13 pairs to watch at Kentucky five-star, including the $1 horse and Paris Olympic hopefuls

  • Want to know who the Defender Kentucky Three-Day Event riders to watch are at next week’s event (25-28 April)?

    We’ve picked out 13 pairs with a great chance of a win or a podium spot, so make sure you keep a sharp eye out for these entries, whether you’re on site at the event or watching from home.

    Kentucky Three-Day Event riders and horses to watch

    Number 11: Ariel Grald (USA) and Leamore Master Plan
    15-year-old bay gelding, by Master Imp out of a Cavalier Royale mare, owned by Annie Eldridge
    Leamore Master Plan sat out most of last year, but before that he was establishing himself as a super-consistent top-level performer: 10th at Burghley Horse Trials in 2019, fifth at Luhmühlen Horse Trials in 2021, 15th at Badminton Horse Trials 2022 and 11th (as individuals, though they did better than most of the silver medal-winning team) at that year’s World Championships. They won’t lead the dressage and are unlikely to win, but have a really good chance of finishing on their first-phase score for a strong placing.

    Number 16: Boyd Martin (USA) and Tsetserleg TSF
    17-year-old black gelding, by Windfall 2 out of a Buddenbrock mare, owned by Christine, Thomas IV and Tommie Turner
    It’s still unclear whether Boyd plans to run his pair of stars, Tsetserleg TSF and the British-bred On Cue, at Kentucky or Badminton, as they are entered in both places. Tsetserleg has been a huge servant to the sport in the USA – second at Kentucky in 2019, Pan American Games champion that year, 20th at the Tokyo Olympics and a world team silver medallist in 2022. He was ninth at Burghley last year, defying anyone who said he’s past his best, but would need to improve on his three showjumps down there to aim for a top placing here. His Kentucky record is a bit mixed – he’s been 11th and fourth as well as second, but also failed to finish twice.

    Number 17: Kirsty Chabert (GBR) and Classic VI
    15-year-old bay mare, by Calvaro FC, owned by Carole Somers, rider’s father John Johnston and Kate Ward
    Kirsty and Classic have a slightly inconsistent record, the downsides including 20 jumping penalties across country here last year. But they are certainly competitive when on their best form, having been second at Luhmühlen in 2022 and sixth at Pau last year, as well as winning at four-star three times. Capable of a sub-30 dressage test and outside chances to bid for a Paris place if they go very well here.

    Number 18: Yasmin Ingham (GBR) and Banzai Du Loir
    13-year-old chestnut gelding, by Nouma D’Auzay out of a Livarot mare, owned by Janette Chinn and The Sue Davies Fund
    This pair start as favourites, with data analytics company EquiRatings giving them a 26% win chance (JL Dublin is second at 18%). They were second here in 2022, going on to be world champions that year, and led the dressage here last April before having a run-out across country. The redeemed themselves with a win at Aachen and went to the Europeans, where they were discard score in the gold medal-winning team after another run-out. They’ve got some ground to make up in the tough British selection race for the Olympics, but a win here would make it difficult for selectors to ignore them.

    Number 20: Monica Spencer (NZL) and Artist
    13-year-old bay gelding, by Guillotine out of a Volksraad mare, owned by Monica Spencer and her husband Andre
    This pair made a real splash when they travelled from the southern hemisphere to the 2022 World Championships and contributed to team bronze. They led the dressage but fell across country at Adelaide five-star the following spring, and Monica was still rebuilding confidence from that when they were seventh at Maryland 5 Star in the autumn. She left the ex-racehorse Artist in the US after Maryland, rejoining him early this year with a couple of other horses, with the intention of basing herself in the US for her Paris campaign. They do a smart dressage test and could be right up there throughout, securing an Olympic place to boot.

    Number 23: Phillip Dutton (USA) and Quasi Cool
    13-year-old bay gelding, by Quo Vados out of a Lord mare, owned by Caroline Moran
    This horse came from Germany and has a foot-perfect international cross-country jumping record since joining Phillip in 2021. He’s won twice at four-star and was second in the CCI4*-S here last year. Phillip won Kentucky in 2008; this horse is probably too inexperienced – and will to be too far off the pace after dressage – to give him a second victory, but the multi-medalled Olympian should never be ruled out.

    Number 24: Malin Hansen-Hotopp (GER) and Carlitos Quidditch K
    12-year-old grey gelding, by Quiwi Dream out of a San Patrignano Cassini mare, owned by Bodil Ipsen
    The 2022 Blenheim Horse Trials CCI4*-L winners, whose results since have been very solid, including 12th at Aachen and 19th and team silver on their championship debut at last year’s Europeans. They would need to recapture their Blenheim form in the dressage particularly to trouble the leaders here. Malin has started at five-star once before on another horse, but not finished, and they make their Kentucky debut together.

    Number 29: Mia Farley (USA) and Phelps
    11-year-old bay gelding, owned by David O’Connor
    This pair leapt into the spotlight with the only cross-country round inside the time at Maryland last year, where they finished fifth on their five-star debut. Phelps also starred on the cover of Horse & Hound this spring, accompanying a feature about his backstory. A thoroughbred who was in training but never raced, he was sold to 2000 Olympic champion David O’Connor for a dollar by Joanie Morris, with the idea being she would get a cut when he was sold – but he never found that new home. Mia and Phelps won’t lead the dressage, but can climb the ranks if they can repeat their Maryland performance.

    Number 35: Jennie Brannigan (USA) and FE Lifestyle
    14-year-old chestnut gelding, by Leo Von Faelz out of a Brandenburger mare, owned by Nina and Tim Gardner
    Jennie and FEI Lifestyle have made steady impr0vement each time they’ve come to Kentucky, landing 24th in 2021, 16th in 2022 and 12th last year. They’ve also been fifth at Maryland and 12th at Burghley last year, despite “Foxy” not being on his best form after the trip over. Jennie expects to be a reserve for Paris rather than making the cut and she’s probably right, but a top-10 finish here is possible and could boost her up that list.

    Number 38: Oliver Townend (GBR) and Cooley Rosalent
    10-year-old grey mare, by Valent out of a Roselier mare, owned by Diana and Paul Ridgeon
    “Rosie” comes to her third five-star, despite her tender years, having had an experience-building trip round Luhmühlen last June and then been third at Maryland in the autumn, where she only lost the win with her second showjump down. She won the Blenheim young horse class last year too, and has been second in three other four-stars, including earlier this month when she had the perfect prep run at Burnham Market. A podium finish here is realistic and would push her right up the possible British batting order for Paris. Oliver has won Kentucky three times. 

    Number 40: Lauren Nicholson (USA) and Vermiculus
    17-year-old bay gelding, by Sarazim out of an Unpredictable mare, owned by Jacqueline Badger Mars
    A much-loved five-star stalwart, who has been fifth, ninth and 16th here, as well as putting in a below par dressage test in 2022, when he was recovering from a minor injury and only ever expected to contest that phase. He re-routed to Luhmühlen, where he was fourth and earned World Championship selection. They went on to contribute to team silver there. He was also ninth at Burghley 2019. Even on his best form “Bug” will be a little off the pace in the first phase, but another top-10 is realistic and would be popular.  Vermiculus is a full brother to Snooze Alarm, Lauren’s first Kentucky ride in 2010. Both are Anglo Arabs by the Arab stallion Serazim out of thoroughbred mare Wake Me Gently.

    Number 42: Liz Halliday (USA) and Cooley Nutcracker
    10-year-old black gelding, by Tolan R out of a Cobra mare, owned by the Nutcracker Syndicate
    EquiRatings rate this pair best of the home side (behind Yasmin, Tom McEwen and Oliver). Liz, who is always out to be competitive, scored her first podium place at five-star last year here when she was third on Miks Master C. This horse, who came from France’s Astier Nicolas, is making his debut at the level but won both his CCI4*-L runs last year, so don’t rule them out.

    Number 44: Tom McEwen (GBR) and JL Dublin
    13-year-old dark brown gelding, by Diarado out of a Canto 16 mare, owned by Jo and James Lambert and Deirdre Johnston
    Like Yasmin and Banzai, this pair need to prove themselves to the selectors after inconsistent form last year – they were second here at Kentucky and third at Pau, but had a run-out when leading at Aachen and Tom was unseated at the European Championships. JL Dublin was produced by Nicola Wilson, who won individual and team gold at the 2021 Europeans on him before her life-changing injuries in a fall at Badminton 2022, and remains in the same ownership so a win would be an emotional story for all involved.

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