Riders prepare for Rolex Kentucky

  • Eight countries, including the United States and Britain, will be represented at the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, which begins tomorrow (April 22) at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky. It will offer both a four-star CCI and, for the first time, a separate US selection trial featuring the new Olympic cross-country format.

    Four British riders are taking part in the CCI, which was won last year as the first leg of the eventing Grand Slam by Pippa Funnell, who is not competing this time. Those making the trip from England are William Fox-Pitt with Coastal Ties and Balincoola, Polly Jackson (Limestone Rise), Sarah Cutteridge (Future Perfect) and Polly Stockton (Word for Word.)

    British team manager Yogi Breisner (pictured), says: “I’m looking forward to seeing the British horses perform at Lexington as it is this season’s first major test for leading riders and important preparation for Athens in August. Together with Badminton Horse Trials at the end of the month, Lexington is a key event in the selection process for horses and riders for our Olympic squad.“

    The riders can expect plenty of challenges from course designer Mike Etherington-Smith, who is the technical delegate for Athens, as he has given the established Athens hopefuls, as well as any outsiders hoping to catch the selectors’ eye, the opportunity to impress in both classes.

    The modified selection trial event will include an unscored brief roads and tracks segment, ending with optional warm-up obstacles, but no steeplechase. The cross-country will be run with approximately the same number of cross-country jumping efforts and at the same distances as the route set for Athens in August.

    Only open to residents of North America who have already obtained their Olympic qualification, the selection trial offers riders a chance to get comfortable with the new Olympic format, and adjust their sense of timing for a different type of challenge.

    All the members of the USA’s 2002 World Equestrian Games gold medal team are in the line-up for Kentucky. John Williams (Carrick) and Amy Tryon (Poggio II and My Beau) are set for the modified. Kim Severson (formerly Vinoski) is doing the CCI with her number one horse, Winsome Adante, who has yet to qualify for the Olympics because both she and her mount were sidelined last year. Kim had a broken leg, and Dan underwent colic surgery.

    David O’Connor, who will be retiring his 2000 Olympic gold medal horse, Custom Made, in what promises to be an emotional ceremony before the show jumping, is riding two horses. Tigger Too, who also had his own colic problems last year, is in the modified, while Courting Danger will contest the CCI.

    Another key player in the Lexington line-up is US-based Australian rider and two-time Olympic team gold medallist Phillip Dutton with four horses; Hannigan and I’m So Brite in the modified, and Nova Top and Connaught in the CCI. Other countries represented at Rolex are Belgium, Sweden, New Zealand and Canada.

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