This weekend, the California competitors begin what I term ‘The Great Migration’, the start of the trek east for the Nutrena AECs in Texas. Some will go even further and make the long haul to Fair Hill, while others will return home and run at Galway.
Meanwhile, eight competitors are staying on the west coast, opting to run the Advanced at Twin Rivers instead of making the long haul. It’s a small division, so I’ll be ranking the top two plus a dark horse. There are also two newcomers to this level, which as always are unranked due to lack of Advanced and CIC3* data.
At Twin Rivers, the Advanced is performing the 2014 USEF A-B test. The cross country course designer is James Atkinson and the show jumping course designer is Sarah Dubost (neé Kotchian).
1. Bunnie Sexton and Rise Against: Bunnie Sexton and her partner Rise Against are no strangers to long trips east, but I think they’ll be rewarded for staying home this weekend. As debatably the most experienced horse in the field, I think they’ll use that to bring home the blue this weekend.
Bunnie and Rise Against are known more for their jumping prowess than their flat and will probably be sitting mid-pack after the dressage, averaging a 43.3 for this test. They’ll make up the ground in the jumping phases, with an impeccable record over James Atkinson cross country courses, usually bringing home an average of only two time penalties. Bunnie and Rise Against are also careful over Sarah Dubost courses, jumping double clear on average. They ought to finish with a score in the mid-forties, good enough for first.
2. David Acord and Reigns for Justice: David and Reigns for Justice are newer to the level, with a few completions in 2013, and a clear round at Galway in March. They haven’t tried this level since but were quite successful at this Twin Rivers Fall event last year.
Reigns for Justice is another horse who much prefers the jumping, and with an average of 45.6 for this test, we’re likely to see them well down in the order at first. However, Reigns for Justice will also go up the ranks after the cross country, as David and this horse were clear with only 3.6 time penalties in their one attempt at a James Atkinson course.
All of their show jumping efforts at this level have been on Sarah Dubost courses, so they should continue their trend of double clears. David will be close on Bunnie’s heels for second with a score in the high forties, but well ahead of the rest of the pack.
THE DARK HORSE
1. Tamie Smith and Novelle: Tamie Smith is actually catch riding the dark mare Novelle this weekend for her owner and rider Angela Grzywinski. Novelle and Angela have been very lightly dabbling at this level for a couple of years, but only really started entering this level consistently in 2014.
The pair has been on the upswing since Rebecca, and recently placed second at the Copper Meadows CIC3*. The Copper Meadows course was essentially a James Atkinson course with Tremaine Cooper’s mark of approval, so that experience could very well carry over to this weekend.
It’s a bit difficult to tell what the horses will do when the riders change, but Tamie Smith is no stranger to catch rides at this level, having catch ridden Kristi Nunnink’s Corner Street to a double clear cross country round at the Galway Downs CCI3* in 2010. Tamie also is a mainstay on the West Coast, and has tons of experience with James Atkinson’s courses. Novelle’s numbers will likely be similar under Tamie.
Novelle always tries very hard on the flat, and has an affinity for this dressage test, scoring on average four points better. Tamie will likely be sitting in the top three after the first phase, with a score in the high thirties.
Under Angela, Novelle has shown to be very quick across the country when she goes clear, and it’s certainly possible that Tamie will continue this trend. Although on paper the mare has no James Atkinson course experience, the Copper Meadows run will put her in good stead.
Finally, Novelle is a phenomenal show jumper, and even though she’s never attempted a Sarah Dubost course, she very rarely has even one rail.
If Tamie continues Novelle’s upward trajectory, they could potentially bring home a double clear round, snatching the whole show out from under Bunnie’s nose with a score in the high thirties.