Monday, Apr. 22, 2024

Tamie Smith Becomes First U.S. Winner Of Land Rover Kentucky Since 2008

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Lexington, Ky.—April 30

It’s been 15 years since a U.S. rider has won the Land Rover Kentucky CCI5*-L. It’s been 12 years since a woman has won the competition, and 18 years since a U.S. woman has won. On top of that it’s been 38 years since a West Coast rider has raised the trophy at Kentucky. Today, Tamie Smith became the first West Coast female rider to win the event.

I think all of us have been rooting for an American to win the Land Rover Kentucky five-star for a very long time,” said Smith, who rode her longtime partner Mai Baum. “Phillip [Dutton] brought it here in 2008; we’ve been so close so many times—Boyd [Martin] a few times. I think everyone is so grateful. I’m so happy an American won. I’m so tired of the Europeans coming over and taking our national championship.”

Tamie Smith and Mai Baum. Kimberly Loushin Photos

Smith, Murrieta, California, struggled to describe the feeling of winning her first five-star, as well as the U.S. Equestrian Federation National Five-Star Championship.

“It’s almost like an out of body experience,” she said. “This sport as everyone knows—you take a beating, and the resilient ones keep coming back for more. You hope one day it pays off. I’m honored and elated and so excited and … I don’t know. I’m a bit speechless.”

Smith started the weekend strong with a dressage score of 24.2, which put her in third place behind Yasmin Ingham (Banzai Du Loir) and Tom McEwen (JL Dublin), though she admitted she wished she’d scored higher. When Ingham picked up a stop on cross-country and McEwen notched a few time penalties, Smith took over the lead Saturday.

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Tamie Smith was elated after jumping a clear round with Mai Baum to become the first U.S. rider to win Land Rover Kentucky since 2008.

Heading into the Rolex Stadium for today’s final phase, she had little room for error. McEwen and JL Dublin, who were less than a rail behind her, had just skipped around the course fault-free.

The stadium’s 20,000-plus spectators silently held their collective breath as Smith picked up a canter and piloted Mai Baum to what would be a foot-perfect round over Steve Stephens’ course. As she landed over the last fence, clinching a win for the U.S., the ladies and the West Coast, the Kentucky Horse Park erupted in applause.

Unlike in some years, Smith made the decision to stay West this spring with “Lexus,” a 17-year-old German Sport Horse gelding (Loredano—Ramira, Rike) owned by Eric Markell and Alexandra and Ellen Ahearn, as she prepared for Kentucky. She spent time honing her show jumping under the tutelage of Scott Keach and competing at Del Mar (California), while testing her dressage skills by riding Lexus at Prix St. Georges at a national show.

“Not a lot of people understand what that feels like to be on the West Coast,” she said. “We have an amazing camaraderie with other riders there. It’s more cut-throat on the East Coast, which you expect. Go to a West Coast event, and it is very different. People aren’t used to it—it’s foreign-looking and lots of dirt.”

Liz Halliday-Sharp (right) congratulates Tamie Smith on her victory.

For his part McEwen was thrilled to take second on a horse he just started riding at the end of last summer.

“I’m elated with Dublin,” said McEwen, who hails from England. “‘Dubs’ has been unreal all week, and I couldn’t be happier as an experience I thought for us as a combination learning together still. I thought it was the best experience we could have—a true championship test. Three or four days, however you want to say it, of great sport. It’s brilliant for eventing in America to have Tamie win.”

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Tom McEwen and JL Dublin.

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Miks Master C stayed clean and clear to secure third.  

“He is the most amazing horse,” she said of “Mikki.” “For him to come in here and do his first five star and finish as he did so strong and fresh—I think he’s a Burghley and Badminton horse as well. And I hope an Olympic horse as well.”  

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Miks Master C.
Liz Halliday-Sharp celebrates after her round.
Germany’s Sandra Auffarth was fourth with Viamant Du Matz.
Phillip Dutton was fifth with his Tokyo Olympics partner, Z.
The top two in the Land Rover Kentucky CCI5*-L (left) Tom McEwen on JL Dublin and winner Tamie Smith on Mai Baum.
Hugs for Mai Baum.

And if you’re curious about those winning droughts Smith’s victory brought to a close: Phillip Dutton was the last U.S. winner (2008) aboard Connaught; Great Britain’s Mary King was the last woman to win (2011) on her homebred Kings Temptress; Kim Severson was the last U.S. woman to win—but she did three times (2002, 2004 and 2005) with Winsome Adante; and Derek di Grazia, who currently serves as the course designer at Kentucky, was the last West Coast rider to win, in 1985 riding a Thoroughbred-Appaloosa cross called Sasquatch.

Looking for more info? Check out what you need to know here.

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The Chronicle is on-site at the Kentucky Horse Park with reporters to bring you everything you need to know at coth.com, so you don’t have to miss a minute of the action. You can find all of our coverage from the week here. You can also follow along on InstagramTwitter and Facebook. Be sure to read our May 22 Kentucky Results issue for more in-depth coverage and analysis of the event. 

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