A mediocre dressage test with Master Monarch was overcome by double-clears in cross-country and show jumping to bring Andrew Hoy the $65,000 first prize in the Rolex Kentucky four-star.
The final phase was a cliff-hanger after the six-time Australian Olympian easily handled the Richard Jeffery route on the last day of the event at the Kentucky Horse Park to finish on his dressage score of 53.1pen. Then he just had to wait.
The five riders ahead of him on the leaderboard all had rails, including Britain’s Polly Stockton, who was standing second on Tom Quigley. She appeared set for a great round when the bay gelding slid into the third fence, a vertical of white planks designed to look like the fencing around the area’s thoroughbred farms. Stockton blamed herself for the refusal.
“It was rider error,” she said. “I was coming into it and I just couldn’t see my stride after all and I just sort of went, ‘Here you go, have it yourself’ and it didn’t happen. It was my fault. Then I had the last fence down.”
Eight jumping penalties and five time penalties added to her dressage score of 48.2 sank Stockton to seventh place on 61.2pen and was an ending in line with other problematical British efforts at the event. Stockton was the only British rider from overseas to finish cross-country. Emma Winter, the U.S.-based wife of Canadian rider Mike Winter, also represented Britain but remained in 19th place with three knockdowns and three time penalties.
Hoy said he wasn’t thinking about winning the $200,000 event until “only about one minute before the last competitor went in.”
That was Becky Holder of the US, the leader after cross-country on the grey thoroughbred, Courageous Comet. But Holder, seemingly done in by the pressure, dropped four rails to finish 13th and elevate Hoy to the victory. He was the fourth foreign rider to win Rolex since it became a four-star in 1998. The achievement was particularly impressive in view of the fact that Hoy was 17th after dressage and had a long way to climb to the top.
Hoy and his mount, who was third at Badminton last year, were crowd favorites, being saluted at every opportunity with the cry of “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie; Hoy, Hoy, Hoy” that was so popular at the Sydney Olympics. Hoy, in turn, waved to the crowd and at one point even bowed low to them in appreciation of their cheers.
The highest-placed U.S. rider was Heidi White, a student of U.S.-based Australian Phillip Dutton, who finished second on Northern Spy with 57.4pen after two knockdowns.
A total of 90,748 people attended Rolex this year, up from 76,000 in 2005. The figure is expected to grow even more in the wake of the Kentucky Horse Park’s successful bid to host the 2010 FEI Games.