April 26—Lexington, Ky.
Boyd Martin knows as well as anyone that Rolex Kentucky is no dressage competition, but it’s still a nice way to start your weekend by winning the first phase on the first day. He trotted into the Thursday lead aboard Remington XXV on 45.3 ahead of Karen O’Connor on Veronica (47.8) and Andrew Nicholson on Calico Joe (48.7).
“Remy” is a Rolex veteran who finished the four-star in ninth place last year and in 12th in 2010. The 16-year-old Hanoverian (Rubinstein I—Weserpalme, Wenzel I) also finished seventh at the Pau CCI**** (France) in 2010.
“We’ve done that test a number of times. It was wonderful to ride a horse that knew where he was going,” said Martin with a smile. “He’s a good horse. I’ve been with him since I moved to America. He’s sort of the first horse that I picked up, and it was by chance. He’s an old foxhunter that hadn’t done much until he was about 11 years old. The owners of the horse, Ron and Densey Juvonen, paid me $20 every morning to ride him before I worked for Phillip [Dutton]. I took him to a couple of events. Long story short, he’s been a very good horse for me.”
A good placing after dressage isn’t new to O’Connor either—she won the event in 1991, 1997 and 1999, but this year she won a completely different award for the first time: best dressed at the jog. Her white suit and heels made a favorable impression on the judges.
“Thirty-five years into this, and that’s the very first best dressed I’ve ever been awarded,” said O’Connor. “I’m really emotional about it. Seriously, it was really fun. I went shopping with my pal Marilyn Little-Meredith [who has two horses entered in her first four-star], and she put me in the dressing room and she made me try all these things on. I have a fashion consultant now.”
O’Connor has been polishing her dressage with international judge Linda Zang, and she was pleased that Veronica’s gaits have come up to a new level this spring.
Nicholson is another old pro—he’s represented New Zealand in six Olympic Games and most recently won individual bronze at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in 2010. But he’s brought two relatively inexperienced horses to Rolex Kentucky this year.
“It’s their first time at four-star level. But they’re both very nice horses, and on the list for the Olympics. They’re not first or second choice, but we wanted to bring them here and try to give them a decent four-star to see if they are ready if they’re needed for the Olympics,” said Nicholson, 50.
Calico Joe, a 10-year-old Thoroughbred (Clerkenwell—Elle Sheree, Beau Sher) won the Blair Castle CCI*** (England) in 2011. “Calico Joe has been very consistent all of his career in the dressage,” said Nicholson. “He’s not overly experienced, but he’s got a very good mind in the arena, and he tries his hardest. He’s done better than I expected today, but he’s always pretty good.”
Dressage begins again at 9:30 on Friday morning with Madeline Blackman and Gordonstown.
For full results visit rk3de.org.
For all the Chronicle’s Rolex Kentucky coverage, including the course walk with Jimmy Wofford, visit the Rolex Kentucky page.