Temecula, CA — It took a little while to get the final results confirmed but in the end, Alexandra Slusher and Last Call found themselves atop the standings in the CIC3* at the Galway Downs International Horse Trials, with 47.0 penalties.
Their perfectly clear cross-country round kept them just ahead of Canada’s Hawley Bennett-Awad, aboard her World Championship mount, Linda Paine’s Gin ‘N Juice (48.2), and James Alliston, aboard Jumbo’s Jake (53.6), who moved in to third with another perfect round.
“I was thrilled with my horse,” said Slusher, Auburn, Calif., of Last Call, a bay, Mecklenberg mare owned by her mother, Christie Campbell. “I knew what time I had to get and that I could jump all those fences out there,” said Slusher. Her only tense moment came at the third water complex, where “Fergie” took off too close to the final, narrow jump. She stumbled
on landing, but Slusher hung on before they galloped off.
“She saved me, and that’s why I love her!” said Slusher. “’Fergie’ came out more aggressive than ever. She’s very careful and very safe, but it’s been a learning process to come out and jump those fences. I felt like she really trusted me out there and went for it.”
This was the fifth time Slusher, 23, and Fergie, 12, have competed together at Galway Downs, from the one-star level to the three-star level, always getting a ribbon. “Galway Downs has hugely contributed to our career,” said Slusher. “They always do such a great job, and the aura suits us. Fergie and I work off confidence, and, since in years past we’ve always done well here, I always drive in the driveway and feel confident.”
Slusher was initially penalized with 2 time penalties, due to confusion over a possible false start on course this afternoon. However, after some exploring, event officials rectified the situation and erased Slusher’s time faults. While it was all being sorted out, it initially looked as though Bennett-Awad and “Ginny” would claim victory. Slusher is a former working student of Bennett-Awad’s at her training center in Temecula, so the two competitors were rooting for each other.
“I’d love for her to win, but I don’t want to win on a technicality,” said Bennett-Awad. “She deserves to win—she had a great weekend. I’m proud of her. We’re both competitive, but I sure wasn’t crossing my fingers hoping she’d have time penalties.”
It helped, of course, that Bennett-Awad already claimed one victory this weekend, as she took the top spot in the CIC2* aboard Five O’Clock Somewhere, a full sibling to Gin ‘N Juice. “She knows her job now and there’s no question,” said Bennett-Awad of Ginny. “It’s fun to know you can go out and go clean. It’s fun to know you can be competitive.
“I can’t ask any more from my two,” she continued with a smile. “It’s going to be a good party tonight.”
Five O’Clock Somewhere galloped easily to a perfectly clear round in the CIC2* to finish on 47.4 penalties. Overnight leader Anna Collier, of Vancouver, Wash., garnered 4.8 time faults, partly because of Upper Crust D’s extravagant jumping style, to slip to second with a final score of 48.8, ahead of Lauren Billys and Ballingowan Ginger (55.9).
Alliston also had to sort through some CIC3* scoring discrepancies—he was held on course when John Michael Durr and Warrick fell at fence 15, and he was initially charged with more than 100 time penalties. However, once the timing was sorted out, his perfect round moved him in to third aboard girlfriend India McEvoy’s Jumbo’s Jake.
“I got held just before a pretty intense part of the course,” he said ruefully. “But I thought he was inside the time.”
Alliston, 26, is aiming Jumbo’s Jake, and his advanced horse trials winner Parker III, for the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event later this month, and Galway Downs was an integral part of his plan.
“Ian Stark is world class course designer, so you’re going to get a true three-star test. I’ve never done a four star, like Rolex Kentucky, before, but hopefully this has been a good prep for one,” said Alliston, who still rides for his native Great Britain but lives in Castro Valley, CA.
In the CIC1*, Oregon’s Karen O’Neal (49.0) took the top spot with Leigh Mesher’s Rafflasia Z over Jolie Wentworth on David Adamo’s Bratton Little John (52.3) and Gina Miles on Sunsprite Patronus (53.3).
Competition concludes tomorrow with cross-country phase for the novice and training divisions, along with show jumping for the preliminary and intermediate divisions.
Point Two Air Jackets, Professional’s Choice, Equine Comfort Products, and the USEA Gold Cup Series are the presenting sponsors of the Galway Downs International Horse Trials.
Other generous sponsors of the Galway Downs International Horse Trials include: CWD Saddlery, Sunsprite Warmbloods, Voltaire Design, Advanced Protection Formula by Auburn Laboratories Inc., Big Horse Feed, Equine Insurance of California, Doug Hannum Equine Therapy, Riding’s Publications Inc., Smartpak Equine, and the California Horse Trader.
For more information on the Galway Downs Horse Trials, visit www.galwaydowns.com or call 951-303-0405. To learn more about eventing, visit the U.S. Eventing Association’s website at www.useventing.com.