Emilee Libby and Jakobi edged into the CCI4*-S lead with a clear round that was just .40 seconds over a time allowed that caught five of the seven-pair field Saturday afternoon at the Galway Downs International Horse Trials in Temecula, California. It’s only the 10-year-old Belgian Warmblood’s fifth Advanced level competition, and Libby was happy to have contained his “electric and strong” attitude in the warm-up well enough to log a clear.
The door to the lead opened early when Frankie Thieriot Stutes and Chatwin, who led on a 28.8 after Thursday afternoon’s dressage, went first and had two mid-course rails and time faults to start the division. A good crowd enjoying the end of a long, mid-80s day took a collective inhale as the standings instantly recalibrated.
Going next over designer Marc Donovan’s track were James Alliston and the small, mighty golden girl Pandora. They were third after dressage and were clear until the second-to-last fence for another surprise crowd groan. Then came Libby and Jakobi. When their clear round put them into first, all they could do was wait for the second-to-last pair, Tamie Smith and Wembley, whose dressage score of 33.10 could have given them the lead if they were clear and within the time. Clear they were, but a 1.20 over-time handed the lead to Libby by a second: 33.30 and 34:30.
With the only clean and within the time round, Land Rover Kentucky-bound Andrea Baxter and Indy 500 vaulted themselves into third place with a 37.60 score, while Thieriot Stutes and Chatwin are fourth with a 38.40 and Alliston and Pandora fifth with a 38.60.
Young rider Mallory Hogan continued her ascent in the sport, logging a clean effort with Clarissa Purisima, plus a few time faults for sixth, followed by Sabrina Glaser and Rembrandt.
Concentrating on flat work and show jumping has been big for Jakobi’s development, Libby said. They spent two weeks at the HITS Coachella hunter/jumper circuit earlier this year and also took part in the Nilforshan EquiSports shows at Galway Downs last April to sharpen their skills. Libby bought Jakobi as a 5-year-old off of a video sent by a friend of a friend. His sheer power and athletic ability cued her gut instincts, even though she was told he was a “little hard to get on.” He proved to be that, and then some, “but I knew he had talent and that, if I spent the time developing a relationship with him, it would be worthwhile.” From the beginning, even though he can be “tense and jumpy, he’s always been really tuned into what the rider wants him to do,” Libby explained.
Early Sunday morning, Libby wants Jakobi to go clean and quick over Jay Hambly’s cross-country course. “He’s great on cross-country. With how he felt today, I’m a little worried about the power,” Libby admitted. “Maybe I should do some push-ups tonight! Mostly, I’m excited to just gallop and open up his lungs, jump all the jumps and go between the flags.”
After dressage, Thieriot Stutes said she appreciated the “takeaways” learned from her division-leading dressage test on Thursday. “I know it sounds silly to be disappointed when we’re in the lead, but it was actually the worst score we’ve had in three years, so I was a little disappointed. My goal is not a certain score or place, it’s to continue to get better: to do our personal best.”
Having the dressage test a day early and in the late afternoon were two of a few challenges in the competition that allowed Thieriot Stutes to fine-tune her partnership with Chatwin. For example, he wound up a bit tired in dressage, lacking the “wow” factor for which they’re well known. “Maybe I should have walked him more during our warm-up,” Thieriot Stutes shared. “It’s those little things and it’s good to have them happen now.” Especially so as they, too, are headed to the Land Rover Kentucky CCI5*-L in less than a month’s time.
Libby, Thieriot Stutes, and Smith all used the adjectives “nice, challenging, and fair” to describe Sunday’s cross-country course starting at 9:00 a.m.
Smith Squared and Kellerhouse lead CCI3*-S
Smith and Mai Baum stayed on their tough-to-top 21.9 dressage score after a clean, quick stadium jump, and Smith and Ruth Bley’s Danito stayed in second, jumping clean but with a .40 time fault that put them at 24.50. Erin Kellerhouse and Woodford Reserve were faultless, advancing to third position with 27.30. Smith follows in fourth aboard Judith McSwain’s Fleeceworks Royal with a 28.20 and 2016 Olympians Lauren Billys and Castle Larchfield Purdy sit fifth with a clear stadium round for a 32.20 score. Shannon Lilley and Greenfort Carnival and Smith and En Vogue share the six-spot with a 33.
The large 3* division cross-country begins at 10:20 a.m. Sunday.
Pellegrini Maintains CCI2*-S Lead
After leading dressage with her new horse RF Eloquence, Meg Pellegrini said show jumping was their weakest phase, yet there was zero evidence of that as they sailed to success riding late in the 30-horse CCI2*-S division to finish on a hard-to-beat 26.80 score. Behind them in the top four standings, only James Alliston and Cassio’s Picasso switched places, into second from third, with Lilly Linder and Tucker Too, after the latter pair dropped two rails. Pellegrini remains fourth, on a 35.30 with her longtime partner, Ganymede, who felled one fence during an otherwise smooth and precise round.
The day’s most dramatic up-jumpers were Eneya Jenkins and Jordan Crabo. Riding Lawton Bay and Santino, respectively, they rose from 14th and 18th place to six and seven. CCI2* cross-country begins at 12:50 p.m. on Sunday.
All the major contenders passed the eventing final horse inspection at the Tokyo Olympics and will carry on to contest the show jumping phase in a few hours’ time.
The ground jury (Nick Burton, GBR, Christina Klingspor, SWE, and the U.S.A.’s Jane Hamlin) and vets only failed to accept one horse - Fantastic Frieda, ridden by Poland’s Joanna Pawlak, who had completed the cross-country in 41st place with a refusal and 25.2 time-faults.
The FEI has announced that the Swiss horse Jet Set, ridden by Robin Godel has had to be euthanized after pulling up extremely lame on the Sea Forest Cross Country Course during Equestrian Eventing at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on August 1, 2021.
In 2002, at the age of 15, I was at my Aunt and Uncle’s farm in Maine while Tremaine Cooper was there building some cross-country jumps. I helped him build a trakehner, not realizing that this day would set the course for my future. A few weeks later he called asking if I could help him at Millbrook Horse Trials. From there I helped Tremaine during most of my school vacations and throughout the summers. After graduating high school I kept at it never looking back. I lived the gypsy lifestyle for about six years going from coast to coast and event to event. In 2013 my wife Kathryn and I settled down in Lexington, Kentucky. These days I spend roughly 60-75 percent of my time on the road preparing events or building private schooling areas. I’ve had the privilege of being involved with some really great events around the states and have cultivated many friendships all over the country. In 2019 I was asked to be a part of Team Evans Olympic cross-country building crew. As I write this I am on my third trip to Tokyo. Here’s a day in Tokyo . . .
The British team cemented their gold medal position at the Tokyo Olympics with three magnificent cross-country performances, all clear inside the time. Added to that, their first rider, Oliver Townend, holds pole position individually after the dressage leader, Germany’s Michael Jung, picked up 11 penalties for triggering a frangible device.