Lexington, Ky.—April 28
Only three riders in the 41-year history of the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event have won it more than once, and it was down to the wire in today’s show jumping as Oliver Townend hoped to become the fourth with his 2018 winner Cooley Master Class.
Nine of 31 riders jumped double clear over Richard Jeffries’ course in the Rolex Stadium, four of which put the pressure on Townend as the last to jump, but “Cooley” kept the poles up to clinch his second win in his second five-star.
Townend jumped in third place last year and moved up for the win, so he admitted today added much more pressure as the leader heading into the ring.
“He had a little rub at the Land Rover water tray [fence 8,] and he’s so careful, then apologizes for the next six, so he’s just a very, very cool horse, but it was definitely the most pressurizing round I’ve ever ridden under,” he said. “I was just very happy with the way he performed for me, and I’m glad I didn’t muck it up for him.”
Townend’s had Angela Hislop’s 14-year-old Irish Sport Horse (Ramiro B—The Swallow, Master Imp) since he was four, but “niggles” along the way have slowed down his progression to the top levels.
“It’s a huge team effort, and so much effort has gone in, not just on my part,” he said. “But right from word ‘go’ he’s had a career with niggles, and we’ve gotten to the bottom of that, and we’ve finally got him on top form. We’ve always believed in him hugely. The horse is pure class, and it was just my job to press the buttons at the right point in time, and he delivered again, so I couldn’t be more proud for the horse and the whole team at Gadlas Farm.”
Watch Townend’s round via USEF Network:
It’s been 11 years since the last U.S. rider won Kentucky—Phillip Dutton and Connaught in 2008—and Boyd Martin was hoping for this year to be his moment. He and Christine Turner’s 12-year-old Trakehner gelding (Windfall—Thabana, Buddenbrock) finished on their dressage score of 27.9 with a lovely clear round today, but it wasn’t quite enough to best Townend. Martin earned the Land Rover/USEF CCI5* National Championship as the highest-placed U.S. rider.
“I was thrilled with my bloke today,” he said. “He doesn’t give you the most confidence in the warm-up; he’s jumping all over the shop and twisting, and I heard these two [Townend and third-placed Tim Price] giggling at me in the warm-up, but he’s a brave little horse. He gets in the ring and spooks just a little bit, and I do have to say, I think he likes a bit of atmosphere and a crowd.
“Christine Turner, who owns the horse, has been through a few riders, and we’ve had a few ups and downs, and obviously last year [at the FEI World Equestrian Games (North Carolina)] was a bit of a disappointment, and this year he’s come out blazing,” he continued. “I just had a sigh of relief that he exceeded my expectations, and I think he’s just going to grow and get better from this event.”
Watch Martin’s ride, courtesy of USEF Network:
Price remained in third place with Xavier Faer, a 13-year-old British Sport Horse gelding (Catherston Liberator—Faerie Dazzler, Catherston Dazzler) owned by Trisha Rickards, after a clear round.
“My guy is a bit of a Kinder surprise; you’re never quite sure what you’re gonna get,” he said. “He’s spooky, so in a way he’s quite simple to work with because I know it’s going to be there; it’s just a matter of where. Liverpools, he takes a special disliking to, and the whole middle of the arena was like an ocean of water trays. He’s maintaining a good technique, jumped beautifully; he’s just a lovely, big, scopey brave, honest horse. I just love riding a horse like that.”
Fence 8, the Land Rover liverpool oxer in the center of the ring, caused the most grief with 11 pairs pulling a rail. After that, seven faulted at one part of the triple combination, which came late in the course. Only two riders, Martin and Price, finished the weekend on their dressage score.
Five U.S. riders finished in the top 10. A double clear performance for Doug Payne and Vandiver moved them up from seventh to fifth, giving them the reserve Land Rover/USEF CCI5* National Championship. Phillip Dutton had two rails with Z to drop to seventh. Lauren Kieffer finished eighth and ninth with Paramount Importance and Vermiculus respectively.
We’re on site at the Kentucky Horse Park to bring you all the info and photos you need to know from the biggest event of the year. Check back all weekend at coth.com and be sure to pick up the May 20 print edition of the Chronicle for much more.