Lexington, Ky.—April 24
What do Michael Jung’s La Biosthetique Sam FBW, Tim Price’s Wesko and William Fox-Pitt’s Bay My Hero have in common? They’re all winners of four-stars—and they’re all fighting for another win this weekend.
After two days of dressage, Jung on “Sam” and Price are tied for the lead on 36.3. Fox-Pitt’s lurking behind them on 38.5 penalties with last year’s Rolex winner Bay My Hero.
“I didn’t single out Michael,” said Price, who won last year’s Luhmühlen CCI**** (Germany) with Wesko. “It was a very strong field this year, so that set the challenge even higher, and the task seemed quite serious. I came with all intents to do what I’ve done today because he’s a very capable horse. I just wanted to put my best foot forward, and I almost did that.”
Jung’s also sitting fourth on yesterday’s dressage winner, Fischerrocana FST.
“I think [Sam] had a little better movements, and he presented better [than Fischerrocana]. My feeling was not really good on him because he was very nervous,” said Jung. “You could see it in the halt and the reinback and the walk-canter transition, but everything else works well, so I’m happy with him also.”
Price targeted this event for “Dash” after the gelding struggled at last year’s Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games (France). “I thought it would really suit this horse,” he said. “I’m hoping it would allow him back into a good result. He had a very good spring last year, but then the WEG didn’t go to plan, and the ground there wasn’t good for every horse. He didn’t complete, and I wanted to avoid somewhere where the same thing might happen.”
Colleen Rutledge is the highest-placed U.S. rider, in fifth on her own Covert Rights, with a score of 42.3 penalties. This is the horse’s first four-star.
Mackenna Shea, who’s the youngest in the field this year at 22 and came from California for this event, is sixth on 43.7 penalties.
“I really just wanted to do a good test,” Shea said. “I just wanted to keep riding. I didn’t want to get in there and freeze up. I was focusing on riding the movements and not pulling on the reins. I was a little nervous, and he was a little fresher [in the warm up today] because I think it was colder this morning than when I was riding him yesterday, but it ended really well. I was a little nervous in the beginning, but I took a deep breath, and it went really well.”
In a surprising moment of the afternoon, British rider Zara Phillips withdrew High Kingdom from the warm-up ring. The horse kicked the wall of his stall about an hour before Phillips got on him to warm up for dressage.
“He had a wound, which we attended to immediately, but once we started the warm-up process, it was clear the horse was just not 100 percent, so we made the decision to withdraw,” said British Eventing Chef d’Equipe Yogi Bresner. “It’s a long way to come to not being able to compete. High Kingdom is coming in extremely good form to this competition, and Zara was looking forward to the cross-country. It’s with great sadness that we had to withdraw him. But the health and safety of the horse is paramount in these situations.”
Cross-country kicks off at 9:45 a.m. tomorrow local time, and all eyes are on the weather. There’s currently a 90 percent chance of rain for most of the day, with storms also forecasted. Thanks to that ominous forecast, organizers will send most of the horses out at three-minute intervals instead of five. Don’t miss Jimmy Wofford’s words on what’s to come.
In the press conference, Michael Jung and William Fox-Pitt answered the question of what would make them wear a top hat in the dressage.
“For me, it’s tradition and part of the dress,” said Fox-Pitt. “It’s top hat and tails, and it’s not crash hat and tails. It might take someone designing a slightly better-looking helmet to be honest. I don’t want to look like I should be on a skateboard.”
This is Tim Price’s first time competing at the Rolex Kentucky CCI****, but it’s not his first time at the Kentucky Horse Park. When he was younger he catch-rode a horse at the novice level in a competition.
“I sold a horse when I was 18 to someone over here, and then I was backpacking around with a friend, and I rode her horse a little bit, and she said, ‘Would you like to ride him in a horse trial?’ And that was here. So it’s quite weird coming back in such a different capacity,” he said.
See the full scores on the Rolex Kentucky website. Make sure to check out our play-by-play of today’s dressage action and see the photo gallery. Or you can look at all of the Chronicle’s Rolex coverage.