With cool temperatures and near-perfect conditions at the Kentucky Horse Park, spectators were treated to an exciting day of cross-country action at this year’s Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event. The first three riders on course each fell, and many wondered if this would be the theme for the day, but as the fourth rider, Allie Blyskal-Sacksen, came galloping through the finish lines, grinning from ear-to-ear aboard her Connemara-cross gelding Sparrow’s Nio, the mood lightened and more and more riders had successful trips around Derek di Grazia’s tough track.
The overnight leader, Oliver Townend of Great Britain, had a masterful performance on Angela Hislop’s Cooley Master Class, and has his sights set on a back-to-back win here tomorrow. As one of the final riders to leave the start box, Ollie had the advantage of watching many rounds throughout the day and could see how the course was riding. He picked up just 1.2 time penalties to finish the day on a score of 25.3.
“He was keen, which I’m not that used to,” said Ollie after his round on the 14-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (by Ramiro B). “He had a few of his own ideas out there, but all with his ears pricked and all looking for the flags. There were times when I sat behind him with reins too long because he’d done something I hadn’t expected and he just put himself through the flags every single time.”
Cooley Master Class lost a front shoe halfway around, “so I was very conscious of that,” Ollie said. “He slipped on a few of the turns. I tried to look after him a bit at a few of the fences, so I didn’t always go on a wing-and-a-prayer shot. I ended up balancing a few more times than I wanted and had one long route that I hadn’t planned because he jumped so big in. But I couldn’t be happier with the horse and the way he’s finished.”
Watch the video below to hear more from Ollie after his ride.
Boyd Martin moved up from third to second place after a double-clear round aboard Christine Turner’s gelding Tsetserleg, a 12-year-old Trakehner gelding (sired by Windfall). Also with the advantageous late start time, Boyd had ample time to adapt his strategy after seeing how the course rode throughout the day. His plan paid off and the clear round leaves him on his dressage score of 27.9 heading into tomorrow’s show jumping.
“It was a lot harder than I thought,” said Boyd after his round. “To be honest, I never wanted to say it, but I walked it on Wednesday and thought it was a bit too soft … well, softer than last year’s. But I was very wrong. I was shocked this morning when a number of the horses had trouble. Anyway, I knew I was in for a mission.”
Watch the video below to hear more from Boyd after his ride.
Tim Price of New Zealand moved up from fifth to third with the British Sport Horse Xavier Faer (by Catherston Dazzler), a 13-year-old gelding he owns with Trisha Rickards and Nigella Hall. He, too, produced a double-clear round and sits on a 30.9.
The gelding broke his leg in the field last year, so “he had a bit of a quiet year last year” while he recovered. “I actually watched his 2017 Badminton round on the iPad this morning just to get a bit inspired by what he’s capable of,” admitted Tim after his round.
“He was really good. He’s a galloper, honest at the fences. He’s had mistakes in the past, but it’s not through lack of honesty, they were just genuine mistakes. So I just tried to do my bit to get him to the fences in a way that he could jump them safely.
Tim took a wide, sweeping turn to the last fence, mentioning that he wanted to take his time and make sure the horse had a good, safe jump. “Last time I was here, I fell two from home and it was in the back of my head coming home.”
After winning last fall’s Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials, Tim has a chance at picking up another leg of the Rolex Grand Slam. In order to win the Grand Slam, a rider must win three consecutive CCI5* events, though it can be on different horses—it’s an especially difficult accomplishment and has only been won by two riders, Pippa Funnell in 2003 and Michael Jung in 2016. When asked if that’s in the back of his mind, Tim said, “Of course, but it’s not really something that will have play its part here and now. I’m just doing my job the best I can with this horse and keeping focused on what he needs to do to do the best he can.”
Trouble On Course
Throughout the day, problems at various points on course caught out several riders. Caroline Martin and Islandwood Captain Jack were the lead-off riders at 10:30AM and were having a cracking round in the gelding’s first CCI5*, but unfortunately parted ways at the Normandy Bank. She was relatively uninjured, but opted to scratch her second ride, Danger Mouse, since he was green and she felt like she wouldn’t give him the best ride after her fall.
Veteran CCI5* competitors Buck Davidson and Park Trader also came to grief at the Normandy Bank. Buck ended up with a broken collarbone from his fall and scratched his second two rides, Jak My Style and Copper Beach. Later in the day, Erin Sylvester and Paddy the Caddy also picked up 20 penalty points for a refusal at the same complex.
Third on course was Liz Halliday-Sharp who was piloting Deniro Z in the gelding’s second CCI5*–the pair were tied for fifth as they left the start box. Sadly, Liz took a fall early on course, at a large open oxer at fence 3, and was eliminated, and thankfully unhurt, though a bit sore.
Canadian Colleen Loach fell from Qorry Blue D’argouges after he slipped on a sharp turn after jumping a wide corner (13abc). British rider Piggy French almost had the same misfortune with Quarrycrest Echo, and in fact, her stirrup leather nearly fell off her saddle as she scrambled back in the tack, but she was able to complete the course with a few time penalties and now sits in fifth.
Hallie Coon retired Celien after having trouble at the Head of the Lake, and Sharon White called it a day with Cooley On Show after he took a dislike to the first water complex at fence 5.
CCI5* rookie Dom Schramm, who rides for Australia, had trouble early on course at the wide oxers (fence 3), picking up 20 points for a stop and an additional 11 for activating a frangible pin (which are added to many jumps as safety regulations).
Mexico’s Daniela Moguel had a refusal at the A element of the first water complex, but finished the course with her mare Cecelia without further problems.
Australia’s Hazel Shannon, a two-time winner of the Adelaide CCI5*, picked up a disappointing 20 jumping penalties after Willingapark Clifford stumbled hopping up the bank to the final brush jump at the Head of the Lake.
Will Coleman thought he’d had a double-clear round with Tight Lines (at that point, it would’ve been the first of the day), but later found out he’d picked up 15 penalty points for not going through a flag over a jump.
Looking Ahead to Tomorrow
At the end of the day, 31 horses completed the cross-country phase and will move on to the final day. There were just three double-clear rounds (Boyd, Tim, and Phillip Dutton). All of the competitors still need to pass the final horse inspection at 8:30AM to be deemed fit to head forward to the show jumping.
The top riders are all within just a few points of each other, so any dropped rail could prove devastating to a final placing. With $130,000 going to first place and $62,000 going to second place, each mistake counts.
To add even more pressure to tomorrow’s action, if Tim Price pulls off a win, he’ll have won two out of the three events of the three-part Rolex Grand Slam, which offers an impressive bonus of $350,000.
The show jumping kicks off at 1:00PM in the Rolex stadium.
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