Temecula, Calif.- The man of few words unless he is teaching had nothing but praise for his two mounts after Saturday's challenging cross country phase. Third to start on Ian Stark's revamped CCI3* track, Phillip Dutton had scant feedback to use before heading out on Ann Jones' Mr. Candyman as first two starters Jessica Phoenix and James Alliston elected to retire after having run-outs on course.
Crowds watched and cheered as Dutton (West Grove, PA) sent the young gelding through each of the direct options, finishing three seconds under the optimum time of 10:23, eventually moving the pair up the rankings eight places to fourth place overall on 50.9 penalties.
Dutton repeated the performance on his Pan Am Games partner, Fernhill Fugitive, to within a second, to take over the lead on a score of 43.4. Dutton produced two of the three hard to come by double-clear rounds in the division. He praised both horses, noting they were much different rides.
"The first one is quite green," he said of Mr. Candyman, adding that this was the gelding's first CCI3*. "I haven't had him that long [but] he's got all the makings of it. I've got to put a bit more of the basics into him. He is a great prospect for the future.
"This guy [Fernhill Fugitive] has got a bit more experience about him, although not quite as fast so I had to chance things a bit on the approach. I couldn't be more pleased with him, he just really dug in deep the whole way round. I was down on the clock, and I asked him to come home strong, and he just put his head down and kept going. It's been a great year for this horse. Hopefully it will build for next year."
Dutton's Pan Am Games teammate Lauren Kieffer (Middleburg, VA) gave her Pan Am partner Meadowbrook's Scarlett a steady and accurate ride to finish just two seconds over the time for a score of 45.8. It was the first real outing for the young Thoroughbred mare of Marie Le Menestrel's since the Games.
Both Kieffer and Dutton noted the USEF Land Rover Competition Grants that provided support to fly the horses west to compete at Galway Downs. Former Californian Alexandra Knowles (Paris, KY) had the quickest time of the day, stopping the clock 16 seconds under the time on Sound Prospect LLC's Sound Prospect, moving the pair up to third position on 46.7.
For more information on the Galway Downs International Event, visit www.galwaydowns.net