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Windfall Heads CCI-W*** at Wits End
Mansfield, ON, Canada
by Amber Heintzberger
Photos: Anthony Trollope/
Darren Chiacchia (USA) and Windfall II
On the first day of dressage Brandon McMechan on Ryder's Juliet (45.4) took a narrow lead over Leohana Rowland and R'Kameo (45.7) in the CCI* at the Wits End Horse Trials in Mansfield, Ontario. 30 out of 40 entrants completed the CCI* dressage on Thursday and the remaining nine competitors rode on Friday, with none coming close to matching McMechan's leading score.

Only six horses are entered in the Advanced division, with 28 entries, several Olympic veterans, representing four countries in the CIC***-W. Those qualified for the three-star are having a go at the $20,000 prize money that's up for grabs this year. Karen O'Connor, who is only recently back in the saddle after breaking her collarbone while schooling a young horse, is leading the Advanced riding her veteran Upstage (59.0). Canadians Penny Rowland and Karl Slezak are tied for second (62.0).

In the CIC*** Darren Chiacchia and Windfall II have the lead (43.4) followed closely by William J. Coleman III on Kiki du Manoir, who just moved up to advanced level this summer after a very successful stint at intermediate. Phillip Dutton on Acorn Hill Farm's Woodburn rounds out the top three with 44 penalties. Last year Dutton and Tru Luck won the inaugural CIC*** and he is back this year with two horses, Woodburn and Allstar, entered in the three-star to try his luck again.

"Windfall was very good," commented Chiacchia. "That arena certainly has a lot of atmosphere. He likes to see other horses and he was sort of like, 'where's my herd that I'm supposed to be looking after?'" Chiacchia also rode Better I Do It, who scored 49.2, and was annoyed that a tractor started moving brush on the cross-country course right next to the arena during his test. "He was a little on the muscle and swapped leads once - what we really want as riders is a level playing field."
Karen O'Connor (USA) and Upstage
Chiacchia is preparing Windfall for the new CCI**** in Pau, France next month and hopes to give him a good run here as a run-up to the big event. Pau will be Windfall's first four-star since Kentucky last year, where he had a meltdown on cross-country and retired from the competition. This spring he had to have surgery on a splint, so this year he has run at one preliminary and one intermediate horse trials, then placed second in the Advanced Championship at the Wellpride American Eventing Championships in Illinois a couple of weeks ago. Last weekend he won the advanced combined test at Bromont, which Chiacchia said was more of a schooling session for him since he had to travel with the other horses anyway.

"He feels great," said Chiacchia. "He's really on his game."

In its fourth year running Wits End is has been approved as Canada's first and only FEI World Cup™ Qualifier. As a fall event it is popular with riders trying to qualify for the FEI World Cup™ Finals, which will be held in the spring of 2008.

"This sits well as a prep for Fair Hill," commented Chiacchia. "The footing is fantastic, the course is good and continues to improve and the prize money is really important - we all know that's where we've got to go and it's really appreciated."

Four years ago Wits End had 16 Canadian riders compete in the advanced horse trials; in 2005, this number rose to 22 with six US riders making the trip north. Last year the FEI CIC*** division was added in addition to the advanced and a preliminary division attracted even greater numbers as riders from four different countries registered to compete. Despite inclement weather over 77 horse and rider combinations competed. The sun came out on Sunday and hundreds of spectators enjoyed watching the riders tackle David O'Connor's cross-country course. Tomorrow riders take to the hills again and there should be plenty of excitement as this very competitive group of riders vies for a handsome sum of prize money.

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