Oliver Townend holds his lead after Kentucky cross-country: ‘He grabbed the bit and off he went’

  • Oliver Townend retains his lead at the Land Rover Kentucky Horse Trials after the cross-country today (Saturday, 27 April).

    The British rider incurred just 1.2 time-faults with Angela Hislop’s Cooley Master Class, having taken the long route at the Normandy Bank (fence 20abc) — as did nearly all the other riders after two falls here in the first three riders — and at the last water, the Frog Pond (fence 23ab). He also took extra care to balance the horse in the latter half of the course after he lost a front shoe.

    “He was unbelievable,” said Oliver. “He felt less careful than usual, in a good way. He made up his own mind a couple of times. I’m used to him being behind me and placing him and him jumping too careful, but today he just grabbed the bit and off he went.”

    Oliver does not have a fence in hand over US rider Boyd Martin, who moved up to second on Christine Turner’s Tsetserleg with a clear inside the time. There were just three fault-free rounds today — from the riders who now lie second, third and fourth.

    “The track was a lot harder than I thought — you never want to say it, but when I walked it I thought it was softer than last year and I was very wrong,” said Boyd. “For a half-bred horse, Thomas has a wonderful gallop, he’s got plenty of speed and is very fit. Throughout the course he kept trying and trying and never looked for a way out.”

    New Zealand rider Tim Price sits in third with his own, Trisha Rickards and Nigella Hall’s Xavier Faer, who finished comfortably in the time.

    Tim, who is the live contender in the Rolex Grand Slam after his win at Burghley last year, said: “I was really pleased with my horse. He threw himself over everything — he’s not always the most organised, but he tried his hardest and we stayed upright in all the important places and made it home.”

    The home side’s Phillip Dutton is now fourth with Z, while Britain’s Piggy French has slipped from second after dressage to fifth with Jayne McGivern’s Quarrycrest Echo.

    Piggy had to ride strongly to get round — “Red” was “not at the races” and having been a bit sticky at the first water, he slipped badly on the turn away from Pete’s Hollow at fence 13abc. Piggy hung on tight and then discovered one of her stirrups had nearly come off and was caught on her spur.

    “When I gave him a kick to get going again, I felt like he’d lost a wheel, so I came back to trot to see if he was ok,” she explained.

    As the horse felt fine and jumped the next fence well, she continued, but she had another awkward jump into the Land Rover Head of the Lake at fence 17d.

    “I felt like I was going to fall off again,” she admitted, but she took the decision to ride to the straight route out, which the horse jumped honestly and he continued home to finish with 6.4 time-faults. .

    Swiss rider Felix Vogg also had 6.4 time-penalties with Colero and he slipped from fourth to sixth.

    Britain’s third rider, US-based Leslie Law on Tre’ Book’s Voltaire De Tre’, had a great ride and brought his green horse home with 11.2 time-faults to move up from 25th to 14th.

    “He was awesome, amazing — he’s just 10 years old so I really can’t complain. I had a great ride and it went as I walked it,” said Leslie.

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    Thirty-seven horses started over Derek di Grazia’s track and 26 had clear jumping rounds. Will Coleman finished inside the time on Tight Lines, but the pair were penalised with 15 penalties under the flag rule, the only combination to be hit by this rule according to the provisional results.

    There were four falls and US rider Buck Davidson broke his right collarbone when he came off his first ride Park Trader at the corner on the direct route at the Normandy Bank. There were no other serious injuries to horses or riders.

    Check back for more updates from Kentucky tomorrow. Full report in Horse & Hound magazine next week (issue dated 2 May 2019).

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