The heightened atmosphere of the Horse Park at Woodside’s Grand Prix arena, with crowds packed all around, gave the competitors in the Preliminary Challenge divisions at the Spring Event at Woodside the feeling of the “Preliminary Olympics”.
Horses and riders show jumped in reverse order of standing after the cross country. Sarah Dubost’s flowing track caught out many riders, indeed, there was only one rail-free round in the Preliminary Challenge Rider division.
Last to go into the arena to jump was RedRox Jazzman, owned and ridden by Delaney Vaden. RedRox Jazzman moved into the top position after cross country when overnight leader Ruth Bley dropped to second place on her own Rodrigue du Granit after incurring 1.6 time penalties. Vaden had a rail in hand, but used that early, although the tidy bay never seemed to be in doubt. The smile on Vaden’s face was never ending. “Just being here was fantastic!” said the clearly delighted rider. The pair finished on final penalty score of 35.3.
Second place went to birthday girl Ruth Bley and her own Rodrigue du Granit with 36.0 penalties. A rail at the first fence held their second place position. “My horse was great,” said Bley. “This was a destination for us. We are now headed to Colorado next week for the CCI1*, it wasn’t our original plan, but we really wanted to support the event. This was a good birthday!”
Dassatt Theme BCF and owner-rider Charlee Marinovich also had a rail down but maintained their third place standing with a final score of 37.9.
Only a one tenth of a point separated the top two in the Preliminary Challenge Horse division heading into show jumping. Busy California-based British rider James Alliston held second, third, ninth and eleventh places after cross country. A clear round by Alliston on Sophie Hulme’s Thomascourt Cooley sealed the win on 28.7 penalties after overnight leader En Vogue, owned by Ruth Bley, and ridden by Kimmy Steinbuch, had two rails down.
“It’s nice to bring the horses here with a bit of atmosphere,” said Alliston. “It is great to win it, I have always wanted to win it. He’s an Irish horse by the great stallion Cruising, he was a show jumper in Ireland. He belongs to my student Sophie Hulme. The Hulme family are local here, from the Portola Valley. This was a destination event for us. For the young horses, this is the biggest class. Great for the horses.”
Alliston also collected the CANTER and CARMA award for the highest placed Thoroughbred that completed the competition.
Clear rounds proved worthy as Erin Kellerhouse piloted Bill’s Midnight Magic owned by John Herich up two places to second, finishing on their dressage score of 30.2. “He is a very reliable partner in the show jumping. He actually gets better with the enviroment,” said Kellerhouse of the striking grey. Third place went to Krisit Nunnink’s Be A Star, ridden by Erin Serafini, rising up the leaderboard four places with a clear round to finish on 31.4.