Darren Chiacchia In the Lead in Dressage At Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event CCI**** Presented by Farnam

Darren Chiacchia of Ocala, FL, took a commanding lead Friday at the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event CCI**** Presented by Farnam when he and Windfall II glided through a dressage test that brought cheers from the record crowd in the stands.

Windfall and the other sleek equine athletes -- some of the best in the world – coupled with gorgeous Kentucky spring weather were an irresistible attraction to the more than 18,000 spectators at the final dressage competitions on Friday, up 26 percent from the previous year.

With a score of 33.0, Chiacchia and the striking black Trakehner finished 6.5 points ahead of Kim Severson of Scottsville, VA, his partner on the bronze medal-winning US team at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, who scored 39.5. Mara Dean of Round Hill, VA, who claimed Thursday’s top dressage score of 43.2 riding Nicki Henley, dropped into third place.

With the dressage phase of Rolex Kentucky completed, the rest of the horse-and-rider pairs in the top 10 are: Courageous Comet, Becky Holder, US (43.7); From, Stephen Bradley, US (43.9); Call Me Clifton, Donna Smith, NZL (45.6); Shear L’eau, Leslie Law, GBR, tied with Tom Quigley, Polly Stockton, GBR (48.2); Paris, Kelli Temple, CAN (48.7); Northern Spy, Heidi J. White, US (49.4).

Chiacchia Credits Robert Dover and Mark Phillips for Bringing the Eventing Team USA to a New Level

Before eventing I rode a lot of dressage.” a jubilant Darren Chiacchia told DressageDaily after completing his nearly flawless ride. Chiacchia, acknowledged a new synchronicity in his training with the added influence of Robert Dover as the current Dressage coach of the US Eventing Team. “It’s a bit like coming home for me.” added Darren. “The thing about Robert is in addition to being a great rider and trainer, he brings in his enthusiasm and dedication to what he does, which makes him a truly great coach."

Even if you are having a difficult time in the warm up," added Chiacchia, "he gives you the added encouragement you need to go out and realize the best test you can ride.”

Robert Dover has been coaching the US Eventing team along with Mark Phillips all winter, and worked tirelessly throughout the week, preparing riders for the tests. The effort has paid off with US Riders in the top 4. "Training with Mark (Phillips) has been truly amazing." Dover told DressageDaily from his Blackberry while in the airport headed back to Florida. "He has so much passion for his job as coach and works harder than anyone I have ever met to make his team successful. Helping to bring about that success is very rewarding for me and I am looking forward to a great WEG for the American team! Dressage is dressage. When it is done well it is beautiful and when done poorly it is nauseating!"

Kim Severson In Second Place Headed for the Cross Country Phase Today

Kim Severson, who has won Rolex Kentucky three times aboard crowd-favorite Winsome Adante, is riding Royal Venture, a dark bay Australian-bred Thoroughbred, on this outing. “Lenny has always been a bridesmaid to Dan,” she said, describing how Royal Venture was often her backup horse when she rode Winsome Adante at international competitions. “I hope to goodness that this is Lenny’s year. Depending on how he goes [on cross-country], he might have an edge on Dan.”

Severson was talking about the Eventing World Championships at the 2006 World Equestrian Games Aug. 20 through Sept. 3 in Aächen, Germany. The 2006 Rolex Kentucky event is a United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) Selection Trial, and she, Chiacchai and Dean, a veteran of the 1996 Olympic team, are among the US riders who are hoping to be selected for the team that will represent the United States at the Games.

Rivalry between these riders who are competitors at one event and teammates at the next came up in Friday’s press conference, where the media get a chance to question the leading riders that day. Chiacchia and Severson looked at each other and laughed.

“Obviously we are both competitive,” Chiacchia said. “We both want to win, but since we were on the team together, we both want each other to do well.”

“It’s ultimately the team competition we’re working for,” Severson chimed in.

HorsesDaily "On the Scene" at The Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event