Tim Price of New Zealand and Michael Jung of Germany are the co-leaders after the dressage phase of the 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.