For 100 miles, 18-year-old Sanoma Blakeley and her horse, Goober, battled some of the toughest terrain in California’s Gold Rush country. They crossed rivers, traversed canyons, and pushed through elevation changes. It was 16 hours of heart-pumping adrenaline and incredible athleticism as this unstoppable team refused to slow down or give up. After riding all day and with the sky pitch black above them, they sprinted across the finish line to claim their first ever win at the Tevis Cup.
For miles, the winning duo battled it out with fellow competitor and three-time Tevis Cup winner, Jeremy Reynolds.
The dueling horses continued to push each other faster over the last four miles, and the win came down to a finish line sprint. Blakely finished only a horse length in front of her toughest competitor in an exciting show of skill and determination. The race was so close, it took several minutes for judges to announce Blakely as the winner.
While young, Blakely has a history of endurance riding accomplishments. Her family owns Blakely Endurance Stables, and both her parents have also taken on the vigorous Tevis Cup. She’s been competing in endurance races since she was six years old. The 2019 Tevis Cup was a culmination of years of hard work and dedication. She first took on the 100-mile course when was just 12 years old, but she didn’t finish. She tried again two years later but still didn’t make it to the end.
Blakely has trained all her life for the moment she crossed that finish line. But she couldn’t have done it without her equine partner named Goober. Eight years ago, Blakely’s father found Goober listed for free on Craigslist. The purebred Arabian horse was two years old at the time, and the family decided he was worth the chance. He was sound, spirited, and obviously strong, but there was still no way of knowing he would turn into one of the best endurance horses in the country.
Out of the 184 riders that started the 2019 Tevis Cup, 99 crossed the finish line.
There are several veterinary checkpoints set up throughout the endurance competition. Veterinarians perform metabolic tests on the horses and require each horse’s pulse to fall below a certain rate before they’re permitted to ride on. This ensures the safety and well-being of each horse. For Goober, his incredible strength and stamina gave him an advantage at every checkpoint. His pulse fell to a normal rate faster than the other horses, and this gave him a head start at each of the stops. He and Blakely stayed strong during the entire race, and the young winner commented on her horse’s effortless ability to keep going.
Blakely said in a Facebook post,
“I have never ridden a horse that was so strong. After 90 miles I felt as though we had done maybe 20! It came down to a sprint for the finish and Goobs gave me his whole heart. He pushed till literally the last mile and won Tevis by a horse length. I am just so proud to have been able to ride this amazing athlete and that he finished so strongly and finally got his moment to shine.”
This was Goober’s fourth time taking on the Tevis Cup, but his first win. He rode with Blakely’s father in years past and came home with 16th, 5th, and 3rd places. This year he cinched the victory, and he and Blakely spent those 100 miles working in perfect tandem. It was far from easy, but as Blakely says, “You get out what you put in.” These two worked hard, and they earned themselves an incredible victory.
Congratulations Goober and Sanoma!