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Woodside Brings Barnacle A Poignant Victory
Woodside, CA, USA
Photos: Amy McCool
Josh Barnacle and Florestan du Serein
Josh Barnacle and his Selle Francais gelding Florestan du Serein hadn't contested the advanced level in nearly three years, but the pair from Santa Rosa, Calif., still cruised to a decisive victory at the Woodside Horse Trials in the Adequan/USEA Gold Cup Series advanced division.

"I went through periods where I wasn't hopeful he'd ever come back to the advanced level, so I'm pretty excited," said Barnacle, 21. His bay gelding was injured in 2005, and it's taken years of hard work to bring him back to the top level. "He felt great; it felt like he'd had no time off."

Barnacle credits his sister, Rachel, and his aunt, Jan White, with taking charge of the horse's recovery when he took a job on the East Coast in 2007. "They rehabbed him while I was away having fun," he said.

Barnacle, the only rider to finish the advanced cross-country course with no jumping faults, had high praise for Derek di Grazia's design. "It was challenging and safe at the same time. It asked a lot of accuracy questions, but was very fair and rode great," he said.

Barnacle held fourth after dressage, but he took over a commanding 40-plus-point lead after a cross-country round that added only a handful of time penalties to his score. He lowered three rails and added 9 time penalties in the show jumping, but still claimed the Gold Cup by a wide margin over Marc Grandia on I Spy and Anna Collier on Uppercrust D.

"I knew it would be hard to lose [going in to show jumping]," conceded Barnacle. "But I wanted to ride like I had to go clean. He was great. He jumped really well after yesterday, and I thought the ones I rode well he jumped beautifully."

Woodside marked Barnacle's first-ever advanced Adequan/USEA Gold Cup Series win. "The sponsors for this series are great, and the added prizes and publicity are wonderful for the sport," he said.

In addition to Adequan, the series has 10 sponsors. The Legacy Sponsors are Nunn Finer, Nutrena and World Equestrian Brands; the Contributing Sponsors are Cover-All, UlcerGard and Wellpride; and the Patron Sponsors are Back on Track, Broadstone Equine Insurance Agency, Mountain Horse and Succeed.

Perhaps the only bobble of the weekend came during Barnacle's victory gallop, when "Flo" spooked badly and found himself directly in front of a show jump. Barnacle, thinking quickly, sat up and clucked, and the horse sailed over the fence, although he did lower the top rail, causing the announcer to quip, "Four faults, no time."
Jennie Brannigan and Cooper
Barnacle hopes to contest the next Pacific League Gold Cup event, at Rebecca Farm in Kalispell, Mont., in July, and then to aim for the prestigious Fair Hill CCI*** (Md.) in October.

Jennie Brannigan and Cooper, winners of the Adequan/USEA Gold Cup intermediate division, had only landed on California soil a week before Woodside, but their jet lag didn't show. Brannigan calls San Diego home, although she and her 7-year-old Dutch Warmblood have been living and training on the East Coast for most of the past year. But the 20-year-old is in her last year to contest the North American Young Riders Championships, and Woodside served as a mandatory trial for all the Area VI (California) team.

Having a Gold Cup class as the trial was fortuitous for Brannigan, as she and Cooper are currently leading the national intermediate-level Gold Cup standings following a first and a second in two Gold Cup Series events in the Atlantic League earlier this spring.  They've now amassed 405 points, to lead second-placed Alexandra Knowles and Last Call by 235 points. Knowles finished fifth at Woodside and didn't earn any Gold Cup Series points.

"My main goal was a good outing for young riders," said Brannigan. "The coach asked us to go slow, but in the back of my mind I was thinking about the Gold Cup. Winning it is my second goal of the year, after the young riders championships."

Brannigan stood second after dressage, and though she did add 11.2 time faults on the cross-country course, they were fewer than dressage winner Tiana Coudray and Ringwood Magister (21.2), which put Brannigan into the lead. A flawless show jumping round kept her in the top spot over Coudray, who's also a candidate for the Area VI young rider team.

Brannigan sees the Gold Cup as an important part of an up-and-coming horse's career. "I have a competitive horse, and I'm always looking for help to support him and something like the Gold Cup helps you get your name out there. And you can win such great stuff-it just gives you that extra incentive," she said.

Brannigan will stay in California for the summer as she aims for the North American Young Riders Championships, held in Colorado in late July, but then she'll return to the East Coast work for Olympian Philip Dutton.

" I'm a team player-I wanted to come back here and do things right and help with the fund raising [for the young riders team] and be a part of all of it, not just show up at the show.

"Besides," she added with a smile, "I miss California."

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