Britain’s Oliver Townend has successfully defended his Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event title by putting in a perfect performance in the show jumping with Cooley Master Class.
With a winning score of 25.3, his back-to-back win sees him join the illustrious company of Bruce Davidson, Kim Severson and Michael Jung as only the fourth person to defend his title in the event’s 41-year history.
“We’ve had the horse from word go, and it’s a huge team effort,” Townend, said. “So much effort goes into it, not just on my part. The horse has had a checkered career and we’ve finally got him on top form. We’ve always believed in the horse, and it’s thanks to everybody at home putting in a huge team effort. It was just my job to push the buttons at the right point in time. I couldn’t be more proud of the horse and the whole team.”
Tension in the stadium was high as each of the horses tackled around Richard Jeffery’s challenging track, and as each clean round was accomplished, it ratcheted up the pressure for the riders still to come.
“It was a bit of a different situation as I came from behind last year,” Townend said of having to go last in the ring as the overnight leader. “It was much nicer last year to come in the ring in third place. This time I had to see the other guys sitting outside and these two lads (Price and Martin) did some job in their rounds. I’ve known Tim’s horse most of his life and I saw Boyd’s in the warm-up and he must have ridden well to say the least.
“Obviously my round went to plan. We had a rub at the Land Rover water tray but he’s a very good jumper so even when he touches a jump, he does it lightly and then apologizes for the next six jumps. It was definitely the most high pressure round I’ve ever ridden and I’m just glad I didn’t muck it up for him.”
Second placed American Boyd Martin turned up the heat on Townend, producing a fault-free show jumping round to finish on his dressage score of 27.9 with Tsetserleg, and claim the top spot for the Land Rover/USEF CCI5*-L Championship presented by MARS EQUESTRIAN.
“I was thrilled with my bloke today,” said Martin of his 12-year-old Trakehner gelding, owned by Christine Turner. “He doesn’t give you the most confidence in warm-up. He was jumping all over the shop and twisting and these other two were giggling at me a bit. But he gets in the ring and spooks that little bit and I think he loves the atmosphere and the crowd. He tapped the first fence and I thought, ‘oh, crap this is going to be a long round,’ but then he really tried.”
Martin and Testserleg’s finish as national champion and overall second place has helped remove some of the sting of a disappointing performance for the pair in the World Equestrian Games last fall. “He has been difficult in combinations, he can jump too big into the first part and get in trouble at the second, so I felt like I had to come in slow and short into 4 AB and once he cleared it I thought I was in with a chance. All in all I couldn’t be more happy and satisfied, though it would be great to win one of these. But (we’ve had) a few ups and downs with the horse—last year was a bit disappointing—but this year he’s come out blazing. Our expectation is that he’ll only grow and get better.”
New Zealand’s Tim Price, also faultless, finished third with Xavier Faer (30.9).
“My guy’s a bit of a Kinder Surprise, you’re never sure what you’re going to have until you get out there,” said Price of the 13-year-old British Sport Horse owned by Price, Nigella Hall and Trisha Rickards. “He’s a bit spooky, but it’s also kind of simple to work with because you know it’s going to be there. He takes a real special disliking to liverpools and the whole middle of arena was an ocean of water trays, so it felt like something to overcome and hope for best. But, he was jumping really well,” Price continued. “He’s keeping his shape now even when he’s looking at a fence, and it actually helped a bit on a day like today. He’s a lovely, big, scopey honest horse, and he will come on from this and be an exciting horse as he gets more established.”