Oliver Townend has finally arrived in Lexington, Kentucky after an epic 51-hour journey.
“All those dark, icy mornings on the stable yard this winter toughened me up. We always joke that eventers only sleep in November anyway,” joked the event rider.
Oliver left his home near Ellesmere, Shropshire, on Sunday morning, bound for the Rolex Kentucky three-day-event, at which he hopes to take the Rolex Grand Slam. He travelled from London to Paris via Eurostar, and on arrival in France discovered the trains were on strike so persuaded a taxi to take him on the 14-hour drive to Madrid.
Despite the no-fly zone in the UK, Madrid airport was still open and he flew with William Fox-Pitt to Miami, taking an onward connection to Kentucky yesterday.
William Fox-Pitt, too, faced the dash from England to Madrid in order to fly to America — but he and owner Teresa Stopford-Sackville shunned the taxi route and flew by private plane.
William and Oliver shared a room overnight in the Miami International Airport Hotel before their 6.30am connection via Atlanta to Lexington yesterday morning.
Interview with Oliver on arrival in Kentucky
On his arrival in Lexington, Oliver headed straight to the competition site to exercise his two horses, Ashdale Cruise Master and ODT Master Rose, who had been in the US for a week.
“I was glad to see and ride my horses after my torturous trip. They are in great nick. I was very impressed by how well they are,” he said.
“It’s been a difficult journey but I am putting that behind me now and concentrating on the job I have to do.
“I don’t think I have suffered from the long hike to Kentucky. People who work with horses are used to long hours, early mornings and late nights.
The competition starts tomorrow, and Oliver says he is “very positive” about what lies ahead.
“This is an event to relish and I am determined to do the very best I can for the team back at the yard, my owners and all the people who support British eventing.”
A statement on William’s website read: “Now at last all they (Oliver and William) have to do is concentrate on the competition and we will worry about getting them home in time for Badminton.”