Lexington, Ky.—April 28
If there were empty seats in the Rolex Stadium at the start of five-star dressage at the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event, they were few and far between as 1:16 p.m. approached. That was the ride time assigned to Great Britain’s Yasmin Ingham and Banzai Du Loir.
And though they might have been the up-and-coming pair at last year’s event, after a second-placed finish here and earning the individual gold at the FEI Eventing World Championships in Pratoni del Vivaro, Italy, last September, they went from a pair worth keeping on eye on to the ones you couldn’t miss.
“It was kind of a fairy tale year,” she said. “I understand doesn’t happen that often, so I absolutely made the most of it. I still look back even today—tomorrow morning I’ll be watching my round from Pratoni giving [me] confidence going into the cross-country tomorrow. I definitely still look back at my round here last year, and I’ll be watching that tomorrow morning as well.”
In the first phase, they didn’t disappoint, scoring a 22.1 to take the top spot over Thursday’s overnight leaders Great Britain’s Tom McEwen and JL Dublin.
“I think I’m always quite self-critical, so I’m always looking at areas we can do better and improve,” she said. “I think some of his canter work was a real highlight, with great changes, half-pass, and his medium and extended canters were excellent. Looking at small areas to improve on. He was super relaxed and felt really at home in the arena. He made it really nice for me to be able to ask without being standoffish, because he can be quite sharp sometimes. He definitely let me ride him today which was really important, so I’m quite happy with him.”
Watch Ingham’s winning test, courtesy of USEF Network:
Though it’s been tough to get properly prepared, with many of England’s events getting canceled due to rain, Ingham feels confident in “Banzai” to get the job done.
“I have a lot of belief in our partnership together, feeling like we can come into our partnership again with only just one run at Thoresby Park [England, where they finished third in the CCI4*-S], and he was excellent there,” she said. “[We’ve] done a lot of training over the winter, especially with our dressage, and we’re lucky to have a good cross-country schooling facility nearby, so we’ve been visiting there for training with Andrew Heffernan and Chris Bartle [in dressage] as well; he’s been helping me a lot. Trying to do as much as we can at home, unfortunately not having the runs, but I have a great belief in our partnership that we can go and give it a good shot tomorrow.”
See Ingham speak after her test:
Though the Badminton CCI5*-L (England) is happening next week, Ingham elected to come to Kentucky because she felt her run here last April set her up well for the win in Pratoni.
“The thought process behind that was to try to replicate the same thing, and have a good run here, and hopefully set us up for our summer plans,” she said. “And also the next two years our plans are mainly focused on championships. Looking toward hopefully being selected for the Europeans [in Haras du Pin, France,] and hopefully 2024 with the Olympics. That’s been a huge dream of mine since I was a little girl. I’m going to absolutely go for it for the next few years. Hopefully we can enjoy Badminton and Burghley in the future because he’s only 12, so really he still has so much more to give. I’d love to ride around Badminton some year for sure.”
While second (McEwen) and third place (Tamie Smith and Mai Baum) belonged to pairs who completed their test on Thursday, Will Coleman and Chin Tonic moved into fourth on a 25.0.
The 11-year-old Holsteiner has garnered a lot of buzz this spring due to his tendency to score in the teens. While he fell short of that mark today, it’s the gelding’s five-star debut, and Coleman believes those scores will return with a bit more seasoning and some more time spent on the basics getting him a bit sharper and quicker.
“I think that the horse tried really hard,” he said. “Definitely sort of shrunk on me a little bit in there. He’s been a lot of places, but there’s not many that feel quite like that on Friday afternoon. All things considered he’s still pretty green; it’s his first five star. For this level I’m very happy, yes. It’s hard to tell sometimes when you’re up there what was a highlight or a lowlight. You know when things are going wrong.
“Really more than anything I’m proud he held it together,” he continued. “I think he could have just sort of lost the plot a little bit. To his credit he kept trying to listen to me. When he was a little bit upside down, he was still trying to do the right thing. The highlight for me is just the character of the horse. He’s a very high quality animal.”
Coleman has had “Chin” since the gelding was 5, and described him as “a bit of an emotional roller coaster.”
“He was a stallion until he was 5, and he’s still very much [has] that machismo in there, in his temperament,” he said. “When he comes out there in a big atmosphere he can be very colt-ish, very studdy to handle and to ride, kind of funny about other horses. Just puffed up and very proud. But he can also be a little timid and a little insecure in those moments too. So it’s a fine line between keeping him submissive but also keeping him confident. That’s that puzzle we’ve been trying to figure out.”
Watch Coleman’s test, courtesy of USEF Network:
Coleman will get the chance to ride Derek di Grazia’s course first on his veteran partner Off The Record and then will be the last rider out on course with Chin. He admitted that for both horses stamina is the biggest question, as neither of them are Thoroughbreds, and at 11 minutes 26 seconds, it’s a big test ahead of them.
“I feel like he’s ready to go and give it a crack,” he said. “He’s as fit as he’s ever been; I feel very confident about that. Whether he’s going to have enough stamina for a five-star, that’s why we’re here, to answer that question.”
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