William Fox-Pitt and Bay My Hero (Shannon Brinkman Photo)
Lexington, Ky. – An exciting day unfolded at the Kentucky Horse Park for the cross country phase of the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event presented by Land Rover. A crowd of 35,471 turned out to see the influential phase that caused a change-up to the leaderboard. Fifty-five horse-and-rider combinations began the trek across Derek di Grazia’s substantial course made up of 45 jumping efforts with 19 pairs going double clear, six retiring on course, and 10 being eliminated.
William Fox-Pitt (GBR) and Bay My Hero moved up into first place after overnight leader Allison Springer (Middleburg, Va.) and Arthur had an unfortunate runout at 21c, the curvy brush of the Normandy Bank complex. Fox-Pitt rode Catherine Witt’s 11-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding to a double clear round to remain on his dressage score of 44.0 heading into the final phase of competition. Despite a sticky ride through 19abc, the second part of the Rolex Head of the Lake complex, the pair put together a solid round over the track covering 6,430 meters.
“I think that the course really encouraged forward riding and as you saw a lot of horses did go well for that. I was delighted with how the course rode,” Fox-Pitt shared. “I knew for my two horses that it was a decent track and a big test. There were certain things on the course here that do throw out surprises, you never quite know how the coffin is going to ride and some of the waters… it just shows how you have to have confidence in the course designer and you have to ride how he would hope you would ride and the horses will respond.”
Commenting further on his two rides, Fox-Pitt said, “I was thrilled with both my horses but particularly Bay My Hero who is much less experienced. It’s actually the first time he has done a three-day up and down hills like that. A lot of his three-days in the past have been rather flat… I’m very happy with him. He was a little bit surprised by the Head of the Lake but in the end I know if he can see where to go he is going to go there. He is as clever as a cat and super genuine. He carried his tubby little body inside the time as well.”
Moving up one place into second with a score of 46.7 were Lauren Kieffer (Middleburg, Va.) and Veronica on the strength of a double clear round. Kieffer and Team Rebecca, LLC’s 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare were having a great round when they were held shortly before the Rolex Head of the Lake. The pair found their rhythm again after the complex and to finish the course strongly. As the top U.S. pair, Kieffer and Veronica are currently in contention for the Rolex/USEF National CCI4* Championship title.
“I was thrilled with my mare; she really fought for it,” Kieffer said of her round. “You know I went out knowing I had to ride every combination, there were a lot of big questions. Especially after the hold we had to fight for it through the Head of the Lake. We had to get back in a rhythm and everything… you had to really focus on being accurate.”
Lying in third after a great round over the demanding track were Phillip Dutton (West Grove, Pa.) and Mr. Medicott. He and Mr. Medicott Syndicate’s 15-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding never looked in doubt of anything but an excellent go over the beautiful cross country course.
“I think the conditions were ideal for the running today. My first horse [Trading Aces] really learned a lot today. I tried to ride him forward and aggressively but still give him time to look at jumps and I think he went better and better. Mr. Medicott has been around so many courses throughout the world I was just hanging on and letting him do it. It was a pretty easy ride for me.”
Dutton finished exactly on the optimum time of 11:12 with Trading Aces, the 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding owned by Trading Aces LLC. As the top U.S. rider to finish closest to the optimum time without penalty, Dutton was deemed to have the Land Rover Best Ride of the Day, resulting in a two-year lease on 2014 Range Rover Evoque.
Looking towards the final phase on Sunday, the riders hope to have jumping rounds as good as their cross country rounds. Kieffer noted that all spring the horse trials and CICs have mostly had show jumping before the cross country so it will be a different ride with horses who have just completed a CCI4* cross country course. Dutton added that it is a long competition for the horses and that it should be an interesting day.
“Hopefully the horses will come out and hopefully Bay My Hero will feel good,” Fox-Pitt said. “He can jump very well; he’s a real tryer. He will also find it quite exciting in there. He will be peaking at everything. If he’s concentrating he should jump well.”
The final horse inspection takes place at 9:00am ET with the jumping phase getting underway at 12:30pm ET.
By Kathleen Landwehr
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For more information about the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event presented by Land Rover, visit www.rk3de.org.
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