Temecula, Calif. - Last to go with not a rail in hand is a position Phillip Dutton has been in many times. Having previously jumped a clear round on the young Mr. Candyman, who could then finish no lower than fourth in the headline CCI3* division, only set the expectations higher.
After an unanticipated clattering through a warm-up fence, Dutton (West Grove, PA) set his trademark Secret Service expression and galloped overnight leader Fernhill Fugitive into the arena and around Marc Donovan's 560-meter track. The 15-obstacle course had just seen Lauren Kieffer (Middleburg, VA) and Meadowbrook's Scarlett take an unlucky rail at the wine bottle vertical before the last triple combination, dropping them one place to third.
As Fernhill Fugitive cleared the final oxer of the triple, the spectators lining the arena erupted in cheers and were treated to a rare display of Dutton emotion as he cracked a huge grin, enthusiastically patted "Jack" and high-fived with head groom Emma Ford. Afterward, he summed up his thoughts about his Pan Am Games gold medal partner, who had top-ten finishes at Rolex and the Pan Am Games this year:
"I couldn't be any more proud of the horse - he's just had a great year. Every year he just seems to get better and better. I am so excited for him and for [owners] Annie Jones and Tom Tierney who have been very patient with him."
He continued, "He's been a great horse, it's been an incredible year for him. I wasn't that confident going in because I don't usually get too many clear rounds with him, but he did enough today. I'm really proud of him."
Alexandra Knowles (Paris, KY) was beaming about her clear and exuberant round on the Sound Propect LLC's 13-year-old bay gelding Sound Prospect that advanced her to second place behind Dutton. "He is a phenomenal show jumper, but he does get very excited, so it's hard to keep him actually relaxed and calm. He did his job and he took me around and I couldn't be more happy with him," she said.
"And a huge thank you to the syndicate owners for making this happen. This was a huge endeavor," she said with her voice cracking and tears filling her eyes. "It's a big deal for me to come back and do this," referring to organizing the trip to fly the horse from her current base in Paris, KY, to compete at Galway Downs.
For a full listing of the results of the 2015 Galway Downs International, click here.
For more information on the Galway Downs International Event, visit www.galwaydowns.net