The excitement of the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event presented by Land Rover has begun as seventy-two horses were presented at the first horse inspection, of which three were held but all passed upon re-inspection.
Horse and rider combinations from nine nations will vie for top honours at America’s only CCI4* event, which also serves as the Rolex/USEF National CCI4* Championship. With the 2016 Olympic Games taking place this summer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the event also serves as an important selection event for riders hoping to be named to the US Olympic Eventing Team.
Competition begins today (Thursday) with the first of two days of dressage and the field is filled with seasoned veterans and first-time competitors in what will surely be a thrilling competition.
Many top US combinations hope to prove their mettle this week in a star-studded field, including defending Rolex/USEF National CCI4* Champion Phillip Dutton who returns with his 2015 champion partner, Thomas Tierney, Caroline Moran, and Simon Roosevelt’s Fernhill Cubalawn, and two other mounts, Thomas Tierney and Ann Jones’ Fernhill Fugitive and HND Group’s Mighty Nice, eying another national title. Dutton is in fine form, having won the Red Hills International CIC3* with Fernhill Fugitive, his 2015 Pan American Games mount, earlier this year, and recently finishing fourth and fifth in The Fork CIC3* with Mighty Nice and Fernhill Cubalawn, respectively.
“I’m excited. They are all seasoned horses now so hopefully we can take it a day at a time and end up competitive on the third day,” Dutton said.
Buck Davidson, a three-time Rolex/USEF National CCI4* Champion, and Boyd Martin, the 2012 Rolex/USEF National CCI4* Reserve Champion, will also ride three mounts as they aim for top performances. Davidson will ride previous Kentucky mounts, Carl and Cassandra Segal’s Park Trader and Caroline and Sherrie Martin’s Petite Flower, and pilot Sherrie Martin and Carl Segal’s Copper Beach in his CCI4* debut. Boyd Martin will partner with his 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games mount, Shamwari 4 Syndicate LLC’s Shamwari 4, and two CCI4* first-timers, Blackfoot Mystery Syndicate LLC’s Blackfoot Mystery and Gretchen Wintersteen, Pierre Colin, and Denise Lahey’s Steady Eddie.
Up-and-coming stars of the sport will display their talent at the event. Eventing 25 athlete Avery Klunick makes her CCI4* debut with her and Chip Klunick’s In It to Win It. She and In It to Win It found success at the Kentucky Horse Park back in 2011 when they claimed the Junior Team Gold medal at the Adequan/FEI North American Junior & Young Rider Championships presented by Gotham North, and hope to add another milestone to their resume this weekend. They had a solid prep run at The Fork Horse Trials, finishing ninth in the Advanced AA division.
“I’m really excited. I feel really lucky to be here. I’ve had [In It to Win It] for eight or nine years so I’m really happy and excited. It’s amazing,” said an enthusiastic Klunick.
Germany’s Michael Jung is looking to achieve a back-to-back win with his 2015 Rolex Kentucky partner, fischerRocana FST, to be in contention for the Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing after he won the 2015 Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials with La Biosthetique-Sam FBW. The Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing awards $350,000 to the successive winner of Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event presented by Land Rover, Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials, and Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials. Michael has said that fischerRocana FST feels in good form so he will be a rider to keep a watch on as the competition progresses.
There are two British riders contesting the Rolex Kentucky Three Day event – American-based James Alliston and Parker, and Panda Christie who has made the journey from the UK with Little Leo. A strong contingent of New Zealand riders based in the UK have also made the journey including Tim Price (Bango), Jonathan Paget (Clifton Signature), Blyth Tait (Xanthus III) and Mark Todd (NZB Campino).
Photography courtesy of John Waugh Photographic Images