Sunday, July 29, 2007

Reynolds races to thrilling victory

Auborn Journal

Los Gatos rider overtakes defending champ in the final mile to win second Tevis Cup

By: Todd Mordhorst, Journal Sports Editor
Saturday, July 28, 2007

Jeremy Reynolds knows every little bit of local knowledge helps when it comes to competing for endurance riding's most prestigious title. So he set out on a short jog Friday morning along the final few miles of the Western States Trail near the Auburn staging area.

The extra homework paid big dividends Saturday night as the 2004 Tevis Cup champion chased down 2006 Tevis winner John Crandell.

With only the moonlight illuminating the trail, Reynolds jockeyed past Crandell over the final half-mile of the 100-mile race from Robie Park in Truckee to Auburn, claiming his second Tevis title atop CV Eli.

"I'm glad I couldn't see the ground," said Reynolds, who was three minutes behind Crandell at No Hands Bridge. "I think I just chose the correct line, that's what it came down to. We were flying through crazy stuff and pretty much just letting the horses go at that point. I know there's ruts and rocks, but my horse was game."

Crandell made a valiant run at becoming the first rider since endurance riding pioneer Wendell Robie to win the race in back-to-back years on different horses. He won on Heraldic last year and rode HH Saba Shams on Saturday.

Robie, the Auburn businessman who left his mark on the Auburn Ski Club, the Tevis Cup and the Western States Endurance run, won the first four Western States Endurance Rides. Robie rode Bandos in 1955 and '56 and Molla in '57 and '58. The Lloyd Tevis Cup was not awarded to the winner of the ride until '59.

It took a remarkable effort from Reynolds and Eli, a 12-year-old Arab gelding, to overtake the defending champion.

"John Crandell is probably one of the top two riders in the U.S.," said Reynolds, who lives in Los Gatos. "I just kept saying to myself, 'I can win, I can win.' I was watching John's horse all day and that horse was amazing. I think I just made a couple better choices, it was probably luck more than anything." There were three talented riders dueling for the Tevis Cup down the stretch. Reynolds tied for the Tevis Cup in 2004 with Becky Spencer, a year after his wife Heather won the ride's top prize.

Suzanne Huff, from Carson Valley, Nev. was alongside Reynolds, just behind Crandell up until the Poverty Bar Crossing checkpoint with just 12 miles to go. Huff was the American Endurance Ride Conference series champion last year in the 100-mile category and a former Auburn resident.

Greenwood riders Ken Keele and Kassandra DiMaggio were the first two riders into Robinson Flat, where all participants were required to rest for one hour before departing.

Stagg Newman rode his horse Jayel Super into Deadwood - 55 miles into the ride - nearly 30 minutes ahead of Keele. But Newman's day ended there when he was pulled.

Crandell was the first rider to arrive at the new Chicken Hawk/Volcano checkpoint, where the Western States Trail Foundation is working on a new trailhead that will provide unprecedented access to the area.

Crandell departed the Chicken Hawk/Volcano checkpoint with an 8-minute advantage on both Heather and Jeremy Reynolds. Heather was pulled at Foresthill after her horse ran into trouble with one of its hooves.

Crandell led the race out of Foresthill after another one-hour layover; departing at 5:30 p.m. Huff was right on Crandell's heels heading out of Foresthill just four minutes behind. Jeremy Reynolds left four minutes later and Loomis' Tom Johnson left the last major aid station at 6:02. As of press time, Huff was the only other rider across the finish line. The riders have until 5 a.m. today to finish the ride. An awards barbecue will be held at the Gold Country Fairgrounds at 1 p.m. today.

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