Oliver Townend Repeats at Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event
Monday, April 29, 2019
It came down to the last jump, but Great Britain’s Oliver Townend successfully defended his title of champion at the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event presented by MARS EQUESTRIAN by putting in a perfect performance in the show jumping with Cooley Master Class with a score of 25.3.
American Boyd Martin also turned in a fault-free show jumping round to finish second on 27.9 and claim the top spot for the Land Rover/USEF CCI5*-L Championship presented by MARS EQUESTRIAN, while New Zealand’s Tim Price, also faultless, finished third with Xavier Faer (30.9).
Townend, with his back-to-back win, joins the illustrious company of Bruce Davidson, Kim Severson and Michael Jung as only the fourth person to defend his title in the event’s 41-year history. He has been riding Cooley Master Class, a 14-year-old Irish Sport Horse since the horse was four, initially picking up the ride from Olympian Andrew Nicholson and then finding a buyer, owner Angela Hislop, to allow him to keep the ride on the horse. In his early years, according to Townend, the bay gelding was prone to niggling injuries, but they’ve put the past behind them and risen to the top of the sport.
“We’ve had the horse from word go, and it’s a huge team effort,” Townend, 36, Dudleston Heath, Ellesmere, Shropshire, England, said. “So much effort goes into it, not just on my part. The horse has had a checkered career and we’ve finally got him on top form. We’ve always believed in the horse, and it’s thanks to everybody at home putting in a huge team effort. It was just my job to push the buttons at the right point in time. I couldn’t be more proud of the horse and the whole team.”
Tension in the stadium was high as each of the horses cantered around Richard Jeffery’s challenging track, and as each clean round was accomplished, it ratcheted up the pressure for the riders still to come.
“It was a bit of a different situation as I came from behind last year,” Townend said of having to go last in the ring as the overnight leader. “It was much nicer (last year) to come in the ring in third place. This time I had to see the other guys sitting outside and these two lads (Price and Martin) did some job in their rounds. I’ve known Tim’s horse most of his life and I saw Boyd’s (in the warm-up) and he must have ridden well to say the least.
“Obviously my round went to plan,” he continued. “We had a rub at the Land Rover water tray but he’s a very good jumper so even when he touches a jump, he does it lightly and then apologizes for the next six jumps. It was definitely the most (high pressure) round I’ve ever ridden and I’m just glad I didn’t muck it up for him.”
Ultimately, there were 10 fault-free rounds, including the top three riders. Australia’s Dominic Schramm and Bolytair B (31st/92.6), set the stage early with a faultless performance as the first in the ring. Other double clear rounds belonged to Paddy the Caddy and Erin Sylvester (19th/57.0), Tight Lines and William Coleman (13th/50.7), Harbour Pilot and Hannah Sue Burnett (11th/48.4), Leslie Law and Voltaire de Tre’ (10th/48.1), Vandiver and Doug Payne (5th/35.9, also, the reserve champion for the Land Rover/USEF CCI5*-L Championship, presented by MARS EQUESTRIAN), and Piggy French and Quarrycrest Echo (4th/33.5).
“My guy’s a bit of a Kinder Surprise, you’re never sure what you’re going to have until you get out there,” said Price, 40 of Marlborough, England, of the 13-year-old British Sport Horse owned by Price, Nigella Hall and Trisha Rickards. “He’s a bit spooky, but it’s also kind of simple to work with because you know it’s going to be there. He takes a real special disliking to liverpools and the whole middle of arena was an ocean of water trays, so it felt like something to overcome and hope for best.
“But, he was jumping really well,” Price continued. “He’s keeping his shape now even when he’s looking at a fence, and it actually helped a bit on a day like today. He’s a lovely, big, scopey honest horse, and he will come on from this and be an exciting horse as he gets more established.”
“I was thrilled with my bloke today,” said Martin, 39, of Cochranville, Pennsylvania, of his 12-year-old Trakehner gelding, owned by Christine Turner. “He doesn’t give you the most confidence in warm-up. He was jumping all over the shop and twisting and these other two (Price and Townend) were giggling at me a bit. But he gets in the ring and spooks that little bit and I think he loves the atmosphere and the crowd. He tapped the first fence and I thought, ‘oh, crap this is going to be a long round,’ but then he really tried.”
Martin and Testserleg’s finish as national champion and overall second place has helped remove some of the sting of a disappointing performance for the pair in the World Equestrian Games last fall. “He has been difficult in combinations, he can jump too big into the first part and get in trouble at the second, so I felt like I had to come in slow and short into 4 AB and once he cleared it I thought I was in with a chance. All in all I couldn’t be more happy and satisfied, though it would be great to win one of these. But (we’ve had) a few ups and downs with the horse—last year was a bit disappointing—but this year he’s come out blazing. Our expectation is that he’ll only grow and get better.”
For his victory, Townend takes home a check for $130,000, and a one-year lease on a Land Rover Discovery. After a rather wild drive around the ring in his new car last year, this year he was relegated to a passenger until the paperwork was signed. He also took home a Rolex Oyster Perpetual Datejust watch.
In the Dubarry of Ireland Nations Team Challenge, the lion’s share of the $20,000 purse went to Team Great Britain/Switzerland (Oliver Townend/Cooley Master Class, Piggy French/Quarrycrest Echo, Felix Vogg/Calero, Leslie Law/Voltaire De Tre’) for finishing first with a score of 98.0. Team USA (Boyd Martin/Tsetserleg, Phillip Dutton/Z, Lauren Keiffer/Vermiculus and Caroline Martin/Islandwood Captain Jack) were second (114.2) and Team Australia/New Zealand (Tim Price/Xavier Faer, Hazel Shannon/Willingapark Clifford, Joe Meyer Johnny Royale and Dominic Schramm/Bolytair B) were third (181.5).
About the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event presented by MARS EQUESTRIAN
Now in its 41st year, the 2019 Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event presented by MARS EQUESTRIAN (LRK3DE) is a thrilling competition featuring Olympic-level riders and horses from across the nation and around the world in what can best be described as an equestrian triathlon. Riders vie for their share of $400,000 in prize money, as well as a shot at the $350,000 Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing, which is awarded to any rider who wins the LRK3DE, Mitsubishi Motors Badminton, and Land Rover Burghley Five Star Events in succession. Known as “The Best Weekend All Year,” the event also serves as the Land Rover/USEF CCI-5*-L Eventing National Championship presented by MARS EQUESTRIAN.