Lexington, Ky. - Tim Price of New Zealand and Michael Jung of Germany are the co-leaders after the dressage phase of the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, presented by Land Rover. Price rode Wesko to a score of 36.3 just after 10:00 a.m., and then Jung-who won Thursday's session on Fischerrocana FST-rode La Biosthetique Sam FBW to the same score just before 4:00 p.m. Defending champions William Fox-Pitt and Bay My Hero scored 38.5 penalties to place third, starting two horses before Jung and Sam. Jung is now fourth on Fischerrocana FST (39.3). American riders are in a tight race for the next five places: Colleen Rutledge on Covert Rights is fifth (42.3); Mackenna Shea on Landioso is sixth (43.7); Laine Ashker on Anthony Patch is seventh (44.2); Lauren Kieffer on Veronica is eighth (44.3); and Marilyn Little on RF Demeter is ninth (44.6).
"I didn't really single out Michael as the person to beat, but it was a very strong field, so the challenge was quite serious. I came here to do what I did today," said Price. In 2014 Price and Wesko won the Luhmuhlen CCI4* in Germany. He said that preparation was the key to his performance on Wesko, a 12-year-old Dutch-bred gelding. "In the last few days, I was working him in a way that would allow me to use the atmosphere in the ring today. He's relatively inexperienced, and sometimes that can be a disruption, but the way he's been the last few days, I thought it could work," he said.
Jung, 32, said that Sam, 15-winner of the gold medal at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games at the Kentucky Horse Park and of the gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics-is a better mover and made a better presentation than Fischerrocana, 10. "But my feeling was not really good because he was very nervous-you could see it on the halt, rein-back, canter sequence. But I was happy with everything else with him."
Now the riders' attention is focused on Saturday's cross-country course, designed for the fifth year by Derek di Grazia of Carmel, Calif. Di Grazia has considerably altered the track from previous years and presented the riders with new challenges at almost every turn of the 29-fence course, with an optimum time of 11:14. Fox-Pitt, who has won Rolex Kentucky three times, called it "a strong course," but he said that he's not at all sure how the course will ride this time.
"I think it will be very interesting. In the past you've had a pretty good idea of how it will ride around the park, and we don't have that this year," he said. "Even without the rain that they're forecasting, the ground is quite soft, and there are combinations that require quite a lot of jumping. It will be very, very tiring."
Saturday's weather forecast is for rain to fall throughout the morning, with thunderstorms in the afternoon. For that reason, the ground jury has pushed the start forward to 9:45 (from 10:00) and shortened the interval between starters from 5 minutes to 3 minutes. As a result, the cross-country competition will conclude about 1:40 p.m.
Jung will be the eighth starter on Fischerrocana and the fifth-from-last starter on Sam. He said he didn't know how the rain will affect his tactics on the course. "It depends on the weather. If we have a little bit of rain, the footing will be perfect. If it rains a lot-well, we'll see," he said.
Price couldn't speculate on how the weather and the footing will affect his tactics either. "Essentially you have to make your decisions on the fly," he said. "I think the ground has had enough time to recover from the rains they've already had here. It looks like it could withstand a fair bit of rain before it impacts the going." Price believes that di Grazia has built an exceptional four-star test. "I think it's a great course-I love it, and I'm looking forward to riding it. Derek prepares us early, and then the questions come on," he said.
Zara Phillips of Great Britain, individual gold-medal winner at the 2006 World Equestrian Games, withdrew her horse High Kingdom just before she was due to enter the dressage ring on Friday. High Kingdom, said British team chef d'equipe Yogi Breisner, had kicked out and cut his right-hind leg while being saddled prior to warm-up. He said they hoped that it wouldn't affect his performance, but as he warmed up they could see that "the horse was not 100 percent" and withdrew him. "We made this decision in his best interest but with great sadness. Zara was very, very disappointed, especially because the horse is in great shape and she thought the course would suit him," said Breisner.
In the Dubarry of Ireland Nations Team Challenge, the combined team of Ireland, Germany, New Zealand and Australia holds the lead with a score of 121.2 penalties. Great Britain is second (136.9), the USA is third (159.9), and Canada is fourth (165.7).
Friday's paid attendance was 13,065.
Saturday's cross-country competition will begin at 9:45 a.m. and conclude at approximately 1:40 p.m.
"Rolex Kentucky" is one of the world's most prestigious equestrian competitions, and is one of only six Four-Star Three-Day Events in the world and the only one in the Western Hemisphere. It is a part of the FEI Classics Series, which unites the top four-star Eventing competitions from around the world. It also gives competitors a shot at the $350,000 Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing, which is awarded to any rider who wins the Rolex Kentucky, Mitsubishi Motors Badminton and Land Rover Burghley Four-Star Events in succession.
The Dubarry of Ireland Nations Team Challenge is featured again this year, awarding $20,000 in prize money while helping national teams prepare for the team competition at the Pan American Games this summer. The winning nation will be the nation with the fewest penalties after adding together the final scores of the three highest-placed individuals from that nation. The prize money will be split among the top four teams.
Held in conjunction with the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event is the $120,000 Kentucky Reining Cup, the crown jewel of the annual FEI Reining schedule, which features an FEI-recognized CRI3* event. The Kentucky Reining Cup also includes the World Freestyle Championship which will award the title of "World Champion" in Freestyle Reining, as well as $20,000 prize money that will mark the largest purse for a Reining Freestyle anywhere in the world.
Known to fans as "The Best Weekend all Year," the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event offers something for everyone: the highest level of equestrian competitors, tailgating, music, shopping, bourbon tastings, and, new this year, a 5K and a Commemorative Maker's Mark Bottle Fundraising Auction and Reception. Visitors also receive general admission to the Kentucky Horse Park, America's only theme park dedicated to horses.
Horses and Hope, a breast cancer initiative of the Office of Kentucky's First Lady and the Kentucky Cancer Program (KCP), is the Official Charity of the 2015 Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event Presented by Land Rover and will be the recipient of the proceeds from the Maker's Mark Commemorative Bottle Auction and Reception. Tickets to this fundraising event are $200 per individual or $300 per couple. A voucher worth $100 will be included with each individual or couple ticket purchased. That voucher can be used during the bottle auction. Tickets will not be available at the door. Limit of one bottle per ticket. Call (859) 254-8123 to order tickets.
Equestrian Events, Inc. has a long history of making financial contributions to charities that support local equine interests and serve the Commonwealth of Kentucky. The mission of Horses and Hope is to work alongside the state's equine industry to provide breast cancer awareness, education, screenings, and treatment referrals. Since the program was founded in 2008, Horses and Hope has reached nearly 1 million race track and horse show attendees, and educated nearly 16,000 equine employees. The program has screened nearly 700 workers and detected breast cancer in three individuals who have received treatment. For more information about Horses and
Hope or how to donate to this very worthwhile charity, please visit www.horsesandhope.org.
Equestrian Events, Inc. is a non-profit charitable Kentucky corporation that was established initially to produce the 1978 World Three-Day Event Championships at the Kentucky Horse Park. Following the success of those championships, EEI established an annual event that evolved into the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event Presented by Land Rover.
Coverage of America's only Four Star Event includes an NBC broadcast - the Rolex Equestrian Championships presented by Land Rover - which will air on Sunday, May 3 at 12:30 pm EDT. All four days of the competition is being streamed online LIVE on USEFNetwork.com, presented by SmartPak, beginning on Thursday, April 23.
FEI TV is airing LIVE coverage of Saturday's cross-country and Sunday's show jumping competitions, visit: www.feitv.org.
For more information visit: www.RK3DE.org or call (859) 233-2362.