Oliver Townend leads British one-two after Kentucky dressage: ‘He’s reliable, but makes me work’

Oliver Townend heads a British one-two at the conclusion of dressage at the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event.

Starting in the first session this afternoon (26 April), Oliver rode a superb test on Angela Hislop’s Cooley Master Class to score 24.1, with the marks only dropping down in one of the flying changes.

“He was a good boy, but he made me work in there,” he said. “He’s very experienced — not at this level, but I’ve had him since he was four years old and he knows me and I know him. It’s nice to come and not have to worry about him boiling over. It’s more about getting to the end without me sweating too much!”

Oliver won this event last year on Cooley Master Class, so they are looking to defend their title this week.

Piggy French still holds second for Britain after taking the lead this morning on Jayne McGivern’s Quarrycrest Echo.

Two riders before Oliver, Tim Price scored 30.9, which slotted him into equal fifth place (alongside Liz Halliday-Sharp and Deniro Z) at the end of the day. His ride here is Xavier Faer, who belongs to his breeder Trisha Rickards, Nigella Hall and Tim.

“He made a couple of mistakes in the right to left changes, which are his weak points, but other than that he did some of the best work in the ring,” said Tim. “He’s a bit of a random spooky horse and can see a dragon, but none appeared today. He’s getting more professional at the ripe old age of 13.”

The New Zealand rider is the live contender in the Rolex Grand Slam, the big-money bonus awarded to any rider who can win Badminton, Kentucky and Burghley consecutively, as he won Burghley last autumn on Ringwood Sky Boy.

In the final session, Boyd Martin gave the home side something to cheer about by taking third on 27.9, riding Christine Turner’s Tsetserleg.

“You never know quite how it looks when you’re riding it. He’s a bit spooky and distracted, but he presents a lovely picture and he’s pretty seasoned now,” said Boyd.

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The cross-country takes place tomorrow over a track designed by Derek di Grazia, who is also responsible for the course at the Tokyo Olympics next year.

“He’s an exceptional course-designer and I enjoy coming here to see what challenges he sets,” said Oliver. “It’s huge and technical — you could have a good round with 40 penalties.”

Piggy is the first British rider out, at 12.10pm local time (5.10pm in Britain), with Oliver starting at 1.15pm local time (6.15pm in Britain). The third Team GBR competitor, Leslie Law on Voltaire De Tre’, heads off at 12.35pm local time (1.35pm in Britain).

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