The USA’s Troy Heikes rode Lil Gun Dunit to the best score in the second reining qualifier at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games on Thursday at the Parc des Expositions in Caen, writes Simona Diale.
A field of 23 combinations returned for the qualifier, after the top 15 horses and riders from the first qualifier had already earned their ticket to Saturday’s final. The top six from this second qualifer go through to the final.
Second last to go, Heikes, representing the USA as an individual, walked in aboard Lil Gun Dunit (Colonels Lil Gun x Hollywood Baby Dunit). Riding the eight-year-old stallion, owned by Denise Bixler and Steve Tarani, Heikes was set on making it to the final and closed his run with a score of 220, the highest of the day.
“In the first qualifier we had a problem in his right circles,” Heikes said. “Today, though he felt really good, we also had one point lead penalty on that side. After that I knew we had to earn it back and he gave me all he had. Though I am not on the US team, I am part of the squad and am really happy with the way my horse went. For me, getting my horse ready for an FEI event is all very new and it has been a great experience,” he said.
Thanks to Heikes’ winning run today, the USA will have all their athletes competing for the individual FEI medals on Saturday.
Canadian Cody Sapergia riding Nu Chexomatic (Nu Chex To Cash x Tejons Texie Lena), owned by Jac Point Quarter Horses of Austria, set a high standard after scoring 219. He was fifth to ride and managed to put his opponents under pressure.
“Today my horse was much better than on the first day and, even though there are still a couple of things we need to fix, I am confident he will do well in the Final,” a satisfied Sapergia said.
“I was a little bit disappointed to have to run today because my horse, I think, is capable to be in the top five horses here at this show, however in the first go around there were some excited fans in the crowd with their feet through the rails kicking a sponsor’s banner making him spook in the corner. I had to work hard to keep him in my hands and between my legs in that corner in this round because he remembered that,” Sapergia said.
“I had some penalties and manoeuver deductions in my first set of circles in that area where he spooked but he’s a good, strong stopper – it’s where I get most of my points with him. For the Final, I’m going try to get him happy and relaxed in that spot in the ring and challenge the top horses for a medal.”
Non-professional rider Josh Collins (GBR) posted the third highest score of the day (218). The 24-year-old rode Spook A Little (Smart Spook x Jessie Wright On) to earn his final spot.
“Being able to represent my country here has been my dream and my goal since the beginning of the year,” Collins said. “My horse was amazing today and I am very proud of being in the individual final.
Also making their way to the prestigious final are Stefano Ferri (ITA) and Rooster Nic (Gallo Del Gicelo x Sanjos Pistolett), who scored 217. “I’ve only had this horse in training since the beginning of the year and we still have to get to know each other, but today I was very happy with him,” said Ferri about the horse who – with Pier Luigi Fabbri in the saddle – took home the Silver medal for Italy in the past FEI European Senior Reining Championship in Augsburg, Germany.
Along with Sapergia, Heikes, Collins and Ferri, the following will also make their way to the individual finals: Romuald Poard (FRA) riding Peppys Ruf Sailor, Paolo Koury Neto (BRA) riding Don’t Whiz WRB and Laércio Casalecchi Filho (BRA) riding He’s A Question QR.