Erin Kellerhouse, on Roxabelle, and Zachary Brandt, on Cavallino Cocktail, captured the two divisions of the Woodside Preliminary Challenge, at the Event At Woodside on May 27-29.
The Woodside Preliminary Challenge was presented by Point Two Air Jackets, Professional's Choice and Equine Insurance of California. Riders in the Preliminary Horse and Preliminary Rider divisions each competed for $15,000 in prize money and another $15,000 in prizes.
Nearly 1,000 people enjoyed the Challenge's show jumping climax on Saturday evening, 300 of them seated in a tent beautifully decorated for the gala dinner. Some 31 horses started, performing their dressage tests in front of two judges on Friday and then tackling Derek di Grazia's cross-country course on Saturday morning.
Kellerhouse, of Temecula, led from the start in the Preliminary Horse division, scoring just 30.9 penalties on Roxabelle, an 8-year-old American Sport Horse mare owned by Cheryl Reynolds. The pair added no jumping or time penalties on Saturday morning in the cross-country phase, and then they jumped perfectly over the evening's show jumping finale to hold off Jennifer McFall, of Wilton, on High Times (34.1) and Sandra Donnelly, of Calgary, Canada, on Babe Ruth (36.1).
Zachary Brandt & Cavallino Cocktail. Photo: ©McCool
In the Preliminary Rider division, Brandt, 18, of Templeton, placed second in dressage (33.7) and added nothing to his score in the two jumping phases. Early leader Stephanie Callihan, on Compelling Chris, lowered five rails to drop to eighth, leaving Kaitlin Veltkamp, of Los Gatos, on Flashpoint D in second place (41.1) and Dana Estes, of Livermore, on Worthy Opponent V.E. (41.1) third.
Both horses finished with the same score, but Flashpoint D earned second because he incurred no cross-country time faults, while Worthy Opponent V.E. incurred 1.2 time faults. Flashpoint D climbed from 12th place after dressage with perfect performances in the jumping phases.
Said Kellerhouse, "Last year [owner] Cheryl [Reynolds] watched the Preliminary Challenge, while Roxabelle was going training here, and she asked me if the mare could do it next year. I said she definitely could, and we've made it our goal ever since."
Linda Payne of Temecula bred the bay mare, and Reynolds bought her at age 4 and placed her in training with Kellerhouse. Reynolds continues to foxhunt her with the Santa Fe Hounds, where Payne's husband, Terry, is the MFH.
Erin Kellerhouse & Roxabelle. Photo: ©McCool
Kellerhouse said that the evening's electric atmosphere didn't faze Roxabelle. The field jumped in reverse order of standing, and the early horses competed in front of an active, buzzing crowd, distracted as they found their seats and their drinks. But the last few horses jumped in near-silence, as the crowd focused on the exciting competition.
"She can be a bit spooky, but she's a pretty level-headed horse, so the tent and all the people didn't really bother her," said Kellerhouse.
After reviewing her prizes, Kellerhouse exclaimed, "I want to ride in the Preliminary Challenge every year!" She'd competed in the Challenge in 2009 but not 2010.
Brandt has only had a three-month partnership with Cavallino Cocktail, a 9-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare. She was a show jumper in Ireland before embarking on an international eventing career under Danish rider Peter Flarup.
"She surprises me every time I compete her, and she gets it right every time," said Brandt.
Brandt is a high school senior aiming for the North American Young Riders Championships in Kentucky in July. "I think this was a great prep for that. The cross-country course was super, and there was a lot of pressure here tonight," said Brandt. "It was a really great competition. I'm really glad I did it."
Kellerhouse and Brandt each earned $2,500 in first-place prize money. Kellerhouse also took home a JRD custom saddle, while Brandt took home a CWD custom saddle. The second-placed winners earned $1,875 each, and the third-placed winners earned $1,500 each.
Additional generous sponsors of the Event at Woodside include: CWD Saddlery, Voltaire Design, Advanced Protection Formula, Smartpak Equine, JRD Saddles, Equine Comfort Products and
Report provided by Event press officers John Strassburger and Heather Bailey. To learn more about the Horse Park at Woodside or the Event At Woodside, go to www.horsepark.org. To learn more about eventing, visit the U.S. Eventing Association's website (www.useventing.com).