McEwen Masters Kentucky CCI5* Dressage Day 2

Great Britain’s Tom McEwen and JL Dublin earn the top score in the 2024 Kentucky Three-Day Event CCI5* Dressage Day 2.
Great Britain’s Tom McEwan and JL Dublin are in the lead after the Kentucky Three-Day Event CCI5* Dressage Day 2. ©Amy K. Dragoo

Great Britain’s Tom McEwen said that his dressage test with JL Dublin wasn’t the best he’s done. But it was good enough for the ground jury to put him at the top of the leaderboard after the second day of dressage. Their score in the 2024 Defender Kentucky Three-Day Event was 24.6.

“I was delighted with him,” McEwen said. “He put everything into it. It wasn’t our best test. For me I think we could have been softer, better, clearer again. But we went in there and nailed what we had to do on the day.“

Fellow countryman Yasmin Ingham, who had been in first after her dressage test on Thursday, and Banzai Du Loir moved into second with a score of 26. Liz Halliday (USA) and Cooley Nutcracker and Lauren Nicholson (USA) and Vermiculus tied for third with scores of 30.6.

A total of 19 horse-and-rider teams competed in the CC15* dressage test today. Sharon White and Claus 63 came in fifth place. Yesterday’s second-place finisher, Kirsty Chabert (GBR) and Classic VI, moved down to sixth. And the third-place team of Malin Hansen-Hotopp (GER) and Carlitos Quidditch K came in seventh.

The Kentucky Three-Day Event in Lexington runs from April 25-28. In addition to the CC15*, the event includes the Cosequin Lexington CCI4*-S competition. A total of 30 CCI4* riders competed in the dressage phase today.

McEwen and JL Dublin

McEwen, an Olympic team gold medalist, said that to improve his and Dublin’s test, “We needed to do the test that we normally do. Some days it’s not always there. Same as with people. We’re not always there. And actually the bits of work he did were absolutely stunning. Just a little more fluid in his body and we would have been well in the lead.

In terms of why he decided to return to compete in Kentucky, McEwen said, “I felt this was the way to go. We had a brilliant time last year in Kentucky, and he [Dublin] is fit, he’s well. He’s ready to come to the five-star. I don’t want to hide him away. I want to show what we can do and really put us on the front foot so to speak.”

Of her ride yesterday, Ingham said, “Banzai slightly had a bit of waver on centerline, which is unlike him. But obviously we had to forget about that movement and focus on rest of the test,” Ingham said. “So, I tried to put it behind me very quickly and focus on the rest of test. But he was very obedient and super expressive, and he’s just a joy to ride.”

Halliday and Cooley Nutcracker

Liz Halliday (USA) and Cooley Nutcracker are tied for third after the Kentucky Three-Day Event CCI5* Dressage Day 2. ©Amy K. Dragoo

Halliday was thrilled with her and Cooley Nutcracker’s score of 30.6. “He’s a green horse and is still a bit weak, and this is a five-star. He’s capable of scoring in the low 20s; he’s had that in the four-star. He just needs to get a little more solidified in his changes and a little bit more calm and relaxed in the ring. Then, I think he’ll be spectacular.”

She said he noticed the television cameras at the extended walk, “but he was a very good boy and put himself back together and was a compplete professional. We had plenty of green moments, so I was proud of him for that.”

Of explaining what Nutcracker is like to ride and train, she said, “He’ll spook in the warm-up ring, but once he’s on the job, he’s all business, which I love about him. He loves to compete. He’s just a powerhouse. It’s taken us becoming friends over the last two years. I think tomorrow it’ll be great for me to just let him gallop. He’s incredibly brave. He’s never done a five-star, but I truly believe he’s ready for it.”

Nicholson and Vermiculus

Lauren Nicholson and Vermiculus are tied for third after the Kentucky Three-Day Event CCI5* Dressage Day 2. ©Amy K. Dragoo

Nicholson said her ride on 17-year-old Vermiculus “felt like I was on a wild Arabian stallion. He definitely was very excited to be back in front of a crowd. It was funny because you can tell when he’s being wild when his ear starts twitching. And usually when it twitches, it’s followed by a huge leap into the air. He had the one little bobble, but he’s such a professional, and he’s done this a million times. He knows what his job is on the day.

“I’m just relieved because at the end of their careers, you don’t want to waste any moments, so I’m just relieved to go in there and do a good job,” she said, her voice catching with emotion.

She said that the atmosphere in Rolex Stadium doesn’t bother Vermiculs. “A lot of people try to avoid going down while the crowds are clapping for the person before. I’m like, he’s going to like it. It’s not going to upset him. If anything it might make him hopefully realize that it’s an occasion and buckle down a bit.”

Vermiculus had some time off last year, but Nicholson said they didn’t want to take any chances this year, so they took things slow. “Every year run on him at this point is a blessing.”

CCI5* Cross-Country Thoughts

McEwen thinks Derek di Grazia’s course is beautiful. “His courses are always incredible. Beautifully designed. Best flower arrangement by far. It’s pretty epic to look at,” he said. “It’s a very clever course. It’s not for the faint hearted. It’s a true five-star—open and close distances and you’ve got to make up your mind and be reactive at same time. … For me, it’s actually an accumulation, like his courses always are, of building up and really getting into the flow of his course.”

Nicholson explained her goal for Saturday’s cross-country: “Go fast and don’t make any mistakes. It’s a Derek course, and it will reward good riding.”

Typically on cross country, Nicholson likes to do one less stride, but her coach, David O’Connor, told her she had to keep doing one more stride rather than leaving strides out. “Tomorrow, it will reward riding correctly, riding accurately, taking the time where you need to and then trying to make up time in between stuff.”

The ground is “fast,” she added, which she said will help her because Vermiculus is not “the fastest horse in the world,” she said. “We’re longtime partners, and I’m really excited to get out there.”

For complete results, click here.

Saturday’s Field of Horses

The field for Saturday’s cross country is now 33 horse-and-rider combinations. Lillian Heard Wood (USA) and LCC Barnaby were eliminated in their dressage test. “The ground jury decided today that Barnaby looked uneven in his test and eliminated me from competition,” Heard Wood said. “The vets have looked him over back at the barn, and there is nothing to report. My best guess is that tension made him take some short steps.” Will Faudree (USA) withdrew Mama’s Magic Way after dressage.

The first horse starts on cross-country at 1:30 p.m. EST.

Thanks to Sentinel Horse Feed for our coverage of the 2024 Cosequin Lexington CCI5*. It includes rider interviews, competition reports, horse spotlights, photos, videos and more.

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