Out West we have our first FEI of the year, fittingly at Twin Rivers which was all set to host their inaugural 4*-L when things shut down. Shortly after that, everything shut down tight and while we won’t see the long track yet, we’re excited to preview what Twin has setup for the short!
Every winner of the FEI division over the last half decade has been in either first or second position after the flat, with the majority taking the win from beginning to end. It has been uncommon for anyone to make the time at this venue though, with only one pair doing it from 167 cross-country starters since 2015.
Since this event generally runs twice a year, we have a healthy number of previous winners here but only Andrea Baxter and Indy 500 return as a pair to contest for another win. Last year’s winning rider Tamie Smith composes a third of the field all by herself, with four horses ready to start while winning pair Lauren Billys and Castle Larchfield Purdy have chosen to contest the Advanced division instead.
The talented Danito has made quite a splash in the first phase after only four starts at the level. Under Tamie Smith, he made his first start with an auspicious 30.9 at last year’s event then came into 2020 rocking and rolling, with an average 2020 score of 21.7.
Erin Kellerhouse and her ride Woodford Reserve are another pair less experienced at the level, but in two starts they’ve put in two sub-thirty scores.
Danito is precociously talented in the first phase but has a bit to learn in the stadium. He’s had one or two rails in three of his four outings, but the good news is that even with one rail he and Tamie should still be able to maintain their grip on the top spot following the second phase. With two clear rounds but neither inside the time, Woodford Reserve and Erin could certainly tighten the gap prior to cross-country.
Meanwhile, Emilee Libby and Jakobi will leverage a likely clear round as a way to edge upwards into the top three. With clear rounds in five of their seven starts at the 4* level, both long and short, these two should have a good level of confidence heading into the ring.
If you think we’ll see a lot of leaderboard movement this weekend, think again. Tamie is one of the fastest riders in the west and while Danito might not have the fastest time this weekend, he’ll be right up there with one of the faster paces. Erin will be chasing the clock with Woodford Reserve to catch a quick enough time to pass this pair and the difference might end up as just one or two seconds on the clock.
Emilee Libby is returning to the level for the first time after maternity leave while Tamie Smith‘s ride Fleeceworks Royal is back after a hiatus. These two pairs could battle it out for the third position and much will depend on their decisions on pace after extended time off. Meanwhile Andrea Baxter and Indy 500 have been extremely quiet and plugging away on the flat this year; with a quick turn of foot this power pair should easily finish in the top five and could pick off a couple more placings if their pace is right.
It could be a nail-biter from wire to wire but in the end, Tamie Smith is likely to take the top honors aboard Danito.
FASTEST CROSS COUNTRY ROUNDS
Madison Tempkin and Dr. Hart have has a bit of a learning curve at this level but when they jump clear rounds, they do it quickly. If clear, this pair is likely to also pick up the fastest round of the day.
Charlotte Babbitt and 2 A.M. sparkled in their debut at the level at Copper Meadows, bringing home a win with a solid dressage and cross-country and a lovely clear stadium round. A similar performance this weekend could put them in the conversation for a top three position.