The sixth annual Woodside Preliminary Challenge will be the highlight of the Woodside Horse Trials on May 23-25. The popular competition, which climaxes with show jumping in the Grand Prix Arena on Saturday evening, will offer $15,000 in prize money and an additional $15,000 in prizes for the two divisions.
A record number of 48 horses are entered to compete in the Woodside Preliminary Challenge—presented by CWD, Dean and Company LLC, Devoucoux and Equine Insurance of California—at the Horse Park at Woodside. The Horse Park at Woodside is located on Sand Hill Road, just 30 minutes south of San Francisco, minutes off I-280.
The Woodside Preliminary Challenge will get underway on Friday morning with dressage, evaluated by a panel of two judges. The horses and riders will next attack the challenges of Derek di Grazia’s cross-country course early on Saturday morning.
And then the Preliminary Challenge will climax on Saturday evening, when the leaders will tackle a special show jumping course set in the Horse Park’s expansive Grand Prix Arena.
The top 10 horses in each of the two Preliminary Challenge divisions will begin show jumping at 6:20 p.m., with awards to follow immediately afterward, as hundreds of family, friends and fans cheer from their seats all around the arena.
“Of all the shows I’ve won since I began riding, winning the Preliminary Horse Challenge with Uphoria was certainly one of the most exciting, partly because the atmosphere is so electric,” said Frankie Thieriot, one of the winners in 2012. “This format is unlike anything else, and it gives the feel of a big ring and huge atmosphere that you can’t get anywhere else at the preliminary level.”
The winner of each Woodside Preliminary Challenge division will earn a custom-made saddle: The Horse division winner will take home a CWD saddle, and the Rider division winner will take home a JRD saddle.
Since Saturday afternoon will feature the advanced and intermediate divisions taking their turns over the panoramic cross-country course, spectators can spend the entire day watching the cross-country action for $10 per person, which includes parking and a program.
Fans, other Woodside competitors, friends and family can then cheer for the final phase of the Woodside Preliminary Challenge from a heated ringside platform while enjoying a Gala Dinner catered once again by the popular Paso Robes-based firm Cahoots. Local wines, beer and soft drinks will be served while the horses are jumping, with dinner following the awards ceremony.
For the last five years, the Gala Dinner has been a sold-out affair. In 2013, more than 350 people enjoyed the show jumping along with the catered dinner, while another 500-plus cheered from their own seats along the rail.
“I think the format we’ve created for the Woodside Preliminary Challenge—the evening show jumping competition with the awards right afterward and the catered dinner—has become something truly special over the last five years,” said event organizer Robert Kellerhouse. “The Preliminary Challenge has become a competition that the riders aim for every year, and it’s become an event that people in the Woodside area and people riding in the other divisions at Woodside look forward to watching every year.”
Proceeds from the Preliminary Challenge Gala Dinner benefit construction of the cross-country course at the Horse Park at Woodside.
The Woodside Preliminary Challenge offers two divisions: the Horse division is open to riders of any level of experience on horses that have not competed at the intermediate level or above from 2009 to 2014; the Rider division is open to all horses with riders who have not competed at the intermediate level or above from 2009 to 2014. Horses and riders must achieve two qualifying results at the preliminary level as a pair in order to compete.