McEwen Maintains Lead After Kentucky CCI5* Cross Country

Great Britain’s Tom McEwen and JL Dublin are still at the top of the leaderboard after Kentucky Three-Day Event CCI5* cross country.
Tom McEwen (GBR) maintains the lead with JL Dublin after Kentucky CCI5* cross country at the Kentucky Three-Day Event. ©Amy K. Dragoo

Despite taking two long routes with his partner JL Dublin, Great Britain’s Tom McEwen maintained his lead in the 2024 Kentucky Three-Day Event CCI5* after cross country.

“When I went to balance at the coffin, we were in trouble. And I thought it’s probably not my best decision to keep going straight, however much I want to. Just popped in the long route there, so excellent, very quick. He felt amazing.”

McEwen and Dublin incurred 4 time penalties for the long routes to finish cross country with a score of 28.6. Two of McEwen’s fellow countrymen finished in second and third. Yasmin Ingham and Banzai Du Loir had 5.6 time penalties for a score of 31.6. And Oliver Townend and Cooley Rosalent had .4 time penalites and a score of 31.8.

Only two of the 26 horses who contested the CCI5* rode Derek di Grazia’s course within the time allowed. Mia Farley and Phelps repeated their double-clear cross-country performance at the Maryland 5 Star. They finished the day on their dressage score of 33.8. In fifth place, they are the highest-placing U.S. horse-and-rider combination. Germany’s Christoph Wahler and D’Accord FRH also rode within the time allowed. They sit in sixth with a score of 34. Twenty of the day’s riders rode the course with just time penalties added. Three were eliminated, four retired on course and two were withdrawn before the start of cross country.

Tom McEwen and JL Dublin

McEwen said JL Dublin, with whom he finished second in Kentucky last year, “was incredible. I was cruising the first five. It felt more like an Intermediate. Actually flying around well up on time.”

He thought he had Dublin in good balance at the coffin but didn’t, so he took the long route for the first time on course. And then he had balance issues at the Park Question ditch (Fence 23ABCDE).That led to the second time he took the long route.

“I think riders probably underestimated the track. Although what we walked we thought, ‘Oh this isn’t so bad,’ but you’re just forgetting that [Fences] 2 and 3 with a ditch underneath really get them in the air and then [Fence 4] is huge. … And if you have one bad jump, like we’ve seen at some of the big drops into water, it catches you out further down the line. This is a cumulative effect, so I was just trying to make the right decisions where I could. It was very fair for the horses, but it’s very much a rider’s track today.”

In terms of what McEwen took away about Dublin from Saturday’s ride, he said, “We’ve had two lovely runs building up to here. He’s come out firing on all cylinders, and he’s been unreal. What I’ve learned about him is to actually just trust him. Get on with it, get going, trust him. He absolutely thrives under pressure.”

McEwen said he also likes pressure. This year, the pressure is more because of the Paris Olympics this summer. “We have a heck of a strong team for the Olympics. … I want to come and prove that under the biggest amounts of pressure at five star, you can come out and perform on the best stage. We’ve all got our own routes and me and [Yasmin Ingham] have chosen this route and definitely for us this has been the best path so far.”

Yasmin Ingham and Banzai Du Loir

Yasmin Ingham (GBR) and Banzai Du Loir are in second after the Kentucky CCI5* cross country phase at the Kentucky Three-Day Event. ©Amy K. Dragoo

Ingham felt her own pressure lifted after her cross-country ride on Banzai. The pair had a runout at the Park Question last year in Kentucky, so she wanted to do well this year. “It’s just an incredible amount of pressure. To start with, the expense of coming over here is huge. Obviously, we make the trip because this event is just worth it a million times over. But that’s on my shoulders a little bit. I have to ride him and produce results.”

The pair redeemed themselves this year in cross country. “He was 10 out of 10, literally. Every combination, even when I could have been better myself in my position and the way I was sort of holding the line, he just picked everything up,” Ingham said. “It was all down to him today. I’m so happy to just know he had that in him. Obviously, we had our blip last year. Of course then we did a lot of training over the winter with Chris Bartels and my dressage trainer, and it’s definitely shown out there today.”

As with most of the riders, Ingham commented on the time. “Time was a little bit harder to get, which was to be expected with such rolling terrain, but he dealt with it so well, and he stayed with me throughout. There were a few moments where he was a little bit tired, so I let him roll down the hills and he picked straight up again.”

Ingham commented that one of Banzai’s strengths is that he is “so unbelievably careful, but he’s equally as brave. That’s so hard to find in an event horse. Sometimes you have the horses that like to feel their way around over the cross-country fences, but with him, I feel like I’m soaring through the air all the time. And it fills me with lots of confidence all the time that he can make the height and width of all these enormous fences.”

Oliver Townend and Cooley Rosalent

Great Britain’s Tom McEwen and JL Dublin are still at the top of the leaderboard after Kentucky Three-Day Event CCI5* cross country.
Oliver Townend (GBR) and Cooley Roslaent after the Kentucky CCI5* cross country phase at the Kentucky Three-Day Event. ©Amy K. Dragoo

Townend and Cooley Rosalent moved up from eighth place to third after cross country. He opted to take the long route at the Park Question ditch, too. “I just thought she’s had a bit of a huff and a puff and not jumped the fox fence [Fence 22] amazingly well. And I thought time-wise I’m there. And I thought it would be a nice breather for her rather than flinging her at one more angle that might have been too much for a 10-year-old.”

I’m still very conscious when I’m riding her around, although I’m trying to be competitive, I’m also trying to half produce and half save for another seven years,” he said. “It’s always long-term in mind. I feel like she pulled enough out of the bag for me that she deserved a breather.”

Townend was happy with their course, saying that the gamble of bringing “Rosie” overseas paid off because “the amount she’ll have learned out there is incredible,” he said.

“Every distance that I wanted, I just about got,” he added. “The second pond, a few have done five [strides] there, and I said ‘No, we’re going to make the four happen. One day you’re going to be at Burghley so you’re going to have to learn now.’ She’s just incredibly honest. I’ve had her from 4 years old, and she’s as good as I always hoped.

For complete results of the 2024 Kentucky Three-Day Event CCI5*, click here.

Read more about the CCI5* here:

  1. First Horse Inspection
  2. Dressage Day 1 Report
  3. Dressage Day 1 Photo Gallery
  4. Dressage Day 2 Report
  5. Dressage Day 2 Photo Gallery
  6. Sneek Peek: CCI5* Cross-Country Course

Thanks to Mane ‘n Tail Equine for our coverage of the 2024 Defender Kentucky Three-Day Event. It includes rider interviews, competition reports, horse spotlights, photos, videos and more.

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