California Riding Magazine • December, 2009

The Gallop:
OC Fairgrounds fights new threat;
Fellers leads World Cup league.

by Kim F. Miller

Fans of the Orange County Fairgrounds began 2009 with the alarming news that the facility’s Board of Directors was considering paving over the 150-horse equestrian center there in favor of “flexible flat space,” which most horse owners translate as “parking lot.” (California Riding Magazine, May 2009). A new threat arose in October when the State of California, which owns the Fairgrounds, announced it was putting the property up for sale.

Activists rallied immediately and alternative proposals emerged. The County of Orange surfaced as a possible buyer, as did a non-profit group led by some members of the OC Fair Board. A Save The Fair organization has formed, but equestrians seem most solidly behind Derail The Sale, the campaign launched by another new organization, the Orange County Fairgrounds Preservation Society.

Equestrian activists in Orange County attempt to “Derail the Sale” of the
OC Fairgrounds during a protest at the OC Fair Board offices on Nov. 14.

Equestrian Coalition of Orange County advocate Theresa Sears asserts that reversing the sale is the only way to go. She describes it as a realistic path to pursue and one with precedent in other parts of California. The Daily Pilot newspaper reports that the OC Fairgrounds is the only public-owned entity currently for sale, among over 20 state owned properties listed for potential sale.

There is also an effort to place a stipulation on the sale that a new owner must continue using the Fairgrounds in the same way. Sears considers this a poor alternative to reversing the sale and encourages all supporters to contact their state legislators in support of keeping the Fairgrounds in state hands. Contact info for these government leaders is available on the Equestrian Coalition’s website at

Equestrian advocates were among those slated to speak at a Nov. 17 Costa Mesa City Council meeting, asking Council members to vote in favor of asking Gov. Schwarzenegger to call off the sale. The City cannot force anything with the state, but its position is considered influential. Jan. 8 was the deadline for submitting bids to buy the Fairgrounds, but the level of outcry seems strong enough to justify hopes of a better outcome before that. Equestrian advocates have been prominent in TV, print and Internet coverage of this issue since the get-go. Stay tuned…

Fellers Jumps to World Cup Lead

With seven of 13 West League World Cup qualifiers done, Rich Fellers looks likely for his third consecutive trip to the Finals, to be held in Geneva in March, 2010. He and his 2008 Finals reserve champion partner, Flexible, began this season’s newly delineated league with a win in Langley, British Columbia, relatively close to his Oregon home stable. The pair sat out the next three rounds, then resurfaced in Del Mar in mid October and Los Angeles in early November to win qualifiers #5 and 6. They topped off this half of the season with a sixth-placed finish at the $50,000 Los Angeles National Grand Prix Nov. 14 to lock up 72 points and a 12-point lead.

Rich Fellers & Flexible at the 2009 World Cup Finals.
Photo: Erpelding Photography

With point-earning finishes in all but the first qualifier, California-based Australian rider Harley Brown sits in the second spot. Golden Girl Ashlee Bond is third with two wins with her superstar Cadett 7. Richard Spooner is next on the rankings. He would have been a little higher if he’d had better luck in the World Cup’s “pick the right horse” game. Contenders with more than one mount must designate their World Cup horse before the class starts and they’ll ride that one first. Spooner chose what would seem his strongest mount, Cristallo, for the most recent qualifier, but wound up winning it on Apache. So, the 20 points that are normally awarded the winner went to the night’s second-placed finisher, Will Simpson. In addition to remarkable riding skills, Simpson had lady luck on his side that night in designating Archie Bunker as his World Cup horse. Simpson was not so fortunate the previous week at the Sacramento Invitational, where he elected Black Cherry. He finished the class in 12th with Black Cherry, for eight World Cup points, and fifth with Archie Bunker for zero points. It’s a cruel game!

As we know from past seasons, the second half of the World Cup league can mix things up considerably. And this being a World Equestrian Games year, some of our top riders are also juggling this season with their plans to contest the WEG Selection Trials to be held in Florida in late February and early March.

There’s a break in the schedule after the league’s eighth qualifier, which was set for late November in Balvenera, Queretaro, Mexico. (This year the World Cup redrew the league to include Western Canada and Mexico. In the past, it has been a U.S. West Coast league.) The race resumes in Thermal, with back-to-back qualifiers Feb. 6, 13 and 27 and Mar. 6, then the grand finale Apr. 3 in San Juan Capistrano.