Kyle Carter, the Chronicle’s Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event handicapper, is an Olympic veteran for Canada. He also earned team silver at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games (Kentucky) and the 2007 Pan American Games (Brazil), as well as placing second in the 1999 Rolex Kentucky CCI4*-L. Carter currently holds the record for coaching the most gold medalists at the FEI North American Youth Championships, and he served as the coach for the Guatemalan and Venezuelan eventing teams. He is a co-founder and coach for Ride IQ, and he and his wife, Jennifer Carter, run Five Ring Stable in Citra, Florida. We caught up with him after cross-country Saturday to share his thoughts on the five-star.
Usually the Europeans come over here and they just trounce everybody. There’s no doubt that Michael Jung did that, as expected, and it’s really awesome we all get to see him. But when you look at what the U.S. riders were doing on cross-country, they actually moved themselves up ahead of the Brits and the foreign riders.
Dressage scores aside, because I think they were not reflective of what they might get somewhere else, I don’t think anybody really could say “Oh, it’s just because it’s an American five-star” at all. The course caused trouble amongst really top horses and top riders. The Americans did a good job at proving themselves on the day that they needed to, instead of looking fancy on the flat and not following through on cross-country, which has historically been the issue. American riders can be really proud of that.
Meanwhile, course designer Derek di Grazia did a good job at making sure that if horses got to a certain point, they could come home without any real risk. That was clever on his part.
The Top Riders
FischerChipmunk gallops so incredibly, and Michael rides with a level of confidence that the horse is going to work things out. He rides like he believes in the horse, and I think that’s his magic on everything he rides. That comes from riding good horses. If you put someone on horses that are a bunch of donkeys, they’re going to start twitching a little bit. He doesn’t twitch at all, and he’s a great competitor because of it. His gift is being able to ride with full belief and horses respond to that, without a doubt. And, that horse is super.
Boyd Martin’s horse Tsetserleg TSF looked super healthy and within himself all the way through the end of the course. Obviously, Boyd was really happy with how the horse went [they sit in second place after cross-country on a double clear], and he just was a little less casual at the end of the course than last year [when the pair fell several fences from home]. With the way Boyd’s horse finished, it looks like it should jump well Sunday. I don’t think he’s a threat to Michael Jung [who is leading by 9.2 penalties], because it would take some sort of disaster for that to go the wrong way, but it does happen. It’s sport.
It’ll be a big ask of young British rider Yasmin Ingham not to succumb to the pressure of sitting in third place, but I think she’s proving she’s got that confidence and wherewithal to be able to do that. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see her having a clear or one rail down, as her horse Banzai Du Loir is traditionally good in show jumping.
I thought Buck Davidson absolutely rode way above his pay grade on Carlevo. Not because the horse isn’t a capable jumper, but because he struggles with the speed, and Buck milked every bit out of him to be able to stay in fourth place. The footing was perfect for that horse to be able to stay on top of it and keep running—it doesn’t like the mud, and it was a bit firm out there today. It was a testament to the horse and to Buck working stuff out. I have a lot of belief in Buck’s ability to bring that home Sunday and finish on their cross-country score.
Doug Payne’s younger mount Quantum Leap [now tied for fifth place] has stepped up and showed very good class as he started to do more five-stars and started to get more confident. He looks like a very worthy successor to Vandiver. This was Doug’s swan song on Vandiver [he announced Saturday evening that “Quinn” is retiring from the top levels], and too bad it didn’t go all the way his way, but I think the horse looked a little bit tired. It looked a little bit older today, so it’s nice he’s going to let him have a different track [competing with Doug’s groom Courtney Carson]. I don’t think it’s going to affect Doug too much because he’s got such a good layer of horses behind Vandiver.
I love Sydney Elliot’s horse QC Diamantaire [now tied for fifth]. She rides it great. I thought she was going to make time. He might jump a bit big, but he jumps forward too; I would’ve thought he would’ve covered the spreads enough to make the time. She’s done a great job, and I really think they’re going to do well Sunday.
Phillip Dutton did exactly what I would’ve expected of Phillip on a good Thoroughbred. [The pair turned in the first of the day’s three double-clear rounds Saturday, which moved them from 31st place to seventh, the biggest jump on the leaderboard.] I watched Sea Of Clouds go at Jersey Fresh last year, and he just motored around. Phillip rode as well as I’ve seen him ride just because the horse really suits him down to a T. It’s awesome to see. I feel like he’s going to go in and do really good Sunday, too, because Phillip is a master in the show jumping ring.
Will Coleman went as quick as he could on Off The Record [who dropped from seventh place to eighth with 7.2 cross-country time penalties]. The horse got a little bit tired at the end, and time started to slip away, but he never lost his shape over a fence. Will rode fantastic all the way around, and I feel like that’s going to push this horse to a higher level of fitness that will allow him to be even more competitive the next time. His other horse Dondante [in 10th after cross-country] is really coming into his own. To be the first one out and just have 4 time penalties is so commendable.
Pippa Funnell [in ninth with Maybach] is amazing. That last water when Maybach tripped going into the water, she never took her eyes off the next jump. The thing with Pippa is that she just doesn’t ever quit, and that’s something people really should learn from watching her go. Her style is different than some of the American riders, but her commitment is so great that she can overcome what seem like insurmountable things.
I was amazed with the Irish horse Calmaro [in 11th after cross-country] because it actually went around a little greener than expected, especially at the coffin. It jumped straight up in the air. I thought it was a brave move to put it on the airplane, because usually when foreign riders come over, they’re so solid. This horse started green and looked like it got way better as it went around, and that says everything about Joseph Murphy as a rider. My suspicion based on the way it finished is that it’s going to be unbelievable going forward.
• I was super thrilled to see Hannah Sue Burnett go out on her second horse well. Time slipped away a little bit, but she still was pretty quick. For a 19-year-old horse Harbour Pilot jumped really well at the end. It was awesome. On her first one, Capitol HIM, [where she fell at the final water] it looked like it was a situation where instead of wait she needed to kick at it, and if he added he would’ve had a little more power. It was unfortunate because she was having a good round, and she deserves a good round.
I was happy when she went on the next one that she was in a head space to just go for it. He’s had some issues at the five-star level, so that was a big ask, and she really stepped up. She needs to take home what she was able to do on Harbour Pilot because that’s something that’s going to make her able to bring on all her other horses successfully.
• Alexandra MacLeod’s horse Newmarket Jack was absolutely what I was hoping for; I fell in love with him in an even larger capacity. That horse looks like he’s going to want to keep jumping around for however many years he can keep going. He was just there to play.
• Zoe Crawford did a really good job bringing K.E.C. Zara around. That is a top horse that, if it was more rideable, could just do anything. She gets away with so much because she has so much scope and gallop and run and desire, but it’s going to always keep her a little bit out of it. Zoe did a good job making that happen.
• Meghan O’Donoghue did a really good job. I thought Palm Crescent would’ve been faster, being that she rides him so fluidly. As she was finishing, she looked like she was trying to get back up there, and it’s always hard at this level. With her experience I expected her to be able to have that done.
• Jessica Phoenix was incredibly good on Bogue Sound. She rode so well. I watched him gallop away out of the start box and I was like, “Oh my God, that’s the reason you have a horse like that.” Whatever else happens with them, he absolutely made that look physically easy.
• I was disappointed for Sarah Bullimore [who dropped from second to 24th after picking up a runout late on course], but Corouet just looked a little bit unrideable, and, to me, when they are that way you’re often just rolling your dice a little. It looked like she got away with a couple things. and then it caught her out. I was disappointed for her because I’ve been watching the horse all week, and I really thought it was going to be an absolute threat.
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The Chronicle of the Horse will be on-site all week for the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event bringing you reports from each round of competition, beautiful photos and stories from the competitors. Follow along with all of our coverage here, and be sure to read our May 23 Kentucky Results issue for more in-depth coverage and analysis of the event.