Becky Holder and Courageous Comet (39.3) remain in first place following cross-country at Rolex Kentucky, April 26, followed by Phillip Dutton and Connaught (41.7) in second and Stephen Bradley and From (47.8) in third.
“Courageous Comet was pretty amazing,” said Holder. “He came out of the box with his game face on, and so did I.”
While Saturday morning went off without a hitch, the afternoon was full of drama, including serious falls for Sarah Hansel and The Quiet Man and Laine Ashker and Frodo Baggins.
The Quiet Man didn’t clear the Footbridge at fence 13 and fell upon landing, throwing Hansel clear. He was transported off the course in a horse trailer. He was reportedly stable and resting comfortably, although he incurred an injury to his right front leg.
Frodo Baggins hit fence 5, the Flower Basket, at high speed and had a rotational fall. The course was held for an hour and a half while Ashker was stabilized, and she was airlifted to the University of Kentucky Hospital. She has sustained injuries but is conscious and able to move her extremities. She is being cared for by the emergency and trauma services at UK. Vets attended to Frodo Baggins for some time, and he was transported off the course to Hagyard Equine Medical Institute just across Ironworks Pike from the Kentucky Horse Park.
This morning, Holder had been held briefly on course before the Hammock at fence 9 while medics assessed Dornin Anne North after a minor fall. “My first response [after being held] was to find out whether the rider and horse I was being held for were OK, then I focused on getting started again,” she said. “I was lucky it was early in the course, and he wasn’t terribly stressed yet.”
But Holder had mistakenly pushed something on her watch that erased her time when she started back up. “It zeroed out and started beeping at me incessantly. I finally had to bash it with my fist,” she said. “It was a great opportunity to focus on one jump at a time and my position as I galloped, and let the time fall where it may. The horse finished well within himself, and I was absolutely ecstatic.”
Some riders in the top 10 after dressage had heartbreaking rides, including Heidi White and Northern Spy, who’d been in second place. They went easily around the course until the final water complex, the Duck Marsh at 28AB and 29AB ,where White met the fourth of the ducks with too much pace. Northern Spy scrambled over, decapitating the duck, and White fell, although she remounted and finished and is in 31st.
Corinne Ashton and Dobbin had been in fifth place, but Ashton fell at the second duck in the final water complex. According to announcer Nigel Casserley, Ashton was having some sort of tack malfunction that might have contributed to her fall.
Young rider Emilee Libby and Cahir, who took sixth in dressage, started having problems at the fourth fence, the Downhill Oxers, with four strides in between. Cahir got underneath the first, managing to clear it, but couldn’t get out over the second and stopped. Libby then had a second stop at the first part of the coffin, the Cedar Hop at 6-7AB, represented and cleared it, then chose to retire.
Bonnie Mosser and Merloch, who had been seventh, also had trouble at the Ducks, with a refusal at the final duck to end the day in 26th. She lost her reins at fence 28, after the third duck, causing a refusal at the fourth. “It was a tricky moment because I was trying to figure out how to not cross my tracks after I lost my reins. I fell off at the ducks last year, so at least I didn’t do that this time,” she said.
Polly Stockton had a runout with Tangleman at the second part of the Double Diamonds at fence 16 and chose to call it a day.
Tara Ziegler fell from Buckingham Place when he only cleared the first rail of the open corner at fence 16, the Double Diamonds. Buckingham Place then decided to jump out of the diamond, and Ziegler remounted and jumped the C and D elements the long way, but was later eliminated for failing to clear the B element.
Selena Hanlon also had a runout at the Double Diamonds with Colombo, as did Karen O’Connor with Hugh Knows.
The final three riders of the day—Dutton, Martin and Bradley—had a long hold while Ashker and Frodo Baggins were attended to. When Martin finally took to the course, he had a fall of his own at the brush into the Head of the Lake. Although he stood up and walked off, he did not remount.
Bradley said the long hold was a disadvantage to From, who couldn’t relax. He said he kept pointing to the other two horses standing quietly under a tree, but From chose to wheel and spin.
“He felt good out there, but he did get tired. He’s not a horse who lets down easily, and he a little bit runs his race out there [in the hold] when that happens,” said Bradley. “He put out 110 percent, and even though he was tired, he kept putting out 110 percent.”
Dutton Stays On Task
Dutton said the cool weather in the morning was a bit of an advantage, since the sun came out and warmed a good 20 degrees from the morning. “The ground didn’t change though,” he said.
He was thrilled with both of his horses. Woodburn jumped double-clear in his first four-star to stand tied for seventh, and Connaught incurred just .4 time penalties. “It was a big step up for Woodburn, and there were parts where he was a little green or in awe of the jumps, but he went better as he went around,” he said.
“I couldn’t be more proud of Connaught,” he added. “Sometimes I wish he didn’t jump as big over the jumps, because that makes him tired, but he tries so hard.”
Dutton said he was pleased with the way the course rode. “There were some greener horses out there, including my own, who had really good experiences,” he said. “Everybody goes out there responsibly, making sure they don’t take anything for granted. Just because you walk it and think a fence is going to ride a certain way, it’s not always that way. [Accidents] are a part of sport, and it’s not going to be perfect.”