Lexington, Kentucky--At the close of day one at the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event, presented by Mars Equestrian, Swiss rider Felix Vogg sits atop the pack, while two U.S. riders, Liz Halliday-Sharp and Buck Davidson, rounded out the top three. Full Results
Felix, who competed his 11-year-old WEG partner Colero, was the final rider before the lunch break, and earned a 28.0 to edge ahead of Liz and Buck who rode earlier in the morning. "We tried a little bit of something new where we didn't warm him up too long and it worked out quite well," said Felix after his test. "He just doesn't take these atmospheres too seriously."
Felix and Colero entered the ring right after Hallie Coon (who earned a 32.7 for fourth place) had completed her test and the crowd was giving her a generous applause. "It really woke him up and I think it helped him a lot, actually," said Felix.
"He's probably a horse that's better on Friday," he added, noting the larger crowds that typically fill the stands. "I think there will be some riders tomorrow who will go ahead of me, but I'm really pleased with [Colero's] test at that level. I think he has a good future."
While based in the United States since last February to prepare for WEG, Felix has trained with Boyd Martin’s wife, Silva. “It’s worked out quite well. She’s determined and I’m used to that.”
On Sunday, he’s heading home in hopes of preparing to compete in the European Championships this year. “I have a big horse owner this year, and she’s bought me a lot of horses. It’s nice that she lives in Switzerland so we can travel together. I’m just more used to the European circuits and the schedule. I have a farm at home [in Germany, on the border of Switzerland] which is quite empty."
He's also trained with eventing phenom Michael Jung, and three-time winner of the Kentucky CCI5*, in the past and is planning to again when he returns home. “He helped me at WEG last year for the dressage. He just lives an hour away so I will for sure go sometimes over to him and train with him."
Though Felix has competed at both the WEG and Olympic Games, he'd never competed at Kentucky and he's looking forward to wrapping up his time in the United States at its pinnacle event. "I think it's the final thing you can do here in America and it's one of the biggest events in the world. If it goes well, then I can look ahead to the European [Championships]."
Liz Halliday-Sharp was over the moon with Deniro Z's test, which earned the 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood (Zapatero VDL x Zonne-Trend) a 30.9. "This is his second five-star [after placing 8th at Luhmuhlen last year in Germany] and his first time at Kentucky. It's never easy being third to go so early on, so I really felt that he gave me everything he had. I was a little disappointed with the score, I'm not going to lie. He does very much struggle with the flying changes. They weren't perfect today, but I'd hoped we'd done enough to claw our way into the high 20s."
"Either way, I'm thrilled with the horse," she said. "He gave me everything and was perfect in the atmosphere. He's a real trier and I think once he mechanically understands the lead changes better he'll be at the top of the board."
Liz has had a monumental spring season, picking up wins at nearly every competition she's entered. "It's great to have had such a good season and all our horses have really been on fire. Deniro's felt great and he's done every run the best that he can. I think that's probably the thing that gives me the most confidence coming in here. The last run on him sort of ticked the boxes. That's probably the most important thing--knowing that the horse you're sitting on feels prepared. That makes a huge difference."
Sitting in third is Buck Davidson, who earned a 32.1 with his long-time partner Park Trader, a 17-year-old Irish Sport Horse (Master Imp x Ballyhast Polly) owned by Carl and Cassandra Segal. "Park Trader's maybe not fantastic at this phase, but he's getting better...and he should be because he's 17 now. I think he did as well as he could possibly do. He did all of the flying changes as well as well as he can. He made no mistakes. I'm not too disappointed to be on a 32 going into the next phase.
"He's just been building up for this. He's been great really all year. I know him now and he's settled and I can kind of trust him."
Buck also holds onto the fifth-place position with Jak My Style, a 14-year-old Thoroughbred gelding owned by Kathleen Cuca competing in his first CCI5*. "Jak My Style did better than he knows how to do anything at all. He just did every movement better than he knows how. I'm very excited about my first two rides." Buck also has a third horse to compete tomorrow--Copper Beach, a 13-year-old ISH gelding who finished 10th last year.
Hallie Coon and her 12-year-old Dutch-bred mare Celien (Tenerife VDL x R Quicksilver) finished their day in fourth place with a 32.7. This was their second CCI5*, having finished just outside the top 20 last year at Les Etoiles de Pau (in France).
“It felt amazing," Hallie said after her ride. "It’s an atmosphere unlike any other. I’ve done a five-star before, but Pau wasn’t quite like this. I was really happy with how she kept her cool in there and I was just generally really pleased. It was a great experience.
“I think I could’ve ridden a couple of things better obviously and planned ahead a bit more for the movements. But overall I was really happy with the horse and I think she’s got a better score in her, so onwards and upwards."
The atmosphere in the huge arena has a habit of causing some horses to get nervous, but not Celien. “It’s hard to rev her up enough to do this level—she likes her naps," admitted Hallie. "She’s very cranky if she doesn’t get a morning nap in before dressage, so luckily she had a 20 minute one this morning. She’s very cool and collected about everything. Nothing ever seems to bother her."
A few horses were unnerved by the crowds in the arena, including Congo Brazzaville C, ridden by veteran team rider Mara Depuy, who is back at the CCI5* level after nearly ten years. The 12-year-old KWPN gelding (Highline x Mexico M) earned a 44.7.
“My horse is obviously very green at this level and very excited to see the crowd," she said after her test. "So there were parts that were brilliant and parts that need a lot of work. He kept looking up at the stands on the right side. So, a work in progress, for sure, but I know it’s in there."
Mara was still pleased with the gelding's test, and was delighted to be back at the horse park. "It’s like a fairy tale. It almost doesn’t seem real because I didn’t think I would be riding here again. It’s great, especially with a horse like this, that I’ve brought up and done most of his [training]. We know each other very well—he’s like my best friend."
Two other riders were stoically competing with broken ribs--New Zealand's Joe Meyer was injured in a car accident a few weeks ago and Mexico's Daniela Moguel hurt herself after falling while jump schooling last week.
"I fell off last Thursday from another horse jumping a cross rail," said Daniela. "He stopped at the cross rail—I landed on my neck and everything. It was fine until I was loading [my horse] Cecelia to come over Monday morning and I stretched my arm and heard a *pop* and I felt it and I immediately said to my husband, I think I broke a rib. And he was like, oh! Don’t be ridiculous! I’ve had some physios and chiros look at it and they’re working on me. Thanks to them, that’s why I was able to ride today."
CCI5* rider Elisa Wallace stepped in to help Daniela today, as their normal coach Olympian Karen O'Connor was unable to attend. "Karen couldn’t come today, but I’m in very good hands,” said Daniela of Elisa. Daniela and her 16-year-old Thoroughbred mare Cecelia (Connecticut x Penny Stock) finished their ride with an impressive 35.4, tying them with Will Faudree and Pfun for 6th place.
Joe Meyer, a New Zealand rider based in Florida, also put aside his rib pain to focus on giving his CCI5* newbie Johnny Royale, an 11-year-old NZL Thoroughbred (His Royal Highness x Chivaney), a solid ride. "I didn’t actually feel them once I got in the ring, which is good!" he said.
The gelding earned a 44.4. "He’s young and really green at this level, so actually I’ve got to be pleased. I’m slightly disappointed in the marks but it’s because I didn’t earn them. He swapped behind before I went in the ring and then I had to do a canter circle and looked up at the clock to make sure I had time to do it. I thought I had him right and as I went in there to halt him, he was like, what do you want me to do? Do you want me to change or what? So, it was just a bit of confusion. He might not have gotten a great score, but he’s really improving at this level. He’s a good boy and he did three out of four changes clean and last week it was almost 50/50 so I thought that was great. I know what we need to do to fix him and it’s just time and training."
Chris Talley was the sole CCI5* rookie competing today (three others will ride tomorrow), and performed a beautiful test with his off-the-track Thoroughbred Unmarked Bills.
“He was incredible in there," said Chris after his test. "He struggles with tension but he actually stayed really relaxed the entire time. We had one bobble (he got the wrong lead coming into the canter), but I can’t fault him for that. It was probably my fault. He didn’t really notice the crowds until they cheered at the end so it was pretty special."
After having planned to compete at the top level of the sport for years, he was thrilled to finally make it to Kentucky. “I don’t think it’s real yet. It feels so surreal. So many people have put in so much to get here. He is such a special horse and it just makes it all that much more special.
5,466 spectators attended the event today to watch the 19 horses who competed, with thousands more expected in the coming days. Twenty-two riders are slated to compete tomorrow and include last year's champion Oliver Townend of Great Britain. Other fan favorites who will be riding are U.S. riders Phillip Dutton, Boyd Martin, Lauren Kieffer, Will Coleman and several foreign riders like Tim Price (NZL), Hawley Bennett-Awad (CAN), Piggy French (GBR) and others. Three other CCI5* first-timers are slated to compete: Matt Flynn, Dom Schramm (AUS) and Ariel Grald.
The popular cross-country course walk with Jim Wofford will be on Friday afternoon at 3:45PM, at fence 5, the first water combination.
Come see us at the Practical Horseman booth (AIM Equine Network) #8, across from the Bruce Davidson statue to grab some free swag!
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