April 27—Lexington, Ky.
Allison Springer has been trying to win Rolex Kentucky with Arthur for years, but in their fifth start in the CCI**** together, she’s changing her tune.
“For many years I put a lot of pressure on myself to win or to produce a certain result,” said Springer, 37. “But I have a bit of a different attitude this year. We won at The Fork [N.C.] before coming here, and that was a big division there with great horses. But I really wasn’t focused on the win there. I was focused on producing the best ride, every time.”
Springer, of Marshall, Va., continued that mantra today, and it paid off in a big way. She’ll head into cross-country tomorrow in the lead, having scored 39.8 penalties with her longtime partner.
“This was the first test here at Kentucky that I’ve actually really been excited about,” Springer admitted. "Most people know that he’s a pretty spooky horse, and he wasn’t un-spooky today, but he tried so hard, and he listened to me. I think the difference is the change in my approach and the overall relaxed feeling that goes with it.
“I sound like a weird yoga girl or something,” Springer added, laughing. “I mean, I am a weird yoga girl… But I know what I need to do to produce my best performance, and that’s what I concentrated on at The Fork, and my best was good enough.”
William Fox-Pitt, who stands second (41.3) with his 2011 Land Rover Burghley CCI**** winner Parklane Hawk, noted how good Springer’s best can be.
“Allison did a fabulous test, and that’s a beautiful horse,” said Fox-Pitt, of Dorset, England. “So to be just behind that is fine.”
Fox-Pitt, 43, said he was pleased with his mount’s performance today and praised the 12-year-old gelding’s ability and overall focus.
“I think he did some lovely work in there; he did a very nice test,” he said. “[But] it wasn’t perfect. The annoying thing, a little bit, was that the blips he made this year, he didn’t make last year. So the trot work has come on a lot, but last year the canter work was his stronger thing, and he just had a few moments of tension there today.
“I think after they’ve done a big four-star like Burghley, they do come back a little bit on their toes,” Fox-Pitt continued. “They’ve gone out of the season on a bang, and to come back on an atmosphere like we had today in a big arena, they can just feel a little bit edgy. That proved to be a little bit expensive.”
Clark Montgomery’s mount Loughan Glen slotted into third place (43.2) in his first four-star start. The 9-year-old gelding has skipped up the levels with ease, and his Fairburn, Ga., rider credits his “pleaser” personality.
“I think he understands already the three phases of eventing, but he still has to grow up and get better with his strength,” said Montgomery, 30. “We’ll try to be competitive, keeping in mind that he’s a young, green horse. If at any point [on tomorrow’s cross-country course] he feels like he needs to slow down or take an option, [we will]. He needs to gain confidence more than he needs to try to win this event.
“But since he’s such a pleaser, he always tries,” he continued. “You go into an atmosphere like today, and he just handles it so well. He’s an awesome competitor.”
Karen O’Connor’s Olympic hopeful mount Mr. Medicott trotted into fourth place (44.2), followed closely by New Zealand rider Jonathan Paget and Clifton Promise (44.8). Yesterday’s leaders, Boyd Martin and Remington XXV, now stand sixth on their 45.3 penalties.
Cross-country begins tomorrow at 10:04 a.m. Check out the full provisional results at the Rolex Kentucky website.