Alliston’s Way at GalwayBy John Strassburger November 6, 2012
James Alliston is his own toughest competition. The Castro Valley, CA-based rider finished first, second and sixth at the Galway Downs International Three-Day Event CCI 3* that took place Nov. 1-4 in Temecula.
In fact, the 27-year-old Alliston has become something of a legend at Galway, which has offered a CCI3* for the past three years and seen the British rider land in the top three each time. He began working his way up from third place in 2010 and took first and seventh places in 2011.
“I’ve been on a bit of a roll,” said Alliston, who collected $12,250 of the $21,000 prize money at the top event. “I seem to do well here.” Although he led the pack on day one, topping the dressage phase, Michael Pollard of Dalton, GA, ultimately rode Schoensgreen Hanni to third place (57.2) at this year’s event.
This year, it was Tivoli that Alliston rode to blue, with a score of 53.4. His 56.6 earned him second on Jumbo’s Jake, the horse he won on last year. Parker, who came back from a bad on-course fall at the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event in April, came in sixth.
In these last three years, Alliston, 27, has emerged from being a hopeful international rider to a bona-fide international star. Still, he said that he didn’t feel more pressure because he won last year’s Galway Downs International Three-Day Event.
“I guess I didn’t really think about being the defending champion before the event,” said Alliston, who still competes on behalf of his native England. Jumbo’s Jake, he noted, hasn’t been jumping his customary clear cross-country rounds, and was even eliminated in his most recent start.
“I didn’t really think there was much chance of him winning again, to tell you the truth,” Alliston said at the press conference following the event. “Tivoli will probably be my best horse down the line, but it’s his first CCI3*, and Parker isn’t really there in the dressage. They’re all great jumpers, and I expected them to go well, but I didn’t expect to be at the head of affairs necessarily.
“I’m actually happier for Jake than the other two horses,” added Alliston. “I wasn’t sure what to expect, because his confidence has been a little bit shaky,” he said of the mount, which had two-run outs and was eliminated on cross country at Rolex. “I wasn’t sure whether [he should] do the three-star or not. But he likes this venue for sure; he always goes well here.”
First And Final
Alliston had another challenge to overcome at Galway Downs—riding three horses in a 12-horse field. That meant that he literally stepped off one horse and got right on the next on all three days!
The demanding schedule kept his crew from Graceland Farm busy, even though it was a real family affair. For the second year in a row, his parents made the trip from England to support their son in the CCI3*, and his sister and brother-in-law pitched in and helped as well.
With Jumbo’s Jake, Alliston was the first starter on the three-star course, designed once again by Ian Stark of Great Britain. He rode Parker in the middle of the 12-horse field, and Tivoli was the last to go on all three days, as the sun was starting to set over Galway Downs.
“On cross-country, the first two were the physically most tiring, because you have to kick Jake a lot to make the time and Parker was really strong today. Tivoli was actually pretty easy after those two,” he said with a smile.
Tivoli’s victory represents years of careful work on Alliston’s part. He purchased the Dutch Warmblood gelding three years ago, after he’d completed a CCI2* in Europe. But when Alliston took him to a preliminary event for the first time, “I thought it would be a walk in the park, but he was frighteningly strong. I had to either slow him down or learn how to ride him. I didn’t show him again for a year and a half.”
Both Tivoli and Jumbo’s Jake lowered one rail on the show jumping course, but they had some breathing room, because Pollard and Schoensgreen Hanni also each lowered one rail.
For Pollard that was a more-than-satisfactory, capping a heart-breaking year in which a nightmare road accident resulted in the death of three of his horses in June after a truck plowed into his trailer. Schoensgreen Hanni was the only horse to survive the crash.
“She’s got a lot of heart. She’s a pretty special mare,” Pollard said with emotion. “This is huge,” he continued. “Coming into this event, she was tied for [the U.S. Eventing Association’s] mare of the year award, and I think this should put her on top. OK, it’s stupid point-chasing, but it means a lot to me this year. It’s a good way to end what’s been a really tough year for me.”
Stark’s Course Sorts Them Out
Seven of the 12 three-star starters completed the stadium jumping faultlessly, but only Parker and Hawley Bennett-Awad of Canada, on Gin ‘N Juice, added no time penalties. Phillip Dutton, of West Grove, PA, who placed second in dressage on Atlas, had one refusal at fence 11, a narrow brush fence over a water-filled ditch, but then finished the course. Buck Davidson, of Ocala, FL, one of the international competitors at Galway, finished fifth on The Apprentice, with a fast cross-country round (2.8 time faults) but 8 faults in show jumping.
For complete results for all classes, click here.
To see United States Eventing Assn. video from the Galway Downs International Three-Day Event, click here.
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