Lexington, Ky., April 26, 2014 — William Fox-Pitt of Great Britain is in perfect position to win the Kentucky Three-Day Event for the third time. He rode Bay My Hero to a faultless cross-country round to take over the top spot (44.0) with only show jumping left to go.
Lauren Kieffer, of Middleburg, Va., rode Veronica faultlessly into second place (46.7), and Phillip Dutton, of West Grove, Pa., did the same with Mr. Medicott to edge into third place (49.5). UPDATE: Phillip Dutton withdrew Mr. Medicott before horse inspection Sunday morning, which put Marilyn Little (USA) and Smoke on the Water into the third place spot.
All three riders moved up one place when dressage leader Allison Springer, on Arthur, ran out at fence 21C, incurring 20 jumping penalties. “I just needed to kick, and I held. I didn’t get there in three strides, and I had a run-out,” said Springer, who’s now in 26th place.
Dutton had been tied for fourth place with two other riders, but they each finished with minor time faults. Michael Pollard incurred 2.0 time faults with Mensa G to drop to fifth place, and Jan Byyny had 3.2 time faults on Inmidair to drop to 11th place.
Fox-Pitt, 45, also rode Seacookie TSF to finish with 7.6 time faults, leaving him in 16thplace.
“I was thrilled with both my horses, particularly Bay My Hero, because he was the less experienced of the two, and he’d never done a three-day with hills like this,” said Fox-Pitt. “He was especially surprised by the Head of Lake and all the people there. But he carried his tubby little body around the course inside the time.”
A total of 55 horses started on Derek di Grazia’s cross-country course, and 20 finished without jumping faults or time faults. Another 10 horses finished with no jumping faults but with time faults ranging from 1.6 to 14.8, and 10 more finished with jumping faults and time faults. Ten horses were eliminated, and six retired on course.
Fox-Pitt answered criticism that, with exactly half the field completing the course without jumping faults, the course wasn’t sufficiently demanding.
“I don’t think any of us thought it was easy. There were still quite a few that didn’t get around, and I think it’s very important to strike a balance,” he said. “The ground was perfect, and the result shows the quality of the field.” Hopefully it set them up to compete well at the World Equestrian Games in France late this summer.
Andrew Nicholson, the Rolex Kentucky winner in 2013, said after riding Avebury to a faultless round to stand in seventh place, “I thought Derek’s raised the game a bit more since last year. I thought last year that he had a lot of smooth turns in the combinations that we all, of course, liked. This year those turns were sharper. A few years ago we would have all said it was too twisty, but they rode smoothly. You have to keep challenging everyone–that’s what makes better riding. Derek does a great job–he really knows what horses jump safely.”
Kieffer, 26 and poised to place in the top five at Rolex Kentucky for the first time, thought the course was a perfect challenge for her and Veronica, a 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare. “My mare couldn’t have been better, and we’ve really formed a partnership,” she said.
Karen O’Connor, who suffered from a career-ending neck injury in October 2012, previously rode both Veronica and Mr. Medicott at the four-star level. O’Connor won the Kentucky Three-Day Event in 1999. Kieffer began riding Veronica, the horse with which O’Connor fell, shortly after that, and Dutton began riding Mr. Medicott, the horse O’Connor rode in the 2012 Olympics, in mid-2013.
Dutton said he enjoyed his round on Mr. Medicott, a 15-year-old Irish Sporthorse gelding. It was their first three-day event together. “Mr. Medicott has been around so many courses all around the world that I was just hanging on and letting him do his job,” said Dutton.
“I think we’ve gotten along pretty well,” said Dutton. “He goes like a Thoroughbred horse, and I learned my trade on hot Thoroughbred horses, so it’s sort of been like coming home. I’ve had to give in to what he wants to do, and he’s had to be a bit respectful to me. So we’ve tried to form a partnership that way.”
Dutton is also standing in ninth place on Trading Aces, a horse on which he’s substituting for friend Boyd Martin, who broke his leg in March. Martin retired Trading Aces late on course in 2013, but this year Dutton rode him to the Land Rover Best Ride of the Day, an award to the U.S. rider who finishes closest to the optimum time of 11:12, with no jumping penalties.
Dutton, as the fifth rider on course, finished exactly on the optimum time, and he won a two-year lease of a 2014 Range Rover Evoke as a result. Dutton also won $5,000 from SSG Gloves for finishing closest to the optimum time.
Dutton smiled and said he would not be sharing the car with Martin, because he’d won a different model of car with Trading Aces earlier this year.
With Kieffer in second, Dutton in third, and Marilyn Little in fourth in RF Demeter, the U.S team has a comfortable lead in the Dubarry of Ireland Nations Team Challenge. Their score of 147.5 leads Great Britain’s total of 163.8 and Canada’s total of 184.9.
The Saturday paid attendance was 35,471.
The Kentucky Three-Day Event, Presented by Land Rover, April 24-27 at the Kentucky Horse Park, is one of the world’s most prestigious equestrian competitions and features the world’s best horses and riders vying for their share of $250,000 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 Rolex Kentucky, Mitsubishi Motors Badminton and Land Rover Burghley four-star Events in succession.
The 2014 Kentucky Three-Day Event is a selection trial for the 2014 FEI World Equestrian Games and will crown the 17th Rolex/USEF National CCI4* Champion. The only four-star event in the Western Hemisphere, Rolex Kentucky draws an estimated 60,000 to 70,000 spectators and is seen by millions more on worldwide telecasts.
This year, for the first time ever, Rolex Kentucky includes a team challenge. The Dubarry of Ireland Nations Team Challenge will award $20,000 in prize money, while helping national teams prepare for the team competition at the World Equestrian 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.
Rolex Kentucky is a fun time for all in attendance. Aside from the competition, the event features exquisite shopping in the Sponsor Village; an International Trade Fair with almost 200 booths and tents displaying designer clothing, artwork, gifts, sport clothing, horse-related items, and event souvenir items; and the brand-new “Kentucky Uncovered,” which highlights products unique to the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Rolex Kentucky also features a variety of other entertaining attractions. General admission to the Kentucky Horse Park, America’s only theme park dedicated to horses, is included with each Rolex Kentucky ticket.
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 4. All four days of the competition is being streamed online LIVE on USEFNetwork.com, presented by SmartPak, beginning on Thursday, April 24.
For equestrian fans throughout the rest of the world, FEI TV is airing LIVE coverage of Saturday’s cross-country and Sunday’s show jumping competitions. To sign up for FEI TV, visit www.feitv.org.
The broadcast schedule is listed below, and is also available on the USEF Network coverage page, www.usefnetwork.com/featured/2014Rolex/. All broadcast times are subject to change.
*April 26: LIVE Cross-Country on USEFNetwork.com, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. EDT
*April 27: LIVE Show Jumping on USEFNetwork.com, 1:15 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. EDT
Awards Ceremony on USEFNetwork.com, 3:00 p.m. EDT
*May 4: Rolex Equestrian Championships on NBC, 2:00-3:00 p.m. EDT