A 15-year drought of a U.S. rider winning the Kentucky Three-Day CCI5* is over. Tamie Smith smashed it with her 17-year-old partner Mai Baum after riding a double-clear show-jumping round to maintain their overnight lead. She is the first American to win the title since Phillip Dutton and Connaught won it in 2008. Since then, the title has gone to a parade of European riders.
“I’m pretty numb. It’s almost like an out-of-body experience,” said Smith, who finished on her dressage score of 24.2. “A lot of this sport, as everybody knows, is so—you take a beating, and the resilient ones just keep coming back for more, and you hope that one day it pays off. And today it did. So I’m honored, and I’m elated, and I’m so excited.”
Great Britain’s Tom McEwen, who was second going into the show-jumping round with JL Dublin, put the pressure on Smith after keeping all the rails up and riding within the time. Less than a rail separated McEwen, who finished with a score of 27.8. U.S. rider Liz Halliday-Sharp and her five-star rookie Miks Master C jumped a double-clear round, too, They finished in third place with a score of 28.4.
Twenty-four horses and riders tackled Steve Stephen’s course. Ten of the combinations jumped double-clear rounds. The course consisted of 12 numbered fences and 15 jumping efforts with a time of 87 seconds. Riders had a choice of two jumps at Fence 8 and the course included an in-and-out at Fence 3 and a triple combination at Fence 9. Earlier in the morning, 25 horses were presented at the Second Horse Inspection on Sunday morning. The ground jury did not pass Halliday-Sharp’s Deniro Z.
Smith and Mai Baum
Though Mai Baum, aka Lexus, is usually a good show jumper, Smith said she was nervous heading into Sunday’s show-jumping round. At the 2022 FEI Eventing World Championships in Pratoni del Vivaro, Italy, the pair had two rails in show jumping to fall from third place to ninth individually. Before that, he hadn’t had a show-jumping rail in a few years, she said.
“Scott Keach, who I show jump with, has been instrumental in the progression of myself and just kind of keeping my cool and understanding how to stay in the moment and to care enough but not care too much, you know?” Smith said. “And I think he helped me learn how to kind of just … it was my job to ride [Lexus] the right way and his job to jump the jumps, and I’m just glad he did. I’m glad he felt really healthy and strong and full of it. And I think he knew the crowd was there, and I feel like I everybody carried me over that whole course.”
Smith was also happy for the German Warmblood gelding, owned by Alex Ahearn, too. “You can’t deny that by looking at him. He’s super special. I wasn’t certain whether it would ever happen, but I just wanted him to have his moment in the sun a bit, and today he did. He’s missed out a few times, even though he is been very competitive in the world stage. It eluded him. I’m more happy for him because I think he is unbelievable.
Smith thanked the team of people who have helped her bring Lexus to this win, which also serves as the U.S. Equestrian Federation National Championship presented by MARS Equestrian™. She also praised her coach Erik Duvander, the former U.S. eventing coach, whom she said has been instrumental helping the U.S. team turn around in the last six years. “It’s not just me, you know, that that helps [Lexus] get here. There’s a slew of people and a team behind him from so many, I can’t even name ‘em all.”
She is also the first woman to win the CCI5* since Great Britain’s Mary King won it with Kings Temptress in 2011. Additionally, the last time a U.S. woman has won the honor was in 2005, when Kim Severson and Winsome Adante won it in 2005.
“It’s even more special to show all of those little girls and women that you know, it is possible. I mean, it wasn’t too long ago, we were barefoot and pregnant in the field, picking vegetables,” Smith said to laugher. “It just shows that anybody can do anything.”
McEwen and JL Dublin
Olympic gold and silver medalist McEwen said he only saw part of Smith’s ride. “She jumped fantastically, so well done to her, first of all.” With regards to JL Dublin, “I’m delighted. A bit of a dream. The next step is to come back and go on better, which for sure we can definitely do.”
McEwen started the ride on Dublin, the 2021 European Champion, in the middle of last year. Dublin’s previous rider, Nicola Wilson, fell with him at the 2022 Badminton Horse Trials. McEwen and Dublin placed second at the Military Boekelo CCIO4*-L last fall. This is their first CCI5* together.
“He felt amazing. Actually, between three and four, he started squealing,” McEwen said of the 11-year-old Holsteiner gelding. “He loved the crowds, and he showed what an amazing horse he is.”
“The distances were very even, there wasn’t much to choose from. The time for me, it was a little bit loose. So yes, I think tightening the time would’ve found a far more exciting finale, but it’s great, to be honest,” he said. “It just shows the quality of horses … because, actually, a lot of these horses are jumping good, clear rounds, not just chance-y ones and getting away with it.”
Halliday-Sharp and Miks Master C
Halliday-Sharp feels like Mikki, an 11-year-old Swedish Warmblood, has a lot more to give in the future. “He is the most amazing horse. For him to come in here and do his first five star and to finish as he did and so strong and fresh and everything. … I hope he will be my Olympic horse. I just think the world of him, and he’s a such a kind, generous horse, and he gave everything this weekend.”
To catch up on previous CCI5* reports
First Horse Inspection, click here
Dressage Day 1, click here
Dressage Day 2, click here
Cross-Country, click here
Thanks to Mane ‘n Tail Equine for our coverage of the 2023 Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event, including rider interviews, competition reports, horse spotlights, photos, videos and more!