It was all change at the top of the leader board at the Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event, presented by Land Rover, as American rider Clark Montgomery stormed into the lead with Loughan Glen.
Their score of 33.6 put them 3.5 penaltoes clear of defending champion Michael Jung and FischerRocana FST (37.1) while three-time winner Kim Severson holds third with a new horse, Cooley Cross Border (41.0).
“I was really happy,” said Montgomery after his test. “He came out this morning for his pre-ride and was a little on the muscle, so I didn’t know what he was going to be like in the test. But he came back out for warm-up and felt good, and in the test he felt great.”
In addition to being in the overall lead, as the highest-placed American, Montgomery also leads the Rolex/USEF CCI4* Eventing National Championship.
Jung comes into this weekend as the favorite, as his list of CCI4* wins is long and impressive, especially at the Kentucky Horse Park. Although he is standing in second, he was still pleased with his mare’s competitive performance.
“I was very happy; she was very nice to ride,” said Jung. “She was very relaxed, so I could try to go forward and push her a little bit to get some very good marks. I think it was a very good test for her, but maybe not good enough.
“I was not watching the dressage today but maybe I should have, I heard it was very beautiful,” he finished, indicating Montgomery’s ride.
Severson has three Rolex Kentucky titles to her name, but Cooley Cross Border is competing for the first time at this level. She was thrilled with how he handled the atmosphere in the Rolex Stadium for today’s dressage.
“My horse was fantastic today,” said Severson. “He has really grown up a lot over the last six months. I got most of my flying changes today, which has been my thing, but I couldn’t have been happier with him. He was quite good.”
With dressage day behind them, the Derek di Grazia designed cross-country course now looms prominently in the riders’ minds. The weather is predicted to turn stormy overnight, but be clear and hot by the time the horses start at 10:00 a.m., and the heat will factor in the rider’s preparation.
“We have very good conditions (now), and if it’s not too hot tomorrow, I think we will have a lot of fun,” Jung said. “I will check on Rocana in the morning, and if everything looks perfect, I won’t ride her again before the warm-up. I think it’s a very nice course. It’s changed a bit from last year, and it’s a bit better for galloping in a rhythm. In the beginning, to not have (two water combinations) directly is nice, but it’s very tough and there are some big fences and some tricky combinations in the end.”
“Glen goes out early in the morning and gets loosened up, and especially with the heat, I’ll do most of my warm-up in the early morning,” Montgomery said. “So all I have to do in the afternoon is a little trot, canter and just jump a few jumps. I’m worried about the heat. Glen doesn’t like the heat, though he likes the fast ground here. Derek’s done a beautiful job. You just have to ride well. For Glen, we just have to make sure we don’t come out too fast because it’s big and tricky all the way around, and at the end of the course you need ridability.”
“Here in Kentucky we’re very lucky to have the closed-circuit TV to watch the early riders go,” Severson said. “I haven’t decided about my warm-up yet. I’m going to have a look around (in the morning) and decide what to do. I think a lot of us are going to find out a lot about our horses tomorrow. Hopefully, we’re all smart.”
In the Dubarry of Ireland Nations Team Challenge, the combined team of New Zealand/France/Germany (Michael Jung (GER), FischerRocana FST, 37.1; Maxime Livio (FRA), Qalao Des Mers, 44.6; Tim Price (NZL), Ringwood Sky Boy, 46.9; Joe Meyer (NZL), Clip Clop, 57.4) leads with a score of 128.6 over Team USA (133.8) and Team Canada (147.7).
Following the post dressage press conference, Jung received with a replica of the massive sterling silver Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing trophy he won last year for winning Rolex Kentucky, Badminton and Burghley consecutively. This trophy has only been won one other time, when Pippa Funnel did it in 2003. Jung also took home $350,000 in prize money for his Rolex Grand Slam victory.