Before a festive crowd of about 1,000 people on Saturday night, David Adamo and Joanna Saunders rode their horses to victory in the $16,500 Woodside Preliminary Challenge at the Woodside Horse Trials.
Adamo rode Henry to a climactic faultless show jumping round to claim the Horse Division on a final score of 30.00, ahead of Emilee Libby on 44 Magnum (34.3) and Erin Kellerhouse on Rafaella (34.4).
In the Rider Division, Saunders rode Ansel Adams to a faultless show jumping round (35.2) to move up from second place when leader Ruth Bley lowered one rail on Rodrigue Du Granit to drop to second (39.0). Cara Julian rode Wunder Schon to third place (41.7).
As the show jumping got underway in the Horse Park at Woodside’s Grand Prix Arena, Adamo, 46, of Petaluma, Calif., was leading Kellerhouse in the Horse Division by only 0.4 penalties, with the top five horses separated by a mere 5.0 penalties.
But Adamo said that, since they warmed up in the covered arena adjacent to the Grand Prix Ring but were blocked from view by the tent holding 400 people for the catered dinner, he couldn’t see the action in the ring. Plus, the buzz of the crowd overshadowed the announcer’s voice, so when he entered the ring on Henry, he didn’t know that Libby was the only top-placed rider who’d jumped faultlessly, giving him a one-rail margin of error.
And he had another concern: Henry, 7, had been eliminated in the same show jumping arena at last October’s Woodside CIC, when he refused to jump the triple combination.
“I came in with the attitude of ‘I need to solve this problem,’ and it all worked out perfectly. I just went in the ring and hoped to go clean,” Adamo said.
He added, “I brought Henry here to try to win some money, but the show jumping in front of the big crowd was my biggest concern. He tends to be really careful, so this was a huge success.”
With his faultless round, Adamo earned the winner’s share of the Horse Division’s $8,250 purse, a CWD saddle and many more prizes. “The scores were unbelievably tight after dressage, and that made it fun,” he said.
Saunders, 18, of Castro Valley, Calif., earned the winner’s share of the Rider Division’s $8,250 purse, a JRD saddle and many more prizes, including $1,200 from the Thoroughbred Incentive Program since Ansel Adams was the top-placing former racehorse in the Preliminary Challenge.
“This means everything to me to win this. Winning the Preliminary Challenge showed that our hard work has really aid off,” said Saunders, who goes to school at U.C. Berkeley and trains with Alexis Helffrich.
Ansel Adams, a 7-year-old Thoroughbred, raced just two times in British Columbia before Saunders bought him at age 4 from a trainer who’d purchased him at the track. She said that Ansel Adams is not his Jockey Club-registered name, but that he had the name when she purchased him. She suspects he was named after the legendary black-and-white photographer because of his mottled black and white coat.
Adamo bred Henry, who’s out of a Holsteiner mare and by the Holsteiner sire Hunter, who stands in Petaluma. Saunders said that she didn’t know that the evening’s electric atmosphere had caused the riders before her to make errors that had given her a cushion too.
“The atmosphere did wind him up a bit,” she admitted. “But he felt a little tired in the warm-up, so it amped him up. I think he was better for it.”
Saunders said the atmosphere was good for her too. “I got a bit nervous, but it was good for me to get amped up too, because my trainer says I tend not to do enough, not to ride enough,” she said with a smile.
Kaitlin Veltkamp rode Flashpoint D to third place (38.5) by also adding no penalties to her dressage score.
Brown also claimed second in the intermediate division on Happenstance (36.3), but Jeanine Allred of Idaho defeated him by recording a better dressage score on her longtime partner Snap Decision II and adding no further penalties (35.2).