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Home trail advantage

Hall heads the list of local riders with the experience, skill to contend for Tevis Cup
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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After 40 years and thousands of miles logged on the Western States Trail, Hal Hall’s nerves are still on edge leading up to the Tevis Cup endurance ride on Saturday. One year after the ride was cancelled due to forest fires in the area, the renowned rider from Auburn was surprised when reminded it had been 35 years since he first won the Tevis Cup in 1974. “I was just a kid then,” Hall said of his victory at age 19. Now a 54-year-old veteran, Hall is still a contender for the most coveted prize in endurance riding. But the road, or trail, to victory will not be a smooth one — it never is at Tevis. “I have the advantage of living in Auburn and seeing the course a lot, but you still have to go the distance and tackle the heat, the rocks and the altitude, just like everyone else,” Hall said. “If you’re over-trained or under-trained you’re not going to be in front at the end.” Hall’s entry was in doubt just a month ago when he found out the mare he was planning on riding was suffering from arthritis and had to be retired. But that same day, he found a horse for sale that was well trained and ready to take on Tevis. He’ll ride Dreamm On for the first time in competition on Saturday. “We didn’t do a lot of distance together, but he’s a veteran of the sport,” Hall said of the gelding. “I’m confident that he’s fit.” Hall is one of several local riders looking for a shot at Tevis glory. Former champions Marcia Smith of Loomis and Becky Spencer of Auburn have both been riding strong in recent months. Spencer, who shared the Tevis Cup title with Jeremy Reynolds in 2004, won four endurance rides in 2008, though none were atop MJ Mystic Warrior, which she will ride Saturday. Smith has competed in just three races this year, but has two runner-up finishes and one victory — at the High Desert Classic in April. The Loomis resident will ride AM Sands of Time (Sandy). Defending champion Jeremy Reynolds is not riding in Tevis this year and 2006 Tevis winner John Crandall did not make the trip out from his home in Virginia. Greenwood’s Potato Richardson is a perennial contender and other local riders Michael Rapposelli, Diane Dixon-Johnson, Daniel Schafer, Roger Yohe and Ken Keele are always ones to watch. The ride has taken on the theme, “Up from the ashes,” this year after rampant smoke from fires wiped out the 2008 ride. “It was a big disappointment for everyone,” Hall said of last year’s cancellation. “But we all understood there were good reasons for doing it. It was a horrible situation for a long, long time with the smoke. It’s been a long wait.”