William Fox-Pitt Wins Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, Third Win in Five Years for British Rider

Photo by Ben Radvanyi

Lexington, Ky., April 30, 2014 – With everything on the line, William Fox-Pitt of Great Britain calmly guided Bay My Hero faultlessly around the show jumping course at the Kentucky Horse Park to win the Kentucky Three-Day Event, presented by Land Rover, for the third time in five years.

His score of 44.0 topped second-placed Lauren Kieffer, of Middleburg, Va., on Veronica (46.7) and third-placed Buck Davidson, of Ocala, Fla., on Ballynoe Castle RM (51.7). Kieffer, 26, won the Rolex/USEF Four-Star Championship, the title Davidson won in 2013 when he finished fourth on Ballynoe Castle RM.

Sinead Halpin, of Oldwick, N.J., rode Manoir De Carneville to fourth (51.7), and Marilyn Little, of Frederick, Md., rode her two horses-RF Smoke On The Water (52.5) and RF Demeter (55.3)-to fifth and sixth. Fox-Pitt also finished ninth on Seacookie TSF (59.1) and Davidson also finished 12th on Park Trader (60.2).

The attendance for this year’s Kentucky Three-Day Event was 78,623, including 35,471 on Saturday and 22,388 on Sunday.

For Fox-Pitt, 45, this year’s Rolex Kentucky victory was not only his third Rolex Kentucky triumph, but it was also his 13th win in a CCI4*, the highest level of eventing. The victory, which earned Fox-Pitt $80,000 of the $250,000 total prize money, also gave him the first leg of the $350,000 Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing, which awards $350,000 to any rider who wins the Rolex Kentucky, Mitsubishi Motors Badminton and Land Rover Burghley Four Star Events in succession.

“Each one is special for its own merits,” he said of his three Rolex Kentucky wins, with the first two coming aboard Cool Mountain in 2010 and Parklane Hawk in 2012. “You can never believe it’s happened until it’s come off. I didn’t come here expecting to win. I came here expecting to enjoy two nice horses,” he said.

Catherine Witt owns both Bay My Hero, an 11-year-old Irish Sporthorse gelding, and Seacookie TSF, a 15-year-old Trakehner gelding. When asked how he’ll wear three Rolex watches, Fox-Pitt replied, “My wife, Alice, has the second one, and I guess this one will be for one of my sons.”

Knowing that she needed a clean round in order to keep the pressure on Fox-Pitt, Kieffer did just that. The roar that erupted from the partisan fans in Rolex Stadium when Kieffer landed after clearing the last fence nearly unnerved Bay My Hero and the normally implacable Fox-Pitt, who now could not afford to lower a single rail to keep the lead and win the title.

“He got a little bit excited when the crowd went wild after Lauren jumped her clean round,” said Fox-Pitt with understatement. “He tried to leg it back up the chute [from the ring], and I thought I might just do the same.”

Kieffer showed remarkable composure in front of the completely sold-out Rolex Stadium. “It took a lot of mental focus to try to keep cool, to ride it like [it was just another event],” she said. Second place earned prize money of $37,000.

Davidson, 38, marveled at the consistency Ballynoe Castle RM, 14, has shown in his career, especially at Rolex Kentucky. “Basically you tell him its Kentucky, and he’s ready to go,” Davidson said with a smile.

“We have such a great partnership,” he said. “I was like a little kid talking to my pony on cross-country. I was saying, ‘Come on, Reggie, we only have two more minutes to go!’ He’s truly a horse of a lifetime. Every time I ride him, I think how lucky I am,” added Davidson whose third-placed prize money was $30,000.

Kieffer’s, Davidson’s and Little’s scores propelled the U.S. to victory in the first $20,000 Dubarry of Ireland Nations Team Challenge, in which the three-highest riders from each nation determined the result. The winning team members shared $10,000 in prize money. The U.S score of 150.1 easily bested Great Britain (163.8) and Canada (200.9).

A total of 55 horses started on Derek di Grazia’s cross-country course on Saturday, and 20 finished without jumping 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 both jumping faults and time faults. Ten horses were eliminated, and six retired on course.

One rider whose dream was dashed by the course was Allison Springer, of Upperville, Va., the leader after dressage. Springer and Arthur also won the dressage in 2012, and this year they did it with an impressive score of 39.5.

“I think I liked this one better because I was a bit more emotional,” said Springer, 39, of Arthur’s dressage test. “He went into the ring a much more confident horse. I think maybe we’re both maturing a little bit, and I do think this one was a bit better,” said Springer of Arthur, a 15-year-old U.S.-bred Irish Sporthorse.

Arthur finished second in 2012, but this time he ran out at fence 21C, the curved brush following the Normandy Bank, and finished 24th. “I just needed to kick, and I held. I didn’t get there in the three strides, and I had a run-out,” said Springer. “I think he did a lot of other things really, really well, though.”

Fox-Pitt responded to 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 that competed. Hopefully it set them up to compete well at the World Equestrian Games in France later this summer.”

Defending champion Andrew Nicholson said after riding Avebury to a faultless cross-country round, “I thought Derek 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.” On Sunday, Avebury lowered six show jumps to finish 21st.

Kieffer, 26, thought the cross-country 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.

Kieffer began riding Veronica shortly after Karen O’Connor was injured while riding her in October 2012. O’Connor had also previously ridden Mr. Medicott, who stood third after cross-country following a perfect round under Phillip Dutton, who began riding him 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.

On Sunday, Dutton withdrew Mr. Medicott prior to the final horse inspection. But he finished eighth on Trading Aces, a horse on which he substituted 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 given to the U.S. rider who finishes closest to the optimum time with no penalties.

Dutton, as the fifth rider on course, finished exactly on the optimum time of 11:12, and he won a two-year lease of a 2014 Range Rover Evoque as a result. Dutton also won $5,000 from SSG Gloves for finishing closest to the optimum time.

With a smile, Dutton said he would not be sharing the car with Martin, because he’d won a car with Trading Aces earlier this year.

The Kentucky Three-Day Event, Presented by Land Rover, 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.

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,” with 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 were streamed online on USEFNetwork.com, presented by SmartPak. FEI TV also aired live coverage of Saturday’s cross-country and Sunday’s show jumping competitions at www.feitv.org.

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, which quickly evolved into what is today the only Four Star three-day event in the Western Hemisphere, the Kentucky Three-Day Event. The Kentucky Reining cup was incorporated as part of the Kentucky Three-Day Event schedule in 2011.

Equestrian Events, Inc. makes annual donations to several local charities and this year designated Partners for Youth, a non-profit charity based in Lexington, as the Official Charity of the 2014 Kentucky Three-Day Event.

Prior to the start of the Event, four riders competing in the Kentucky Three-Day Event, presented by Land Rover, and one competing in the Kentucky Reining Cup, visited Kentucky Children’s Hospital in Lexington. Eventers Buck Davidson, Jonathan Holling, Jennie Brannigan and Lynn Symansky, along with reiner Lyndsey Jordan, stopped by the hospital to visit with young patients and to bring them souvenirs from the event. The visit was organized by EEI, the Kentucky Reining Cup, and the Professional Riders Organization (PRO).

For complete information on Kentucky Three-Day Event, presented by Land Rover, please visit www.RK3DE.org.