California Riding Magazine • July, 2014

Winner's Circle

Richard Spooner and Cristallo.
Photo © Spruce Meadows Media Services

Spooner's High Flying Return to Spruce Meadows

Richard Spooner rode Cristallo to victory and was second with Chivas Z in the $85,000 Talisman Energy Cup 1.50m, held during the Spruce Meadows Continental CSIO 5* Tournament in Calgary, Canada in mid-June. There were 55 entries in the competition, and they contested a course set by Anthony D'Ambrosio of the United States. There were just five in the jump-off after a tough first round with a skinny vertical at the end of the ring that caught many horses and riders.

Richard and Cristallo, a 16-year-old Holsteiner gelding by Caretino x Cicero owned by Show Jumping Syndication Intl, were the first to find the key to a clear round and came back in the jump-off to set the pace. Slithering over each jump and flat-out galloping in between, they showed how it's done by going clear in 33.11 seconds.

McLain Ward (USA) and Dulien van de Smeets were next in, but a rail down in 36.36 seconds left them in fifth place at the end of the class. Richie Moloney (IRL), part of the previous night's winning Nations Cup team, gave a good try with Equinimity LLC's Alsvid in 35.30 seconds, which slotted into third place.

Richard was next in with Chivas Z, a 15-year-old Zangersheide gelding by Cumano x Lord Gotthard. He was just off his own winning pace in 33.71 seconds to finish one-two in the class. There was a late bid from the final competitor, Conor Swail (IRL) on Martha Louise, who was faster in 31.12 seconds, but they had a rail down in the combination for fourth place.

The popular California native has been based in France for the past few years. He shook his head and smiled when talking about his partner Cristallo, who is still extremely competitive and pulling him around the course at 16 years old. "How do you beat that horse? He's a freak of nature, an unbelievable animal," he described.

While there was a long gallop to the last fence, Spooner felt he was faster from the skinny wall to the combination in the jump-off course. "Actually, I slowed him down (to the last oxer)," he revealed. "I was faster in the dash across to the combination. Because of his experience, I'm able to do what other horses really shouldn't and can't do into a combination like that. But he can kind of do that with one eye closed, just because he's done it so many times. That's one advantage of having an aged horse."

Spooner has known Chivas Z since he was purchased as an 8-year-old by Ashlee Bond Clarke. "Every once in a while she would have me ride Chivas, if there was a problem or I needed an extra horse," he said. "She moved on from Chivas and sold him to Simon Nizri. Then Simon was nice enough to sell him to me. I've always wanted the horse. I was finally able to afford him last year."

After an absence from Spruce Meadows last year, Spooner is happy to show here again. As the fourth-ranked rider in the Spruce Meadows Top 20 Prize Money Winners (having now earned $2,348,596), Spooner is a fan favorite as well.

"It feels great being back in the winner's circle," he remarked. "It feels fantastic to be back at Spruce Meadows. It's a special place, and it's a wonderful place for show jumping with nice, big fields, good footing, and good prize money."

Anna Buffini and Sundayboy.

Californians Very At Home in Gladstone

Steffen Peters found himself in the very familiar position at the U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions presented by the Dutta Corp and held in Gladstone, NJ in mid-June. He and Legolas 92 clinched their third consecutive National Grand Prix Championship title. Florida-based relative newcomer Laura Graves and Verdades finished second overall and another familiar Californian, Jan Ebeling, finished third with his Olympic partner Rafalca.

Steffen also dominated the FEI Intermediaire I, finishing overall first and second with Rosamunde and the Roenick family's Apassionata. Elizabeth Ball, Steffen's assistant Dawn White O'Connor and Nick Wagman were fellow Californians to make their cross-country trek worthwhile with top 10 finishes in the I1 championship.

Anna Buffini and Sundayboy and Cassidy Gallman and Grand Makana gave a great glimpse of the possibilities at the NAJYRC this month (see story page, 26), with champion and reserve finishes in the National Young Riders contest in Gladstone, while Jaclyn Pepper and Taboo had a strong finish, too, at overall fourth.