Oliver Townend was reconciled to his sixth and ninth-place standing with his two horses after dressage on Friday at the four-star Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, but he wasn’t about to give up going after the Rolex Grand Slam on the eve of cross-country.
Asked to assess his chances, he said: “I’m not high enough.
“The horses were good; as good as they have ever been. They’re both very green, relatively. But at the same time, [I am] pleased with the performances.”
Then he quickly added: “Tomorrow is another day.”
There was a British rider at the top of the rankings, however. William Fox-Pitt, riding Cool Mountain in his first 4-star, didn’t expect to find himself in such an elevated position with a score of 42.8 penalties for a fluid ride that had lots of gloss.
“I’ll be hoping he carries on,” said William, “but I certainly wasn’t coming here expecting him to win. But who knows? I’m not going to let go without a bit of a fight.”
Oliver’s test on Ashdale Cruise Master had only one major flaw, in the half-pirouette where he received 4’s. Oliver got straight 7’s on paces and impulsion, and straight 8’s for his riding.
At the end of his test, as he took off his hat and saluted, the crowd started cheering. Smiling, he waved his hat up and down, encouraging them. His score was 46.2 penalties, a single penalty behind Becky Holder of the U.S. on Courageous Comet. ODT Master Rose was scored at 49.8 penalties.
Asked if he regretted not having brought the more experienced Carousel Quest, who was eighth in Kentucky last year, Ollie said: “No. I think Ashdale Cruise Master is a very, very good horse for the future. The Grand Slam is obviously is a huge, huge thing. But to have that sort of experience in such an amazing arena is definitely a big build-up and stepping stone toward his future career.
“Looking forwards to the world championships, touch wood, it will go well and also London 2012. I think the more that we can get the really top horses into those sort of atmospheres, the better.”
Kim Severson of the U.S., a former Kentucky champion with Winsome Adante, had 44.8 penalties to finish fourth on Tipperary Liadhnan, while the overnight leader, Karen O’Connor on Mandiba, tied for second with the up-and-coming Allison Springer on Arthur with 43.7 penalties.
The only other British rider in the competition, the American-based 2004 Olympic individual gold medalist Leslie Law, had a few glitches with Fleeceworks Mystere du Val to tie for 13th on 51.8 penalties.
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