Canada’s Karl Slezak wasn’t sure how Hot Bobo would react to the crowds around the cross-country course in the Cosequin® Lexington CCI4*-S. She’s been a bit of a spooky horse. Instead, she stepped up in terms of maintaining tunnel vision and focusing on the jumps. That effort moved them from seventh place after dressage to the top of the leaderboard following cross country.
“She felt amazing. She was totally on it,” Slezak said of how Bobo tackled the CCI4*-S at the 2023 Kentucky Three-Day Event in Lexington. “It was the first time she’s seen the crowds. And as a young horse, she was really spooky. It was only a year and a half ago that she really stepped up to the plate.”
Following Slezak, Tamie Smith (USA) and Solaguayre California moved up one spot from third after dressage to second. Liz Halliday-Sharp (USA) slipped out of first on Cooley Nutcracker after incurring 11 penalty points from a broken frangible pin at Fence 18. She and Cooley Be Cool dropped one spot from second after dressage to third.
Forty-nine horses started over Derek di Grazia’s four-star course. Three combinations jumped double-clear. Twenty-eight jumped clear but incurred time penalties. Nine received jumping and time penalties. One horse-and-rider pair was eliminated on course, five retired on course and one withdrew before cross country.
Karl Slezak and Hot Bobo
Slezak said Hot Bobo, whose name refers to an Irish nightcap, did not incur any penalties on cross country. They finished on a score of 29.3. He said the mare had more to give on course. “I’m disappointed in myself, too many pulls near the end just to balance her at some tables. She was totally game to keep going. … She was really good at the coffin, sunken roads. I just wasn’t sure if she’d focus on the crowd and then recognize the bounce down to the rails in the sunken road, but she was like, ‘Got it.’ She was totally on it.”
Slezak bought the 10-year-old Hot Bobo at a horse auction in Ireland when she was almost 5 years old. He and his wife were sitting in the audiences, and he wasn’t paying attention. His wife nudged him and pointed out the mare, saying she was one that Slezak was interested in. He flung up his hand and got her on one bid.
Then he worried he’d made a mistake. Hot Bobo, he realized, was the horse who kept spinning whenever another horse came at her. When they went back to the barns with their vet to listen to her heart and take blood, the mare pinned her ears and struck out. “And I was like, ‘Crap, what did I buy,'” he said.
But from the start, Bobo has been lovely to ride on the flat and in show jumping and improving on cross-country. “It’s just fun to ride her every day,” Slezak said. “I kind of leave her until the end of the day [to school] because I can leave the day on a high note.”
Tamie Smith and Solaguayre California
Smith was proud of Solaguayre California, who incurred 2.4 time penalties cross country. Their score is 30. “My horse was phenomenal. She jumped great,” Smith said.
Of course designer Derek di Grazia, Smith said, “It’s like you’re flat out to make the time, and that gets the horses not so rideable. So my last combination was a little hairy, but she’s so honest and fights for the flags so it doesn’t really matter. But the course is good, asked a lot of questions. It was great.”
Regarding thoughts on the show jumping, “It’s a great show jumping ring. Good practice. She’s a super-fast mare, so we’re just here to test what we have and see where they’re at so we can go back home and practice some more. So far it’s been a good last two days.”
Liz Halliday-Sharp and Cooley Be Cool
Halliday-Sharp and Cooley Be Cool incurred 5.6 time penalties for a score of 31.1. She was happy with how he tackled the course. But she said he was a little slow. “I was just saying to [trainer] Erik [Duvander], I alway believe the horses will tell you what they’re ready for, and I don’t think he’s ready to go to a five-star in June just yet. He needs a bit more fitness. He just needs one more four star. I think that’s what he was telling me. Because he is normally a fast horse.
“He jumped all the jumps brilliantly,” she continued. “He was confident and brave and foot perfect everywhere. But we just weren’t that fast. That’s why we’re here. It’s great to get that education and just listen to your horses. I’ll think about taking him to Rebecca Farm and give him all the runs he needs to become the world-class horse I think he is.”
Halliday-Sharp’s Cooley Nutcracker dropped to 15th place after receiving 11 penalty points for the frangible pin at Fence 18 as well as 4.8 time faults.
“The frangible pin, we’re pushing on hard because he barely touched it, and I just feel it’s bad for the sport,” she said. “The horse had a brilliant round. He got a little strong with me so I had to manage him. But they also started blowing the whistles frantically when I hit the frangibles, so I actually slowed down a minute because I thought something was wrong, which was tedious because I would have been quite a lot faster. And then I picked up again and went, ‘Oh whatever, let’s crack on.’ But that’s kind of disappointing.”
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CCI4* competition at the 2023 Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event resumes Sunday, April 30, with show jumping.
Thanks to Cosequin® Equine for our coverage of the 2023 Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event, including rider interviews, competition reports, horse spotlights, photos, videos and more!