Oliver Townend returned to the Kentucky Horse Park a reigning champion, and he took a strong step towards defending his title with a dominant performance in dressage aboard Cooley Master Class at the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event presented by MARS EQUESTRIAN.
Townend, representing Great Britain, stands first with a score of 24.1, followed by countryman Piggy French riding Quarrycrest Echo (27.1). American Boyd Martin and Tsetserleg (27.9) is third, and has taken over the top spot in the Land Rover/USEF CCI5*-L Championship. Yesterday’s top ride, Felix Vogg of Switzerland on Calero, stands fourth with a score of 28.0.
“It’s obviously a great feeling to be back here to start with, this is one of my favorite events,” Townend, 36, Ellesmere, England, said of his return to Kentucky. “People here are very, very friendly, the atmosphere is fantastic, the stadium is out of this world. If I had to pick a place to be the last event of my career, it would be this one. It’s such a special place to me.”
The morning dawned blustery and wet, and today’s riders had to contend with very different conditions from those who competed yesterday, though it didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the 11,676 spectators in attendance. But Townend actually felt the more challenging conditions helped him.
“Today, Cooley Master Class was very good and it’s very nice to be in the lead after dressage,” he said of the 14-year-old Irish Sport Horse. “In the weather he was slightly looky, but that worked out better because he went in there and went to sleep on me. But, he got woken up by flowers in the corner before the flying change. I was happy with his performance. I’ve had the horse since he was four years old. He knows me and I know him, and how to go have a clear round and press the right buttons, and he did a very good test today.”
French, 38, Maidwell, Great Britain, found the conditions a bit more challenging but was still pleased with her horse’s performance.
“I was delighted with him,” she said of her 12-year-old Irish Sport Horse. “The warm-up this morning in the monsoon first thing was interesting and then he went back into stable for an hour. Though it was cold and stormy, I normally only do 20 minutes warm up at the big events because it keeps him fresher. But then he came out and it felt a bit like his tail was clamped and he was cold and tight and spooky. The wind felt really stormy, so I was so proud of him how he did his best work in the arena and felt very professional.”
Martin, 39, of Cochranville, Pennsylvania, felt the Tsetserleg’s test showed the increased maturity of the 12-year-old Trakehner.
“I was happy with my bloke, he put in a good test,” he said. “Dressage is always frustrating because you always wish you could go back and do it better. But, last year he was very green, and it felt like we scraped through all the phases. This year, he’s more seasoned and confirmed at the level and working very well. He’s a quiet horse and pretty relaxed, but he got a little stirred up in the warm-up, but we had time to get him relaxed.”
With the first of three phases behind them, the riders’ thoughts now turn to tomorrow’s test, Derek di Grazia’s commanding cross-country course. Despite his successful trip last year, Townend isn’t taking anything for granted.
“It always amazes me how much the course does change from year to year and even questions that you didn’t think everybody managed to get 100% right last year have disappeared and a new question arrives,” Townend said. “I’m a huge fan of Derek’s courses. I think he’s exceptional at what he does, and he has a real knack for knowing exactly what works for distances in combinations and also what a horse can see in terms of the lines. You can walk one of Derek’s course and think ‘how can they see that,’ and they lock on and turn like they are on rails.
“(However), this course is, I think, as tough as I’ve seen here and I think you need to be switched on every step of the way. You could have an easy blip without doing much wrong. It’s a true five star test, and definitely not a dressage competition. It’s a proper job from start to finish,” he finished.
Cross-country action kicks off Saturday at 10:30 a.m., as the horses and riders tackle the heart of the competition. Action wraps up on Sunday in the show jumping for a nail-biting finish.
In the Dubarry of Ireland Nations Team Challenge, Team Great Britain/Switzerland (Oliver Townend/Cooley Master Class, Piggy French/Quarrycrest Echo, Felix Vogg/Calero, Leslie Law/Voltaire De Tre’) stand first with a score of 79.2, with Team USA in second (92.6) and Team Canada in third (102.1).
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.
Also featured as a part of the competition is the Dubarry of Ireland Nations Cup Team Challenge, with each team vying for $20,000 in prize money. Four teams will line up for their share of the winnings.
LRK3DE also hosts the second annual $225,000 Kentucky CSI3* Invitational Grand Prix presented by Hagyard Equine Medical Institute on Saturday afternoon, April 27, after the cross-country portion of the LRK3DE. Stadium seating tickets for the Grand Prix are only $5 each – with $1 going to Land Rover Kentucky’s 2019 Official Charity, Bluegrass Land Conservancy. As part of the competition there is also a $36,000 Welcome Speed Cup Ranking Class on Friday in the Rolex Stadium, after the day’s LRK3DE dressage competition. No stadium seat ticket is required for Friday’s Ranking Class.
All grounds admission tickets to the LRK3DE include general parking and admission to the Kentucky Horse Park and International Trade Fair, but do not include seats for the competition in Rolex Stadium on Thursday, Friday and Sunday. Reserved stadium seating is sold separately from grounds admission.
The Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event presented by MARS EQUESTRIAN will be broadcast on NBC on Sunday, May 5, from 2:00-3:00 p.m. EDT. It will also be broadcast on NBC Sports Network on June 23, from 1:00-2:00 p.m. EDT. USEFNetwork.com will livestream the competition in its entirety – including the two CSI jumping classes – in the U.S. and abroad. Competition will also be archived and available on demand.
Further information on the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event presented by MARS EQUESTRIAN is available at www.KentuckyThreeDayEvent.com.
About Equestrian Events, Inc.
EEI 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 world-renowned Kentucky Three-Day Event, which draws more than 80,000 spectators to the Kentucky Horse Park each year. In 2018, EEI organized and produced the new Kentucky CSI3* Invitational Grand Prix and will be managing the 2019 and 2020 USEA American Eventing Championships. All three competitions are held at the Kentucky Horse Park. For more information, please visit www.eq-events.com.
About Land Rover
Founded in 1948, Land Rover designs, engineers, and manufactures its vehicles in the United Kingdom. For almost 70 years the brand has built a reputation for providing its clientele with some of the most luxurious and capable vehicles in the world; whether driving through the heart of the city or traversing the countryside on- and off-road. Today’s Land Rover lineup includes the Discovery and Discovery Sport; Range Rover, Range Rover Sport, Range Rover Velar and Range Rover Evoque. Land Rover is fully engaged with sustainability initiatives and social concerns with continuous involvement in environmental and community programs. For more information, visit the official Land Rover website at www.landroverusa.com.
About Jaguar Land Rover
Jaguar Land Rover is the UK’s largest automotive manufacturer, built around two iconic British car brands: Land Rover, the world’s leading manufacturer of premium all-wheel-drive vehicles; and Jaguar, one of the world’s premier luxury sports sedan and sports car brands.
At Jaguar Land Rover, we are driven by a desire to deliver class-leading vehicles, which will provide experiences our customers will love, for life. Our products are in demand around the globe. In 2017/18 Jaguar Land Rover sold 614,309 vehicles in 129 countries, with more than 80 percent of our vehicles being sold abroad.
We support around 260,000 people through our retailer network, suppliers and local businesses. Manufacturing is centered in the UK, with additional plants in China, Brazil, Austria and Slovakia.
Our innovation is continuous: we will spend in the region of £4 billion this year on new product creation and capital expenditure.
From 2020 all new Jaguar Land Rover vehicles will be electrified, giving our customers even more choice. We will introduce a portfolio of electrified products across our model range, embracing fully electric, plug-in hybrid and mild hybrid vehicles as well as continuing to offer the latest diesel and gasoline engines.
About MARS EQUESTRIAN
MARS EQUESTRIAN, a brand and sponsorship division within MARS INCORPORATED, is the link between our iconic brands and the equestrian community. For generations, MARS has celebrated a rich equestrian heritage, and through purposeful partnerships, MARS EQUESTRIAN is committed to the sport and building an enduring legacy. From world-class competitions across all equestrian disciplines, to stewarding the power of horses on society and sustainability, MARS EQUESTRIAN is dedicated to our purpose to improve the lives of horses, pets, and the people who love them.
For more information about MARS EQUESTRIAN, please visit www.marsequestrian.com.