After a nail-biting show jumping day at the Kentucky Horse Park, Great Britain's Oliver Townend pulled off another victory with his 2018 partner Cooley Master Class.
As the last to go, Ollie didn't have a rail in hand, as he was just 2.6 points ahead of second-placed Boyd Martin. After Boyd and Tsetserleg had a clear round, much to the delight of the U.S. fans packed in the Rolex stadium, the pressure was on. But Ollie masterfully pulled off a faultless round, and once again, finished his week at the top of the leaderboard. New Zealand's Tim Price and Xavier Faer held onto their overnight position to round out the top three after their clear round.
After his win, Ollie joins an elite club of just three other riders) (Michael Jung, Kim Severson and Bruce Davidson, Sr. who have pulled off back-to-back wins here in the event's 41-year history.
Over, $420,000 in prize money was on the line, with the winner getting the lion's share with $130,000, second getting $62,000 and so on. After his victory, when asked what was going through his mind after winning his second straight victory at the Kentucky Horse Park, Ollie said, "Uhh.... 130 grand!"
Ollie has partnered with the Angela Hislop's 14-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (by Ramiro B) for years, slowly producing him through the level. "It's been a huge team effort," said Ollie. "The horse is pure class. It's just my job to press the buttons at the right point in time. He delivered again and I couldn't be more proud for the horse and the whole team."
"The round went to plan. I had a little rub at the Land Rover water tray but again, he's a very good jumper and in general when he touches a fence, he touches it very, very lightly and then apologizes for the next six. He's just a very cool horse. It's the most pressurizing round I've ever ridden under him. I was just very happy with how he performed for me and I didn't muck it up for him."
"I'm obviously very happy with Cooley. He's a fantastic jumper and really, really careful. As always he's tried his best for me today. It's a bit of a different situation because I came from behind last year, and it's a lot nicer going in third place, merrily jumping a clear round and letting the rest of them be under pressure.
"I know Tim's horse for most of its life and I saw Boyd's horse outside [in the warm-up]. Boyd must've really done well to say the least," he joked, about Tsetserleg's less-than-ideal warm-up. "Because when I heard the crowd go wild and obviously I didn't have a fence and I didn't have a time fault [in hand], I thought, my God, you must've done some job, Boyd. Well done!"
After Boyd and Christine Turner's Tsetserleg, a 12-year-old Trakehner gelding (by Windfall), earned their incredible clear round, the crowd was on its feet cheering, hopeful that the event would finally be won by an American--a feat that hasn't occurred since Phillip Dutton won in 2008. As the top-placed U.S. rider, Boyd takes home the trophy for the US Equetrian CCI5* National Championship.
"I was thrilled with my bloke today. He doesn't give you the most confidence in the warm-up," said Boyd, who mentioned that "Thomas" was jumping all over the place and twisting a bit. "I had these two over here giggling at me," he said, pointing to Tim Price (who finished third) and Ollie.
"But he's a brilliant little horse. He gets in the ring and spooks just that little bit. I do think he loves a bit of atmosphere and the crowd. He tapped the first fence a bit and I thought, oh crap, this could be a long round. But then at the second fence, he really tried, so I thought we really had a shot here."
"He's been difficult in the combinations. He can usually jump in really, really big over the first part and get too close to the second part. I felt like I had to really come in slow and short to Fence 4AB, and once he cleared that I knew I had a chance for a clear round.
"All in all, I couldn't be more happy and satisfied...though it'd be great to win one of these. Christine Turner owns him and bought him as a young horse, and he went through a few riders. We've had a few ups and downs with the horse--obviously, last year was a bit of a disappointment year and this year he's come out blazing. I just have a big sigh of relief that he exceeded my expectations. I think he's only going to grow and get better from this event."
Tim Price's double-clear with Xavier Faer, who he co-owns with Trisha Rickards and Nigella Hall, solidified his third-place finish. "You're never quite sure what you're going to get until you get out there. He's spooky, but in a way he's quite simple to work with because I know [the spookiness] is going to be there, it's just a question of how much it's going to be there."
Tim mentioned that the 13-year-old British Sport Horse gelding (by Catherston Dazzler) takes a dislike to liverpools. "The whole middle of the arena was like an ocean of water trays and liverpools. It felt like something we really needed to overcome and I was hoping for the best there.
"I could feel him looking at the odd fence, but he was maintaining a good technique, and I think that's what helped us out on a day like today. He jumped beautiful--he's just a lovely, big, honest scopey horse and I really enjoy riding him."
After a devastating injury last year, Xavier Faer is back in prime condition. "He came out of 2017 and he was out with the pony he's been with since he was a young horse but it kicked him in the forearm and he had a hairline fracture," said Tim. "So, he had a very quiet year last year. But it also means I was able to start his progress into this event earlier than you typically would. It was October when I started building up to this. The fitness came along and here we are."
When asked if Tim ever thought the horse would make it back to the CCI5* level after his injury, he said, "You just don't know until you know and the best thing you can do is to make a good, patient plan."
"He's come out of the event, touch wood, better than expected again," said Ollie. "Let's just hope that he makes it back next year to try and defend his title again. We shall see. But look, he owes us absolutely nothing. He'll be our pet--he's been our pet since he was four years old. He's going to be the pet of the yard for the rest of his life, hopefully. And let's hope he wins another one."
"I was thinking he could go alright if he went to Burghley or the Pan American Games," said Boyd. "We'd probably want to get an older group of horses, because we need to get qualified for the Olympics."
Tim sees Xavier Faer as a good Burghley horse. "He's never going to be right up there on the flat with the dressage, but I do think there's room for more improvements. If he comes out of this competition well, which is looks like he is, then the focus will be hopefully Burghley."
Each year, in addition to the $420,000 prize money that's given out to the top-placing riders, other special awards are presented as well. Lillian Heard, owner won the highest-placed sole owner/rider. Chris Talley was the highest-placed youngest rider and Phillip Dutton's groom Emma Ford won the groom's award.
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