‘You have to prove your worth’: British Olympic hopefuls among Kentucky five-star entries

  • Two former Kentucky runners-up are among the five British Defender Kentucky Three-Day Event entries for this year’s event (25-28 April).

    Tom McEwen and JL Dublin, owned by Jo and James Lambert and Deirdre Johnston, were second at Kentucky last year and return this year with an eye on an Olympic place. The pair won their recent prep run in the CCI4*-S at Kronenberg in the Netherlands.

    Tom told H&H: “As usual with the British team there are a lot of us working towards the Olympics. We’ve all got our own thoughts on where we lie, but really it’s starting from scratch this year and you have to prove your worth. Oliver Townend did that by winning Kentucky before Tokyo with Ballaghmor Class, so I had that in mind when making the decision where to go. JL Dublin is very fit and well. I thought Kentucky would suit him again – we just need to come out and prove how good he is.”

    World champions Yasmin Ingham and Banzai Du Loir also head back to Kentucky hoping to catch the selectors’ eye. The chestnut, who belongs to Janette Chinn and The Sue Davies Fund, were second at Kentucky in 2022 and led the dressage last year before 20 jumping penalties across country put paid to a win.

    Ros Canter and her own and Alex Moody’s Izilot DHI have an entry for Kentucky as well as Badminton Horse Trials, so options remain open this spring. Last year’s Badminton winner Lordships Graffalo is likely to be Ros’s first choice for Paris, but the exciting Pau Horse Trials winner “Isaac” could be a useful back-up horse. This will be Ros’s Kentucky debut if she heads there.

    Oliver Townend has won Kentucky three times and returns this year with Cooley Rosalent, who proved she likes the US with third at Maryland 5 Star last year. Oliver also has Cooley Rosalent among his Badminton entries and both she and fellow Badminton entrant Ballaghmor Class will be on the selectors’ radar for Paris.

    Kirsty Chabert and Classic VI, owned by Carol Somers, Kate Ward and Kirsty’s father John Johnston, completed Kentucky last year, but also had 20 jumping penalties across country, so they will aim to improve on that this time. Kirsty would not be quite among the front runners of riders for British Olympic selection but should not be ruled out and has been a championship reserve previously.

    One Irish pair among Kentucky Three-Day Event entries

    Others crossing the Atlantic for a tilt at Kentucky include Ireland’s Susie Berry with Clever Trick (owned by her rider, Anne Marling and Sue Wilkinson) and 2022 Blenheim Horse Trials CCI4*-L winners and European team silver medallists Marlin Hansen-Hotopp and Bodil Ipsen’s Carlitos Quidditch K, from Germany.

    Unsurprisingly, last year’s winners, Tamie Smith and Mai Baum are not among the Kentucky Three-Day Event entries for the five-star – Mai Baum is 18 and Tamie will want to save him for Paris 2024 as much as possible. He is among her three entries in the accompanying CCI4*-S. Tamie is entered on the five-star debutant Elliot V.

    The US challenge is headed up by the likes of Phillip Dutton, who has three rides, Doug Payne, whose two entrants include previous Kentucky podium finisher Quantum Leap, and Liz Halliday with the rising star Cooley Nutcracker, who is owned by a syndicate. Many will be excited to see Arial Grald return with Annie Eldridge’s consistent performer Leamore Master Plan, who sat out last year.

    Four US combinations are entered at both Badminton and Kentucky – Boyd Martin’s pair of stars On Cue and Tsetserleg TSF, Meghan O’Donoghue with Palm Crescent and Northamptonshire-based Grace Taylor with her mother Ann’s Game Changer. It will be Grace’s debut at Kentucky or Badminton, though she has completed the cross-country at Burghley Horse Trials with this horse.

    Monica Spencer, the New Zealand rider who is now based in the US, will also be one to watch with her world team bronze medallist Artist.

    There are three British entries in the CCI4*-S – Leslie Law, the 2004 Olympic champion who has long lived in the US, is in the line-up on Jackie and Steve Brown’s Lady Chatterley, while Lucienne Bellissimo is entered on Dyri and Tremanton, who run in the name of her equestrian network company Horse Scout Eventing, LLC. Lucienne (née Elms) is married to Mark Bellissimo, CEO of Equestrian Sport Productions, the company behind a number of large scale US equestrian venues and events, including the Winter Equestrian Festival in Florida.

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