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Bennett Keeps Livingstone on his Toes for Top Galway Finish
Temecula, CA, USA
by Amber Heintzberger
Hawley Bennett and Alexandra Knowles
Hawley Bennett, who lives and trains in Temecula but rides for Canada, had a hairy start to her round show jumping round when Livingstone went down on his knees after the first fence today at the Adequan USEA Gold Cup Galway Downs CIC*** in Temecula, CA. Bennett, 30, kept riding forward and the big gelding got right back up and carried on, though Bennett said they were both rattled, which probably resulted in the two subsequent rails that they had down.

"I think he jumped so big he just stumbled," she said. "He had a mouthful of dirt but he got up and kept going."

Lucky for Bennett, she had a strong enough lead that when Jolie Sexson and Killian O'Connor had three rails down Bennett stayed in third place. Sexson had some consolation in the fact that she placed second in the CIC* riding Fade to Black.

Bennett is a contender for the Canadian Olympic team, and plans to head east at the end of April to compete at the Rolex Kentucky CCI****. She will then stay at her coach Buck Davidson's barn in New Jersey to train until the Jersey Fresh CCI***, where Olympic selectors will be making some big decisions.

Also making a strong bid as an Olympic contender, Gina Miles, 34 of Creston, CA piloted McKinlaigh to a clear round to win. With Olympic selectors watching, Miles rode steadily and stylishly to victory. Her next event with the big Irish gelding will be the Rolex Kentucky CCI**** at the end of April, where they will perform under more pressure over tougher courses and prove definitively what they are made of.

Miles is looking forward to the challenge. "I'm so confident in McKinlaigh - he really does know his job," she said.

Jennifer Wooten, 30, and The Good Witch finished second in the CIC*** with a clear round, followed by Hawley Bennett on Livingstone in third. Jolie Sexson and Killian O'Connor, second after yesterday's cross-country, had an unfortunate three rails that knocked them out of the top three and into a final sixth place, behind Tory Smith on Bantry Bay in third and Debbie Rosen on The Alchemyst in fifth.

Wooten, who represented the US at the World Cup Finals in Pau, France last year where she was the top American finisher in 11th place, will be competing at Rolex for the first time. "I was really using this event as a prep for Rolex and I wanted to focus on riding the plan," she said. The pair got their season off to a good start two weeks ago by winning their first outing at 3-day Ranch Horse Trials. Wooten then celebrated her 30th birthday on March 21st.

"I was content in our personal progress this weekend," she said. "Moving up from 9th to second place was icing on the cake. I'm going to be celebrating when I get home!"
Gina Miles and McKinlaigh
The Good Witch is a 10-year-old bay Irish Thoroughbred owned by Donn and Daisy Tognazzini of Los Olivos, CA.

"Last year at Pau I learned a lot. This year I'm stepping it up a notch," said Wooten. "At Rolex I am aiming to complete, first of all, and to take the same attitude as this weekend and take it one day at a time…It's time to put everything on the line so at least I can know that I gave it my all."

Bennett had even more reason to celebrate when her student Alexandra Knowles, riding Last Call, had a clean and clear round to win their first CIC** on their dressage score of 53.2. Bennett broke into tears as she said, "I take a lot of pride in what I do and I'm so proud of her. Allie's improvement in the last year was pretty amazing."

"I'm on top of the world," said Knowles, 21 of Auburn, CA. "I know my mare is amazing and I knew if I rode her right she could do it, so the pressure was all on me. The course rode well - I walked the advanced and thought it didn't look to big, since the rails would come down a hold, but then when I looked at it set for intermediate I thought, 'That does look big!'. Everyone else rode it well, so that gave me confidence."

Knowles was quick to point out, "I would not be where I am today without Hawley."

Julie Ann Boyer finished second in the two-star riding Rumor Hazit, followed by Alexis Helffrich on Spike. The top five horses in this division jumped clear and in the time.

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