At the second-to-last of 40 efforts, "I thought, 'This is actually happening,'" said Amber Levine of a faultless finish with Cellar Farm's Cinzano today to stay on their 31.5 lead going into show jumping tomorrow morning in the Twin Rivers Spring International CCI4*-L. The Jeffs Hot Tub Waves complex at 19 a/b was the awkward exception to a Hugh Lochore-designed course that otherwise "rode great" for the 10-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Classe VDL x Walta) in his long-delayed debut at the level. An entirely new portion of the course around the racetrack featured a series of bright-white painted obstacles, but nothing distracted Cinzano's "tunnel vision for those flags." Levine expects a similar game attitude tomorrow and has a rail to spare.
Marc Grandia and Team Rebecca's 11-year-old Holsteiner gelding Campari FFF (Camiros x Tanner) were clear in jumping efforts and time to move into second after Madison Temkin and her own 14-year-old Thoroughbred gelding Dr. Hart (Skimming x Moving Memo) dropped down with a run-out at the tricky left turn to a log in the Palm Tree Water at 6a. "I'm just mad at myself," said Temkin. Dr. Hart popped over it easily on the second try and whizzed around to pick up only 3.6 time penalties. Going onto the racetrack in the first third of the course was easy, Temkin says of the Off-The-Track Thoroughbred's game attitude. "He went right over to the rail, but it was a little hard getting him to turn off it."
The young professional from Full Circle Farm and Dr. Hart have risen up the levels together and this is their first CCI4*-L.
Temkin's penalties enabled Bec Braitling and Caravaggio II to move into third after a cross-country run the Australian professional is thrilled with. Like her barn mate and good friend Andrea Baxter, Braitling said it's not easy showing at home. "We lost some time early out on the track with the new jumps. He saw that white steeplechase from 1000 yards away and said, 'No!'. We struggled to get a rhythm there. There is no such thing as a home field advantage."
Braitling had immediately high expectations for Arnell Sporthorses' 10-year-old British Sport Horse gelding(Vangelis-S x Courtesan) purchased as a 6-year-old. After finishing 5th at the Galway Downs CCI4*-S two weeks ago, this is his debut in the long format. "I knew straight away I wanted him and that I would take him to Kentucky one day." He has a big step and gallop, is easy to ride, and the good kind of spookiness that works to their advantage most of the time, Braitling explained. In Friday's dressage, maybe not so much, but once they nail down the flying changes, she's confident the sky's the limit for "Ernie."
Baxter and Burnell are Short Format Stars
Twin Rivers Spring International organizing committee member Andrea Baxter and her 11-year-old homebred Holsteiner gelding, Laguna Seca (Linero x Indy 500), maintained their lead for the CCI4*-S win on home turf. But home turf can't be treated as familiar turf, Baxter explained.
"Just because you know where things are doesn't mean you know how things are going to go." To boot, Laguna Seca "was cocky out there, and he's hard to ride when he's like that. Very strong and shaking his head, causing us to get under a few things out there. But he came out of all the combination exits well."
It's a major move up for the horse who first went Advanced in March. Because he's green, Baxter had not planned to go pedal to the metal, and they added 10.8 to their dressage score to complete with a 53.2. Lauren LoPiccolo and her 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding, Diego (Vingino x Twilight) also had only time penalties, to complete the first CCI4*-S for horse and rider on a 60.1.
Baxter's barn mate at Twin Rivers Ranch, Lauren Burnell, and her 14-year-old Holsteiner Counterpoint (Concerto Grosso x Natalina) were featured on the Spring International program's cover. They lived up to front page status by taking the lead with double clear show jumping and only some accidental time penalties on cross-country. "I had the Preliminary time in my head and was thinking about that," said Burnell, whose final score was a 38 to win the CCI3*-S.
The imposing Ditch Wall at 10 and bending track to a corner rode more easily than Burnell expected and Counterpoint's "saint-like" composure saved her coming through the Palm Tree Water Cabins. Burnell is thrilled to fulfill her goal of returning to this level successfully after her 3-and-a-half-year old son arrived. "It feels faster after having a baby," she laughed. "The wind hits your face differently!"
Young rider Kelsey Holmes was already thrilled with double clear show jumping and finishing cross-country with only 1.6 time penalties. Jumping into second place as a result with her partner of eight years, NZB The Chosen One, was a nice surprise. She appreciated the significant changes to the course since they'd competed here in March, when the track was tightly packed with combinations and sharp turns. With several jumps used for both the Long and Short format tracks, today's course "felt very open" and presented nice variety to test their skills.
On a gap year before law school, Holmes has had "Squid," a 15-year-old Hanoverian gelding (All In One x Pramina xx), since she was in middle school. "I'm not a very emotional person, but today when I was untacking Squid I kind of teared up thinking about how amazing he's been to me all these years. I'm so lucky to have him still sound, happy, and eager." She blamed herself for a subpar dressage score of 39.3, which started them in eighth place before ending on a 40.9.
As the only pair to finish within the time on cross-country, Kayla Bierman and Addyson, her own 10-year-old Oldenburg mare (Ampere x Nickerbocker) moved into third. They'd tied for 10th after dressage on a 46.7.
Patterson Atop the CC3*-L
Young rider Alina Patterson and her own 10-year-old German Sport Horse gelding Flashback (Furst Fugger x Queen of Joy) have a two-rail lock on the division after clean and fast cross-country. The Washington-based rider's slight concerns about her horse's stamina were erased as he had fuel to spare going into show jumping.
Alessandra Allen-Shinn and Cindy Marvin's 13-year-old Thoroughbred gelding Fool Me Once (Old Topper x Exploitive) were also double clear today, to move into second on a 39.4. Unfortunately, the division's third contenders, Alexis Helffrich and M Creme De La Creme SE, the 9-year-old Belgian Warmblood Stallion (Clair de Lune SE x Zathalida SE) owned by Rose Sullivan retired on cross-country, paring the show jumping finalé to two.
Nielsen and Global Absolute Lead the CCI2*-L
Yesterday, Sacramento-area professional Marissa Nielsen accomplished her goal of a "boring and accurate test" with Global Absolute. That paid off in the form of a 28.3 division leading dressage score, to which they added no penalties today. It's the first FEI competition for the 7-year-old Mecklenburg gelding (Do It x Ballerina II) and their new partnership takes an auspicious start into show jumping.
The top three standings remained unchanged as another professional, Barb Crabo of Arizona, maintains the second seed with her 13-year-old Sport Pony, Mine the Melody (Miner's Lamp x Chelsea's Melody). In third are Jessica DiCostanzo and Cocoa Z, a 9-year-old Zangershiede mare (Cracky Z x Amy Z), who are moving up the levels together since pairing up three years ago.
An entrepreneur who launched the equestrian marketing company, Equivont, around the same time, DiConstanzo used to be a jumper rider, then an FEI level dressage rider. "I was kind of struggling between the two disciplines, then I realized I could do both with eventing."
Thus far, cross-country has been a weak point relative to strong dressage and show jumping, but today indicated otherwise with bold clearance of obstacles that had been issues in the past. DiCostanzo credits Bec Braitling for putting some valuable training miles on the mare while she recovered from a broken leg. She credits Cocoa with taking the reins in a few of the track's many tricky spots. A double clear keeps them on a 30.8 dressage for tomorrow's show jumping. "She is very scopey and careful, especially for a little horse. I just hope I can give her the ride she deserves."
The standings are tight in this division: the top six are all within a rail of one another. James Alliston and Calaro, Camille Brewer and Cooley Rock Star, and Josey Thompson and Pistol Annie are all capable of taking over the lead if things go their way over Marc Donovan's course.
Long format horses have their final inspection Sunday morning, starting at 7:30 a.m. Then, the Flag Ring that was dressed for dressage on Friday is transformed into the stage for an exciting show jumping conclusion. International ceremonies begin with the National Anthem at 11:40, then the CCI4*-L at 11:45; CCI3*-L at 12:40; and CCI2*-L at 1:35.
Awards will be presented at the conclusion of each division. In the CCI4*-L, this will include $5,000 in prizes and the presentation of the inaugural McKinglaigh Cup. The beautiful trophy has been donated by Thom Schulz in honor of his lovely late wife Laura Coats. Schulz and Coats owned McKinlaigh, the Irish Sporthorse who partnered with Gina Miles in 2008 Olympic individual silver. McKinlaigh was developed and lived out his retired life at the couple's Rainbow Ranch in nearby Creston.
Winners of each of the Long Format divisions will also receive a custom jump made by Jen and Earl McFall's Dragonfire Farm, along with prizes from Twin Rivers' generous sponsors.
The CCI4*-L, CCI4*-S, and Advanced divisions are qualifiers for the $60,000 Adequan USEA Advanced Final that will take place at the USEA American Eventing Championships presented by Nutrena Feeds in August.
And they're off! Eventing kicks off today in Tokyo (Thursday, July 29 – 7:30 p.m. ET), with the first of three Olympic dressage sessions. Competitors from 29 nations will go head to head, vying for a spot on the coveted Olympic podium.
There were a few last-minute dramas at the first horse inspection for the Tokyo Olympics which took place in the main equestrian park at Baji Koen Equestrian Centre at 9:30 a.m. JST today.
It’s the most hotly anticipated few hours of the eventing year - the cross-country from Tokyo 2020. What will Derek di Grazia’s track have in store for the Olympic riders?
We’re nearly there! Olympic mania has taken over the world, and we’re in the final countdown to the Olympic eventing competition in Tokyo, which starts with the first horse inspection on Thursday. Our USA riders are raring to go, but let’s remind ourselves of the history that precedes them. Just how well has the US team done in past Olympics?