Article by Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
photo:Sarah Engsburg, of Fairburn, Ga., celebrates with her horse K-Zar Emmanuel Saturday night at the Gold Country Fairgrounds after winning the Tevis Cup endurance ride. Engsburg, a first-time Tevis rider, edged out a pair of experienced riders from the Foothills.
Tears accompanied Allison Bailey’s hoots and hollers Saturday night shortly after Sarah Engsberg rode across the finish line at the 54th Tevis Cup endurance ride.
Engsberg fulfilled a dream of Bailey’s late husband when she won the Tevis Cup title in her debut, edging out two experienced riders from the foothills.
Michael Bailey had ridden K-Zar Emmanuel to a national heavyweight championship in 2007 and passed away just a few weeks later. His wife Allison, from just outside of Charlotte, N.C., hooked up with Engsberg, from Atlanta, and set her up with K-Zar for Saturday’s 100-mile ride from Robie Point in Truckee to Auburn. It was a perfect fit.
“It was his dream to come and ride Tevis,” Allison said at the finish line.
“We paced conservative early and just built throughout the day,” Engsberg said. “We had a whole hell of a lot of good luck. This horse was prepared. He’s a phenomenal athlete… And our crew, our entourage/crew.”
Engsberg took the lead for good just past the Lower Quarry checkpoint after former leader Jeanette Montero was pulled. Engsberg held off three-time Tevis champion Marcia Smith, of Loomis, and highly regarded Melissa Ribley, of Grass Valley to reach Overlook Park first. Ribley was second and Smith finished third, unofficially.
Engsberg arrived in Auburn with her boisterous crew on July 24 and had little time to familiarize herself with one of the most challenging trails in endurance riding. Bailey and Engsberg made plans to enter Tevis back in January and the Georgia native had ridden K-Zar in three endurance rides prior to Saturday’s event.
“I loved Tevis, it was great,” Engsberg said. “I’ve never seen so many volunteers. I didn’t want for anything. The course was absolutely challenging. The last part was frightening, to be galloping in the dark on a trail I’ve only seen three times in the day time.”
The lead changed hands several times during the course of the day. Smith led for much of the first half of the ride. Engsberg was the first rider into Deadwood — 55 miles into the day. Potato Richardson, Tamara Stewart and Christopher were all within one minute of Engsberg. There were eight riders, including Smith, within five minutes of the lead at Deadwood.
At Robinson Flat — 38 miles into the ride — Engsberg was well back of the leaders in 16th.
“We just kept moving up throughout the day,” she said.
Gordy Ainsleigh, the Meadow Vista man who ran with the horses in 1974 and helped start the Western States Endurance Run, was pulled at Robinson Flat.
For further coverage of the Tevis Cup, including the Haggin Cup award winner, see Monday’s Journal.