Temecula, Calif. - Fifteen years have passed since Liz Halliday-Sharp rode in the inaugural Galway Downs International Three-Day Event, and now she plans to ride HHS Cooley in the CCI3* on Oct. 31-Nov. 3.
The Presenting Sponsors of the Galway Downs International Three-Day Event are: Equine Insurance of California, Land Rover, Professional’s Choice, the California Horse Trader and the PRO Tour.
Halliday-Sharp, now 34, grew up in Fallbrook, Calif., about 20 minutes south of Temecula, and she’d just started going to school at the University of California-San Diego when she last rode at Galway Downs. At the time, her father was living in England while motor racing in Europe, and he suggested that she take a break from college and join him for a year
Halliday-Sharp liked England, so she applied, through a family friend, to become a working student with English superstar three-day rider William Fox-Pitt. “I had an interview at his place just before going home to the USA. He offered me a position as a working pupil, and I packed up and moved there in January of 2000,” she recalled. “My ‘one year off’ somehow became 14, and here we are!”
And she soon also followed her father into motor racing, eventually becoming a winner in sports car and GT endurance racing, even driving in the grueling 24 hours of Le Mans. For about a decade, Halliday-Sharp juggled motor racing and three-day eventing, but just this year she decided to make training and competing her horses the priority.
“For a lot of years, when I was racing at a very high level, I only had a few event horses to compete, so when I was away racing my team at home was able to keep them up and running for me,” said Halliday-Sharp. “I had some big sponsors at the time and a lot of support, and they were some great years for the racing side of my life! Over the last few years I’ve started doing more with the horses, but I was still doing a little bit of racing up until the middle of this year.”
After winning her first motor race of this season, Halliday-Sharp said she made the tough decision that neither sport was getting her adequate attention. She chose horses over cars—for now.
“I have to fully focus on the one sport for a while. My plan is to now give eventing my all while I have some great horses,” she said. “I’m sure that I can come back to racing as a hobby in the future. I will certainly miss being in a fast car, but I don't want to look back in a few years and wonder what I could have done if I‘d just put all my focus into eventing.”
Still, riding at the Galway Downs International Three-Day Event was a happy accident. She had aimed HHS Cooley for the Boekelo CCI3* in the Netherlands in early October, but she didn’t qualify in time. While she was at the event as a spectator, though, other American riders and team officials urged her to come to Galway Downs. She thought it would be the perfect opportunity to visit her hometown again.
“I’m finally on the radar [for a future U.S. team], so I wanted to show everyone that I am serious about making it in this sport. It was great to have a lot of support from them in trying to organize the trip, and then along with the help of my family and others I was able to pull together this crazy but exciting opportunity!” she said.
“It’s certainly an added bonus that I grew up in Fallbrook and that loads of my family and friends are still in California, so I’m really thrilled to be able to compete in my home state again.”
Like the other riders, supporters and fans, Halliday-Sharp will enjoy the music and food that will be a central part of the weekend.
Faultline will perform as the musical headline act on Saturday night, playing from 6:00 to 10:00 p.m. Faultline, a five-member, Southern California-based party band, says their music has only one purpose: to keep the dance floor full of people. They combine rhythm and blues, Motown, disco and more to create a memorable live-music experience.
Find out more about Galway Downs at www.galwaydowns.com.