Temecula, Calif.—March 30—"World class." That's what Galway Downs Spring International dressage judges Helen Brettell and Robyn Fisher said in unison of the two rides that put Tamie Smith in the one and two spots in the CCI4*-S after dressage.
Smith's 21.8 with Ruth Bley's Danito (Dancier x Wie Musik) edged out the 22.2 logged by Mai Baum (Loredano 2 x Ramira), owned by Alexandra and Ellen Ahearn and Eric Markell. After open dressage and show jumping outings to warm up earlier this year, today was Mai Baum's first eventing competition since helping Team USA earn silver at the FEI World Eventing Championship in Italy last fall.
Smith was also 3rd with Julianne Guariglia's 12-year-old Argentine Silla mare Solaguayre California (Casparo x Solaquayre Calandria), with a 31.7, and sixth on a 33.8, with Elliot V (Zavall VDL x Vera R), a 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood owned by the Elliot V Partnership. For good measure, Smith's daughter, the accomplished young professional, Kaylawna Smith-Cook, took the fourth spot with her own Passepartout (Pasco x Preschel), a 14-year-old German Sport Horse, on a 32.5. The Smiths head into Friday's show jumping occupying the top 5 spots in the 11-horse division.
Outside of once at a horse trials some time ago, this was Danito's first time topping Mai Baum, aka "Lexus."
"Danito has been on the verge for a while," said Smith of the 14-year-old Hanoverian. "Every year he just keeps getting better, although so does Lexus."
The conditions were wet after forecasts for a brief spot of rain became a few hours of heavy rain just as the international divisions began in the Grand Prix Arena. "Lexus probably had a few more percentage points in there because he would have been stronger off the ground," Smith reflected. "I had two mistakes because Lexus didn't like the puddles. He put his foot down quick a few times, resulting in a couple of rhythm mistakes. He didn't like getting splashed with mud."
The 17-year-old German Sport Horse, is "allowed to be a prima donna!" Smith said. "For Danito, that was probably his best test to date. He didn't really care about the ground at all. He's just mowed right through it."
The judges agreed. "Had it not been for the wet conditions, those two tests would likely have been in the teens," Fisher said. "The horse that came out ahead never put a foot wrong. And then you have a rider like Tamie who has the experience to know when she can push and when she can't."
"Horses who have correct training and muscling are going to handle it," Bretell added. "Both of those horses' tests were world class. They would be up there anywhere in the world."
Even though she agreed the wet conditions required a conservative approach with all her rides, Smith was "thrilled" with all four horses in the CCI4*-S. "Lexus and Danito are stronger and more confirmed in their training, and California and Elliot are greener and a weaker in their training, so I had to be more conservative with them."
As their final prep for the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event in late April, Smith was thrilled with today's rides and results.
Smith Tops the Field in the CCI3*-S As Well
Smith leads the CCI3*-S, too, with Kynan (Envoy x Danieta), owned by the Kynan Syndicate. This afternoon's 28.8 leads a 14-horse field in this division and represents a super debut at the level for the 8-year-old Dutch Warmblood.
The CCI3*-S upper rungs are more closely packed than in the CCI4*-S, as two Pacific Northwesters are in town to give the locals a run for their money. Karen O'Neal and Annika Asling's 9-year-old Westphalian, Clooney 14, sit second on a 30.9, and Jordan Linstedt and Kiran D'Souza's 10-year-old Holsteiner gelding FE Friday (Chin Champ x U-Careta) are second on a 31.8.
And, even after two course errors, Erin Kellerhouse and her own 8-year-old Oldenburg gelding Bon Vivant GWF (Banderas x Power Point) lurk only a little behind on a 31.9.
O'Neal left her Washington state base to get out of the rain, only to find oodles of it in California these last several weeks. "I giggled a little bit when it started to rain just as I started my test, but after that I didn't think about it at all."
That weather and a jaw surgery earlier in the year led to inconsistent prep before Galway Downs, but O'Neal was happy with their test given that "we are still trying to piece it all together and get back in the groove."
"The footing was wet but great, and he was good, but we always either nail the halt or don't, and today was a 'don't.' Otherwise, I am super happy with him. He was relaxed and listening," she said.
Clooney's tendency to spook didn't emerge today, and O'Neal hopes that will be true tomorrow, too, over a show jump track designed by Marc Donovan. She heard it has some new looks to it in terms of fences and looks forward to seeing how Clooney will tackle it.
After FE Friday felt "full of himself" in the warmup, and a last-minute equipment switch, Linstedt was relieved to have their test go so well. "He tried really hard in the ring, and I'm still figuring out what works best for him," she said. "He goes as a very pretty picture, but he's not the easiest horse to ride. He's been trying much harder lately, and his lateral work at the trot, his 10-meter circles and his overall suppleness and thoroughness in his body are all ways that our hard work showed today."
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