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April 29, 2011

Coudray Captures The Lead At Rolex Kentucky

Tiana Coudray and Ringwood Magister will start cross-country on 40.8 penalties.

Lexington, Ky.—April 29

There might be some of the most experienced names in the sport at Rolex Kentucky this year, but 22-year-old Tiana Coudray bested them all as she rode into the lead after two days of dressage.

Coudray’s making her second start at Rolex, and her fancy gray Ringwood Magister topped the scoreboard on a 40.8 as the fourth rider in the ring this morning.

As they headed down the ramp into the arena, Ringwood Magister kicked out and leapt into the air. “He went around like a hobby horse for a while after that, and I still wasn’t sure which way this was going to go. But he put it together when it was time to go in the ring,” said Coudray, of Ojai, Calif.

“I’ve often felt one of special things about my horse is he can feel like he’s going to buck me off when we’re going around the ring, but then he’ll canter around and go to work,” she said. “His trot work was good, a tiny bit conservative. His walk is always a bit of praying, trying to get through it. Once we got to canter I felt confident to start showing off. His changes were good, and I was happy with the whole canter section.

“As we did the last two loops of the canter serpentine, I was smiling, and as we came down centerline it hit me that he’d had a really good test,” she said.

The Second Gray

Mary King’s gorgeous gray Fernhill Urco rode into a close second in the final session of the afternoon on a score of 41.7. She said she’s struggled with getting him lighter in the bridle, but when her dressage trainer Ferdi Eilberg leant her a double bridle a month ago, the big Portuguese Sport Horse felt like he’d had a transformation.

“He really respected the bit, I could ride him forward, and the work since then has really improved. He’s still a little unsteady in the double bridle, but he’s getting used to it,” she said. “He’s talented and has three very good paces.”

King, one of three Brits who came to Kentucky from England this year, said she set her alarm for 5 a.m. to lie in bed and watch the Royal wedding this morning. “It was lovely,” she said.

She also stands in fourth place on Kings Temptress (47.7), and yesterday’s leader Allison Springer remains in third with Arthur (42.3).

But at more than twice Coudray’s age, King has a different perspective on the event: “I’m just fortunate to be at this level at my age, and I keep reminding myself, ‘Aren’t I lucky to be taking part in such competitions and at such venues?’ What will be will be [tomorrow], and hopefully it will be good enough.”

A Deceptively Hard Course?

King, 49, believes this will be her first run over a Derek di Grazia course.

“I’m impressed with his attention to detail, and I hope the ground conditions don’t take away from how brilliant course is,” she said. “Every question is asked that a horse is physically able to do but in the nicest ways. It’s all very jumpable, but it’s a four-star course, with one question after another. The [very wet] ground conditions are going to be the main test.”

Coudray’s certainly ridden plenty of di Grazia’s courses—most often at Twin Rivers (Calif.) and Woodside (Calif.)—but she said that, as her trainer, he’s careful not to give her any hints of what’s to come on his courses.

“He’s really careful about that—almost annoyingly so,” she said with a smile. “I think everyone else has a better idea of what out’s there than I do.”

He also doesn’t coach her at events where he’s designing. “He just drove by and said ‘nice test.’ I’ll walk the course with Mark [Phillips].”

She’s feeling confident about the course at this point: “I’m really excited, and typically at this point I’m not feeling good about things,” she said. “Derek’s courses put you almost too much at ease. The footing is going to be a bit of a question for the horses later on. But mostly I need to really treat [the course] like it’s not looking as nice as it is.”

For complete results, go to the Rolex Kentucky website.

Tidbits

—Dressage attendance: 17,779

—Dressage leader Tiana Coudray and Olivia Loiacono are the youngest riders in this year's event, both 22.

—Although Tiana Coudray's Ringwood Magister is an Irish-bred, like Bettina Hoy's four-star champion Ringwood Cockatoo, he's not related, just from the same farm. "After the test, Bettina gave me a hug and said, 'Isn't it great to have a gray Ringwood?'" said Coudray.

Check out coverage of Thursday's dressage and Jimmy Wofford's cross-country course walk.

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