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Amateur Sarah Gavigan Snatches Victory From Pros in the $30,000 Golden Gate Grand Prix

Woodside, California. Patrick Seaton wanted to win the $30,000 Golden Gate Grand Prix so he could claim the Woodside Jumper Accumulator prize of $20,000. Peter Breakwell wanted to win because he was tired of finishing second to Seaton. Macella O’Neill wanted to win because she is a fierce competitor and has a string of solid jumping horses. But in the end, a former Zone 10 Young Rider jumped a little higher, turned a little faster, and dared to leave a stride out to claim her first grand prix victory.

Twenty-six horses started over Jamie Alder’s challenging course that incorporated both the water jump and the grob. However, it was the middle of the course, the vertical to the liverpool in a forward three strides, followed be a steady four strides out over a square oxer, one of the two largest on the course, that caused the most problems. One rider fell off, one withdrew, and quite a few had rails. "I think a lot of riders overdid the three strides," said Alder. "It was only two feet long, but then they couldn’t get back for the tight four strides, and it was only two feet short." However, those who had adjustable horses made the line look easy.

Early in the class, three horses in a row went clean and it looked like there would be lots of in the jump off. Duncan McFarlane and his veteran Eezy galloped around the course like it was an equitation class. Macella O’Neill rocked the crowd when Rock Star cruised around the course and left all the rails in the cups. Amateur rider Sara Jorgensen followed, and she and NZ Omni posted the third clear round.

A few rounds later Sarah Gavigan piloted Edgewood’s Robin Hood to another clear round. This was only her third grand prix start and she was thrilled to find herself in the jump off. "The course was long and tough," she said after the class. "I had a plan and stuck to it." Her training team of Nina and Mariano Alario, Robin Burton, and Bob Walker cheered loudly for their student’s great ride.

Toward the end of the class Peter Breakwell put in another flawless ride about Lucas and became the fifth to contest the top prize.

Alder designed a jump off track that tested scope, the ability to turn, and the crowd favorite, a long run to a triple bar. The competitors did not disappoint.

McFarlane and Eezy set the pace, but a rail at fence 8 garnered the pair four faults. O’Neill followed, and Rock Star showed he could run and jump. As they rocketed down to the triple bar, the crowd cheered and the clock stopped at 38.436. Jorgensen followed, and while she executed some tight turns, her gallop was not quite a flat out run, and she settled for a time of 40.131.

Gavigan, who just graduated from U.C. Berkeley a few weeks ago, stood at the gate with her trainer, Nina Alario. "Nina told me the other riders had done ten to the triple bar," said Gavigan. "I told her ‘I guess I’ll do nine’." As she landed off the vertical for the gallop to the triple bar, she gave the crowd what they came to see and the big, bay gelding skimmed over the highest rail and clocked a winning time of 38.117.

Only Breakwell could break the spell. He was a little cautious on his turn back to the combination, but then Lucas seemed to make up time on the other two roll backs. As they galloped down to the triple bar Breakwell seemed to have the time, but Lucas jumped high over the triple bar and lost precious tenths to hang time. Their time of 38.505 edged them in just behind O’Neill for third. "He jumped great," said Breakwell with a shrug. "Horses jumped well here each week. Mostly I go to Southern California to show, but this ring (at Woodside) is the best it’s been. The natural obstacles are nice and the footing has really improved." Breakwell’s barn is only a few miles away from the show.

Gavigan was delighted with her win, but maintained her poise. "I knew exactly where he was as we went to the triple," said Gavigan of her daring gallop. "We have been together for at least seven years so we really trust each other. Peter was booking it and I thought he had the jump off, but then I saw his time. This feels really good!"

Gavigan heads to Nigeria this fall for an internship, and then she hopes to return and resume riding. "After Young Riders (2004) where Zone 10 was the bronze team I took some time off because of school. I really just started back. I haven’t really shown at Woodside, and I think it is really great. Lots of people turned out to watch the grand prix and that made it fun."

Full results, schedules, and information are available on the LEG website at: http://www.langershows.com.


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