Galway Downs is entertaining a pretty healthy field of nineteen this year, the biggest field this division has seen since 2011, when there was an extremely strong field of 36. There’s a good mix of geographical representation, with riders from the East Coast and Texas mingling with the West Coast crew. A couple of riders coming from the East Coast are returning to their native roots after tough breaks at Fair Hill as well.
There’s also a good mix of experienced pairs and horses who have never attempted the level. They should find their work cut out for them, as Ian Stark doesn’t mess around. The terrain helps with the endurance factor, but that doesn’t make time easy to make. The riders will certainly find sufficient challenge ahead of them this weekend.
Like Fair Hill, the CCI3* is performing the 2009 FEI 3*-B test. The cross country course designer is Ian Stark and the show jumping course designer is Marc Donovan.
1. Boyd Martin and Trading Aces: It should come as no surprise that this pair is my top pick this weekend; both horse and rider were picked for the WEG team for a reason. The only chink in their armor right now is that their most recent dressage performance scored a 51.3, well over their average for this test. They were performing phenomenally in the spring before Boyd broke his leg, and with six weeks since Plantation to get back into sync, I expect their flatwork will have improved.
Trading Aces averages a 46 on this test, which he has only ever performed with Boyd in the stirrups. He may have run out of steam at WEG, but on Ian Stark courses, he averages a mere 3.6 time penalties. The flatter terrain at Galway could allow him to come home without any time penalties. Finally, the horse is very careful, averaging double clear rounds over Marc Donovan courses, of which he has jumped quite a few.
Look for this pair to win this weekend, with the only score in the forties.
2. Maya Black and Doesn’t Play Fair: Maya and Doesn’t Play Fair have accrued an almost impeccable record in the time they have been running Advanced. Only once have they ever scored higher than fifty in dressage. They have shown they are capable of running double clear on cross country, and Doesn’t Play Fair is most often a one-or-none rail horse.
Maya and this horse average a 47.9 on this test. They have only attempted an Ian Stark course once, at Richland, where they had a freak fall at the penultimate fence after negotiating all the questions clear. It’s unlikely that they will make the same mistake here, so look for them to come home clear with an average of 8.8 time penalties. In the three times Doesn’t Play Fair has jumped a Marc Donovan show jumping course, he has only had one rail which came on grass. Look for a double clear show jumping round to put them on a score in the mid-fifties, slotting nicely into second place.
3. Buck Davidson and Copper Beach: Despite winning Jersey Fresh CCI3* in the spring and coming second to Maya in a huge CIC3* division at Plantation, Copper Beach is still one of Buck’s younger and greener horses, which is why he is also my Sleeper pick for the weekend. Let’s just say for now that Buck didn’t fly him all the way out to Galway just to give the horse experience.
This horse averages a 48.4 fior this test, but has scored as low as 43 and as high as 53. This will be the first time Copper Beach attempts an Ian Stark course, but he has averaged only 5.2 time penalties in his last three runs. He is also a one-or-none horse, having one rail in the only CIC3* course he’s jumped designed by Marc. If Copper Beach performs close to his averages, Buck will end up third within a point of Maya’s score.
4. Kaitlin Veltkamp and Flashpoint D: Kaitlin and Flashpoint D are one of the greenest pairs in the field, but have been extremely successful in their four runs at this level, placing third three times and winning their first CIC3*. If they continue to be dominant in the jumping phases, they’ll sneak into the top five.
Flashpoint D’s biggest weakness is on the flat, where he still scored a solid 57 the one time he performed this test, which is right along their average of 57.6 for the level. They haven’t attempted an Ian Stark course yet, but average only 1.2 time penalties on cross country, with the ability to come home double clear. As Marc Donovan almost exclusively designs on the East Coast, Kaitlin hasn’t seen one of his courses yet, but the horse has jumped three out of four rounds double clear, with his only rail coming in his first attempt at the level.
Kaitlin should be breathing down Buck’s neck at the finish, with a score in the mid-to-high fifties.
5. Mackenna Shea and Landioso: Mackenna will be out for blood this weekend, after missing out on Boekelo and having an unfortunate parting of the ways at Fair Hill. These two have had some pretty rough luck at the CCI3* level, but just as Jennie Brannigan broke her curse on the east coast, Mackenna could certainly do it here in the west.
Mackenna and Landioso favor this dressage test, their average score of 46.2 two points better than their average for the level. This should put them in the top two after the flat, if not on top. They are quite a bit quicker on Ian Stark courses than their average, bringing home 9.2 time penalties. Landioso is very careful over the colored sticks, and while he generally has no rails, he does tend to average 4 time penalties over Marc Donovan’s courses.
This pair could end up in fifth with a score just under sixty.
THE DARK HORSE
Bonner Carpenter and Basco: Bonner has been with Basco since 2012, and while they don’t have the cleanest record at Advanced, they certainly have been on the upswing lately.
Basco has already proven he has the dressage chops to be competitive in this phase. This pair averages a 49.7 in their two attempts at this test, which will put them in the hunt after dressage. In this field, a solid dressage score is needed in order to place in the top five, and Basco can certainly bring it on day one.
Cross country has been a learning process for this young horse, starting out bright at Rocking Horse but running into issues at Red Hills, which rode quite tough this year, and Texas Rose March, at which only one competitor finished without a letter. Regrouping over the summer, Bonner brought Basco out to California for the fall season. Since heading west, the two have improved with every start, culminating by storming around Woodside double clear, taking the blue.
In stadium, Basco is another one-or-none rail horse, although he occasionally has a few time penalties. Worst case for this pair in stadium will mean having a rail and a time penalty or two. A double clear in this phase is certainly possible.
If Bonner and Basco can show that their new cross country chops are here to stay, they could easily place somewhere in the top five.
Buck Davidson and Copper Beach: I may have ranked this horse third, but he certainly has the potential to win this weekend. Although he has already won a CCI3*, I don’t think we’ve yet seen the best this horse has to offer.
Copper Beach has scored as high as 53.1 and as low as 39.9 in competition, when converting to FEI scores. While his overall average is in the high forties, he has multiple times scored in the low forties. This is Copper Beach’s first year at Advanced; as he gains muscle and experience, his score will stay consistently in the low forties or below.
For the first half of his six runs this year, Buck took this horse around quite slowly, ranging from 29 to 86 seconds over the optimum time. At Jersey Fresh, Buck began to press on the gas, obtaining only 19 seconds worth of penalties. At Millbrook and Plantation Field, he continued to test the horse’s speed, bring him home 18 seconds over at Millbrook and bang on optimum time at Plantation. Of fifty-two starters at Plantation, only one other horse came home inside the time, so time was definitely tough to make there.
Copper Beach has only one blip on his cross country record, a stop at Red Hills CIC3*. Moving forward into next year, I expect we will see a consistent cross country horse who is getting the ability to consistently go double clear when Buck asks him to.
As I said above, this horse either jumps clear in stadium, or has one rail. As of now, his record is split perfectly down the middle, with fifty percent clear rounds. He has not yet obtained any time penalties in this phase. As Buck solidifies this horse at the level, the rails should become fewer and further between.
In a year, depending on what level of experience the selectors choose to send, Copper Beach could be a valuable horse for the Pan Ams, and could certainly be developing to eventually take Reggie’s place as a team horse for Buck.