Nov 02, 2018

Galway Downs International: Hargrave, Sykes, Babbitt, and Braitling Have Divine Dressage Days

By Galway Downs - Edited Press Release
Charlotte Babbitt and 2 A.M. Kim Miller Photo.

Galway Downs CCI2* leader Jess Hargrave had a good look at Saturday’s cross-country course after a division-winning dressage test Thursday. “It’s big!” she acknowledged. “With a lot of combinations early on. So, this is not going to be a dressage competition!”

Nonetheless, she was thrilled about leading the two-star pack, especially having done so on a horse, Regenmann, once dismissed as “too spooky to be a pure dressage horse: he kept spooking people off.” She and the Trakehner’s 27.10 score from judges Mark Weissbecker and Bea di Grazia proved that her patient work has paid off, and it sits them pretty for Saturday’s cross-country designed by Jay Hambley and Bert Wood.

Madison Temkin and Dr. Hart is second on a 32.70 score, and Galway veteran champ James Alliston of Great Britain sits third with a 34.60 with Pandora.

Newly 18-year-old Temkin has no problem competing with the pros. She’s a FEI North American Youth Championships veteran and considers many family and friends. Finishing up a full year at the two-star level, Temkin and “Hollywood” logged their best dressage round yet on Thursday. “It’s the most rideable he’s ever been,” she said. “He’s really coming into his own and maturing.” She credits a good outing at the NAYC this past summer as making everything since seem relatively easy. “It blew his mind in a good way!”

Alliston was pleased but not surprised with the performance of the Palomino Swedish Warmblood mare Pandora. “She can be a bit buzzy, but she can do it all, it’s just a matter of having her relaxed.” He’s optimistic about their chances for cross-country and show jumping. “She’s small but she has a big jump and lots of talent.”

Tied Up One-Star

There were 49 riders on an 89-degree day for CCI1* dressage, and after all that it ended in a tie: Megan Noelle Sykes and Classic's Mojah and Charlotte Babbitt and 2 A.M. both scored 25s to lead the division as of Friday afternoon. Mark Weissbecker and Bea di Grazia were the judges evaluating the field in which the top 10 were separated by only five points.

Tying for first continues a terrific year for Sykes and “Mo.” They won the Rebecca Farms CCI1* as a highlight of their three-year partnership. Mo is a former full-time dressage horse from Olympian Steffen Peters’ barn. During the show season, he lives and trains with Next Level Eventing just down the road from Galway, and the rider flies back and forth from Midland, Texas, where she and her husband operate a small riding program. Sykes' husband is a roper and they enjoy trading tips from each other’s very different disciplines.

Fellow dressage leader Babbitt is also on a streak, having just won the CIC* at Woodside. “He had a beautiful test today,” said the 17-year-old high school senior of 2 A.M. The talented Dutch Warmblood was reserve champion 5-year-old USEA Young Event Horse West Coast Championships last year. The pair trains with Chocolate Horse Farm in Northern California’s Petaluma, where they live.

Finishing third with a 26.60, Asia Vedder describes her partner Isi as her “karma horse.” Long story short, she and two others had given up plane tickets to German star Michael Jung when he was in a travel pinch from Kentucky to the Badminton Horse Trials, en route to scoring the Four Star Grand Slam in 2016. The kindness led to a visit to Germany, which led to an unplanned horse purchase that Asia couldn’t be happier about. She is also volunteer coordinator at Twin Rivers, so it’s extra fun to excel in a sport to which she’s given so much.

Braitling Tops Training Three-Day

Part of the USEA Classic Series, the Galway Training Three-Day is being led by professional Bec Braitling and Dassett Ricochet, who earned a 24.60 from judges Robert Stevenson and Axel Steiner. Owned by client Lauren Burnell, Ricochet has only been in Bec’s program since July and she appreciated the format’s ability to accelerate his learning curve. “He has the kind of temperament that’s helped him come along quickly,” she noted.

Junior exhibitor Jordan Crabo and the German Riding Pony, Black Gold, are as accomplished as they are adorable. Their 26.40 put them in second. “He’s a tricky pony: he has his moments,” she smiled. “Today he was amazing, listening to me really well.” She hopes for a good jumping weekend as this may be their last competition together. The 15-year-old now campaigns two horses at CCI1* and it may be time to lease him out.

Despite less than a year together, small animal veterinarian Cecily Bonadio and Just Off Broadway have made substantial progress, both in the 6-year-old Oldenburg mare’s physical strength and the strength of their partnership. Cecily was thrilled to be third with her 28.50 score. The amateur gave “all the credit” to her coach, Taren Hoffos of Copper Meadows.

She is a big fan of the Training Three-Day. “I really love the opportunity to do steeplechase because it’s awesome to teach her and me to find a fence out of stride and to get us really going forward.” Cecily hopes it will be an awesome stepping stone to Preliminary, her hope for the next year.

Rave Reviews

Echoing the comments of many, two-star leader Jess Hargrave had a big “OMG” for improvements to the Temecula venue, especially the footing in dressage courts that doubled as a Grand Prix jumping ring for the inaugural Temecula Valley National hunter/jumper show earlier this year. “Congratulations to Robert Kellerhouse and his crew on all the upgrades. It looks beautiful and has taken the standard up a notch.”

Announcer Ed Holloway is equally impressed with the upgrades to what he already considered a “lovely venue.” The arenas are world class,” he observed.

Unusually experienced with the behind-the-scenes machinations of staging an event, Asia Vedder had high praise for the organizer’s willingness to accommodate various rider requests. She has high expectations for a fun cross-country day. Course designer and builder Bert Wood and his crew “know the ground really well and the course looks fun,” she noted.

On To Cross-Country & Country Music

Along with the excitement of cross-country, Saturday will have an extra festive atmosphere thanks to the Temecula Jamboree Country Music Festival that begins at 12:30 p.m. and continues through the evening. Headlined by Jerrod Niemann and Cassadee Pope, the Jamboree opens with Sabrina Lentini. VIP Galway Downs International admission includes concert admission, and tickets can also be purchased separately. Award-winning dining options and shopping opportunities round out the day. The pairing of equestrian sport with good food, family fun and first-class entertainment is a hallmark of the entirely revamped Galway Downs property in the heart of Temecula wine and horse country.

Saturday is jam-packed with cross-country for the Training Three-Day (T3D) and CCI pairs: T3D starts at 9:15 a.m.; CCI2* at 10:50 a.m.; and CCI1* at 12:10 a.m. An exhibitor’s party that evening will see riders, family members, owners, and grooms kick up their heels.

Sunday begins with a second horse inspection at 8 a.m. for CCI horses, cross-country for Training through Novice divisions, and show jumping finishes for T3D, Preliminary and CCI starting at 9:30 a.m. on the Sycamore Grass Field. Tackling the course in reverse order of their standings after the first two phases, Sunday show jumpers guarantee excitement in their final chance for victories.

Daily general admission tickets are $19 on Saturday and Sunday. Daily and all-event Patron’s Passes include seating in the elegant ringside VIP tents, with meals and beverages to suit each day’s competition schedule. For tickets, visit

For more information about Galway Downs, please visit

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