded what Vedder described as a combination of “strength and relaxation” and “things we’ve been chipping away at for a while. Today was far and away the best we’ve done.”
The mental game has been Vedder's personal focus. “I’ve been working on not getting into my own head too much.” She kept her cool and her lead for a clean jumping round with just .40 in time penalties, sending her out on cross-country with a 24.80. Time will be on her mind Saturday’s, too. That’s been a bugaboo for the 9-year-old Isi who just did his first 3* at Twin Rivers earlier this year. Gearing up for their first CCI3*-L at Galway Downs later this month, Vedder will be seeking a “nice rhythm and a good round, with an eye on the time.”
Young professional Kaylawna Smith-Cook and Passepartout logged one of three double clear rounds, to move from fourth to second in the standings. Helen Bouscaren and Paper Jam were third after a single rail brought their score up to a 34.80. After the big gap behind Vedder and Isi, only four penalty points separate the second through fifth positions.
Bec Braitling’s dressage ride with talented 7-year-old Dassett Ricochet, Lauren Burnell's Swedish Warmblood gelding (Cabachon x Pilar) had a little bit of everything: beautiful movements and moments of absolute distraction. After the test, it was determined that a rambunctious horse turned out in a nearby paddock during the test created an unfair setting. An adjusted score to reflect that left the pair second to David Koss and Stunner, by just a hair: 25.60 to 25.50, going into show jumping. “It was funny because there were times I wondered if I should stop, then there were times it was clear he was trying to listen to me,” Braitling explained. “I figured I’d keep going and deal with it afterward.”
The dressage incident didn’t get under horse or rider’s skin: they moved on to lay down a double clear round to move into the lead of the 29-horse field. Koss and Stunner had two rails, slipping to 10th, while 15-year-old Meg Pellegrini and RF Eloquence went double clear to move into the number two spot. Lauren Billys and Can Be Sweet continue on their dressage score of 27.90, in third. Less than five penalty points separate the top six in this division.
Woodside’s international divisions conclude on Saturday over the venue’s Ian Stark-designed track. Along with designing this weekend, the “Flying Scott” was also in the saddle for organizer Robert Kellerhouse and his wife and trainer Erin Kellerhouse. Ian rode their young horse, Sir Elijah Craig, in exhibition dressage and stadium rounds today. He’ll also head out on Woodside cross-country course this weekend with unusual expertise as the venue’s designer.
The international divisions are live-streamed on www.RideOnVideo.net, and live results can be found at www.evententries.com. The national divisions from Intro to Open Intermediate continue through Sunday.
It's the moment we've all been waiting for, and it's almost here. The eventers are set to take the stage at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics THIS week, and we're here to help you catch all of the action. Have you been wondering how and when you will be able to watch each phase of the event? You've got questions, and we've got answers!
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James Alliston was the big winner today at The Event at Rebecca Farm, with three top two finishes in the FEI divisions. Alliston won first in the CCI4*-Long, as well as first place and second place in the CCI3*-Long.