A fascinating competition is assured at this weekend’s Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event (USA), third leg of the FEI Classics™ 2014/2015, with three of the biggest names in the sport heading the leaderboard after the Dressage phase.
New Zealander Tim Price, riding Wesko, and Germany’s Michael Jung on the 15-year-old La Biosthetique Sam FBW are tied in first place on a score of 36.3. Last year’s winning combination, a beaming William Fox-Pitt (GBR) on the handsome Cult Hero gelding Bay My Hero, is less than two penalties away in third on 38.5. Jung is also in fourth place on the 10-year-old mare FisherRocana FST, on which he was second at Luhmühlen CCI4* last year and won world team gold and individual medals. The pair set the standard on the first day and the German maestro predicted that Sam might find it difficult to beat her excellent mark of 39.3. But the 15-year-old bay gelding presented a delightful picture of lightness and softness to thrill a capacity audience.
“I have very good memories of Kentucky,” said Jung, who is returning here for the first time since he won the world title here on Sam. “It’s a really nice place with good conditions for the horses and the cross-country fences are friendly and clear for the horses.”
Wesko, a white-faced Dutch gelding bred for Jumping on which Price scored his first CCI4* victory, at Luhmühlen (GER) last year, is one of the most elegant horses in the business and the up-and-coming New Zealander one of the most accurate riders; the pair presented an attractive picture scored highly for smart trot work and flying changes.
Colleen Rutledge (USA), a regular competitor at this level on Shiraz, is best of the home riders in fifth place on Covert Rights, a first-timer at this level, just ahead of CCI4* debutant Mackenna Shea (USA) (Landioso) who, at 22, is the youngest of the 75 starters.
"I tried not to think of this as any different from any other show,” said Shea. “This is the biggest atmosphere we’ve been in before but he was really good. He’s a calm and collected horse so I just tried to trust him and do my best.”
Fellow Americans Laine Ashkar (Anthony Patch), 2014 runners-up Lauren Kieffer and Veronica, and Marilyn Little (RF Demeter) are in seventh, eighth and ninth places, separated by just 0.4 of a penalty.
Swedish rider Jennie Jarnstrom had the misfortune to be eliminated when her horse Cape Town repeatedly reared and resisted in the Dressage arena and there was huge disappointment when Zara Phillips (GBR), paying her first visit to Kentucky, had to withdraw minutes before her Dressage test on High Kingdom because the gelding had struck into himself in the stable.
Cross Country Course Designer Derek di Grazia (USA) says he has given the Kentucky track “a new twist”. He adds: “Some of the old favourites will be jumped in a different order and therefore could ride in a different way to before. I hope riders use their brains out there. The big issues will be time management and knowing their horse.” The first serious question comes at fence 4 on undulating ground, where riders will encounter a big spread followed by five strides to a rail where the ground drops away and then another five strides to a narrow brush fence. Fence 7 is the first of the three water complexes on the course, with a drop into the water and then a large table on the other side of the pond. The famous Head of the Lake at 13 only involves one passage through water this time, but it features a couple of skinny brushes. The keyhole combination at fence 16 and a difficult line to the ‘c’ element, a corner, at the Land Rover Hollow (fence 18) will both have riders thinking hard. And there will be no relaxing for riders on the home stretch. There’s an oxer-corner complex at 24 which has a deceptively tight line and a final water at 26 (which was the fifth fence last year) with a huge carved duck. Trainer and former Olympian Jimmy Wofford, who won at Kentucky in 1981, gives his verdict on the course: “This is not a course you can skip round. If you want to do well at Rolex 2015 you will have to ride forward.”
Follow all the action with live coverage of Cross Country and Jumping on www.feitv.org
*NB: Cross Country will now start 15 minutes earlier than scheduled, at 9.45am Kentucky time.
Results after Dressage
1= Michael Jung/La Biosthetique Sam FBW (GER) 36.3
1= Tim Price/Wesko (NZL) 36.3
3 William Fox-Pitt/Bay My Hero (GBR) 38.5
4 Michael Jung/FisherRocana FST (GER) 39.3
5 Colleen Rutledge/Covert Rights (USA) 42.3
6 Mackenna Shea/Landioso (USA) 43.7
7 Laine Ashker/Anthony Patch (USA) 44.2
8 Lauren Kieffer/Veronica (USA) 44.3
9 Marilyn Little/RF Demeter (USA) 44.6
10 Jessica Pheonix/LLC Pavarotti (CAN) 45.0
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