Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Pony express: Field of 165 to take on 100-mile Tevis Cup endurance event
By: Matthew Kimel, Journal sports editor Auburn Journal
A wide-open field of 165 is set to take on the Western States Trail Ride this Saturday.
Starting at Robie Park near Squaw Valley at 5:15 a.m., riders and their horses will attempt to make it to the Auburn Overlook within 24 hours when the 58th annual Tevis Cup gets underway.
The prestigious equestrian endurance event will be contested without last year’s winners, Garrett and Lisa Ford, who didn’t sign up because they’re busy working at home in Colorado.
Nonetheless, there are still plenty of talented riders and four-hoofed animals entered.
“There’s about 20 horses that you could expect to finish in the top 10 because of their record,” said Ride Director Chuck Stalley. “I would pick 10 from that group that the winner would come from.
“It’s always an open field in Tevis — stuff happens. The winner in his interview a couple of years ago said there are a million things you need to do to finish the race. You have to ride a smart ride and not fall down. On a hot day you’ve got to judge your horse accordingly and ride a smart ride. When you’re competing, you’re pushing the edge and each other. All of those front runners don’t always finish.”
Last year, there were 204 starters but only 98 finishers (48.04 percent) as 106 horses were pulled.
Stalley expects the winner to arrive in the Endurance Capital of the World around 10 p.m., but added that weather could be a factor. A cool day could lead to a 9:30 p.m. finish, where a scorcher could slow the horses and their riders down. After reaching the Auburn Overlook, finishers will trot into McCann Stadium at the Gold Country Fairgrounds for spectators.
Like the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run, Tevis Cup has several subplots.
“There’s those who are going to win it, dream about a top-10 finish and those that want to finish for the first time and get their first buckle,” Stalley said. “Then there’s those that are going for 1,000- or 2,000-mile buckles. There’s races in the race. It’s me against the trail.”
With the race just a few days away, here are some storylines to pay attention to:
Barbara White may soon have company in the 3,000-mile buckle club.
White, who has a record 32 finishes, is the only rider in Tevis Cup history to earn a 3,000-mile buckle.
Asked why she keeps coming back nearly year after year, White said, “I like it because it’s a historical trail.
“You’re heading west all day long toward a destination. It’s a fabulous event.”
Stalley said White’s finish rate is unprecedented in the sport.
But Auburn’s Hal Hall, who has recorded 29 finishes, could be joining White in the 3,000 club this year if he completes the trail in fewer than 24 hours.
Others going for milestone buckles in 2013 include Rocklin’s Pat Chappell (2,000 miles), Grass Valley’s Melissa Ribley (1,000), Canada’s Danny Grant (1,000) and Penryn’s Shellie Hatfield (1,000).
Chappell’s quest didn’t go so well last year.
“She’s been doing this for a while,” Stalley said. “She got pulled last year. But she’s got a pretty good horse.”
Ribley, a local veterinarian, is a former Haggin Cup winner, an award given to a rider whose horse earns a top-10 finish and is judged to be in the best condition after the 100-mile trek.
Riders from six foreign countries will be hitting the trail Saturday.
Stalley said this is about on par with previous years.
Included among the entrants are France’s Stephane Chazel and Thomas Fouquerolle; the United Kingdom’s Sally Toye and Nicole Gilbert; Canada’s Grant, Tina Thompson, Leanna Marchant and Gail Jewell; Japan’s Hiromi Kitaike; Australia’s Rose Ross and Ecuador’s Nathalie Weemaels.
“We’ve got a few Canadians,” Stalley said. “We’re not used to having Ecuador. Australia is pretty common.”
Young and the restless
There are 12 juniors entered in the trail ride.
“They’re under 18,” Stalley said. “Some of them are pretty good because they’ve done a lot of rides. They’re light and young and healthy.
“But we worry about them. They have to have a sponsor rider for our peace of mind.”
The youngest junior is 12-year-old Jack Evers of Laramie, Wyo.
In addition to Hall, there are six other riders who hail from Auburn in the field.
Shannon Constanti, Greg Kimler, Kathie Perry, Erin Riely-Kelley, Mark Schuerman and Dale Scoville will all be riding toward home when they saddle up aboard their steeds.