Lexington, KY – The 12th Rolex/USEF National CCI**** Eventing Championship got underway Wednesday, April 22 with the first horse inspection at the 2009 Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event.
Fifty-one horses were presented before the Ground Jury of David Lee, Nicoli Fife and Marilyn Payne. Dr. Catherine Kohn is serving as the Veterinary Delegate for the 2009 competition.
Of those 52, two of which were held for a second look by the Ground Jury, both ESB Irish Doctrine (ridden by Ashley Leith) and Orion (Craig Thompson) were withdrawn in the holding box. The 50 remaining horses were deemed fit and sound by the Ground Jury.
The defending champ is back in 2009, veteran rider Phillip Dutton, who won his first CCI**** (and National Championship) in 2008, with Connaught, has brought Bruce Duchossios’ 16-year-old Irish Sport Horse back to try to become the second horse to win the competition two years in a row (Winsome Adante and Kim Severson won in 2004 and 2005). Since his last trip to the Kentucky Horse Park, Connaught has represented the US at the 2008 Olympic Games. The leggy bay gelding looks as fit as ever, having run sparingly in his preparation in 2009.
Dutton will also ride Woodburn, Acorn Hill Farm’s 13-year-old New Zealand Thoroughbred was 10th at this competition last year.
Dutton’s teammate from the Olympic Games, Amy Tryon will be retiring her Olympic mount, Poggio, in a ceremony on Sunday, but before that she will guide Elisabeth Nicholson’s Leyland, a 9-year-old Thoroughbred gelding, around his first CCI****. The winner of the Jersey Fresh CCI*** has some rather large shoes to fill, Poggio represented the US at two World Equestrian Games, two Olympic Games and a Pan American Games throughout his illustrious career.
There will be few trophies given out on Sunday that don’t bear the name of Bruce Davidson. The most successful rider in the history of this event has two horses competing in 2009. His homebred mare, Jam (10th at Burghley in 2007) and Cruise Lion, who will be contesting his first CCI****, will have the most experienced pilot in the world, 59-year-old Davidson. He won the very first International Three-Day Event run at the Kentucky Horse Park, to secure his second consecutive World Championship title in 1978. Since then he has won the competition five times and is rarely out of the ribbons.
The Rolex Grand Slam Continues
William Fox-Pitt is the only rider live in the Rolex Grand Slam. The prestigious Rolex Grand Slam features three major international CCI****s (Badminton, Burghley and Rolex Kentucky) and a cash prize of $250,000 is awarded to any rider who can win the three competitions in succession. Fox-Pitt (GBR) won the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials in September of 2008 with Ballincoola. He is in with two chances at this event, Navigator and Seacookie. If he wins here, he can complete the Triple Crown in two weeks time at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials held in the UK, May 7-10.
Last year’s Badminton winner is also a strong favorite in the 2009 Rolex Kentucky field: France’s Nicolas Touziant and Hidalgo de L’ile are always well prepared and very competitive. Touziant is also the reigning European Champion.
Fox-Pitt and Touziant battled it out in 2008 in the HSBC Classics Series, in which Fox-Pitt eventually prevailed, winning $150,000 USD for his efforts.
In 2009, Rolex Kentucky is included in this series for the first time. The series includes five major CCI****s in the world. With significant prize money on the line, the series begins with this event and culminates at the Les Etoiles de Pau in France in October. For more information about the HSBC Classics Series, please visit: http://www.fei.org/disciplines/eventing/pages/HSBCFEIClassics.aspx.
For a schedule, live results, a link to the live feed and all the information about the Rolex Kentucky CCI****, please visit: www.rk3de.org.
By the numbers:
2: Young Riders entered (Madeline Blackman will be contesting her first CCI**** with Gordonstown, Bonner Carpenter returns for the second consecutive year with Acapulco Jazz). Blackman is the youngest rider in the competition, she just turned 19 on April 8.
4: Mares entered in the event (Jam, The Good Witch, Headley Britannia, and Isabella II)
6: Riders have two horses (Bruce Davidson, Buck Davidson, Phillip Dutton, William Fox-Pitt, Mike Winter and Jose Ortelli, Jr.)
9: Countries are represented (USA, Canada, Argentina, Great Britain, Germany, The Netherlands, Australia, Ecuador, France)
The competition begins tomorrow with the first day of dressage. Bonnie Mosser, who heads to the UK next week for Badminton gets to practice the CCI**** test (she will be performing the test ride) in the brand new Johnson Arena, which has been completely redesigned. The entire venue looks different in 2009, veteran spectators and riders alike may not recognize the Kentucky Horse Park which has undergone massive renovation and updating. The Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games are set to take place at the Kentucky Horse Park in September of 2010.
After Mosser, Buck Davidson will be the first competitor in the ring with Carl and Cassandra Segal’s BallyNoe Castle RM at 10.00 am.