Michael Pollard and Mensa G (pictured above) have sprung a surprise during the first day of dressage at Rolex Kentucky Horse Trials in the US and they lead the field of 60 on a score of 49.5.
Thanks to netting one of only 2 sub-50 marks, Michael has left bigger names trailing in his wake, including William Fox-Pitt and Seacookie TSF.
The British pair lie in 5th place on 51.5, while Burghley 2012 runner-up Sinead Halpin was visibly upset after hearing her mark of 51.7 for 6th aboard Manoir De Carneville.
The leader admitted that he had managed to coax his best work out of Mensa G.
“I did leave some points on the table, especially with some of his changes, and I really thought someone would sneak in front of me today,” said Michael. “However, I’m not that surprised to be in the lead. He’s a horse who can do a very good test.”
Michael’s 16-year-old mount was brought out by US rider Andrea Leatherman before the ride was passed to Carl Bouckaert, Michael’s father-in-law, in 2011 with the Belgian competitor considering the dark bay thoroughbred a possible London ride.
In a scoreboard dominated by US riders, Will Faudree and Pawlow lie in 2nd, a mere 0.3 of a penalty off the pace.
“It sucks going on Thursday morning with my horse,” said Will referring to the laid back nature of Pawlow coupled with the lack of atmosphere at that time in Kentucky’s main stadium. “But Pawlow did stay rideable and overall I’m really pleased with him.”
Owner Jennifer Mosing purchased the Polish thoroughbred for Will to ride and the gelding has risen through the ranks with his rider, earning a shortlisting for both the 2010 WEG and the London Olympics, as well as the nickname ‘Mr Perfect’.
Doug Payne lies in 3rd place with Crown Talisman, but he explained that he will be withdrawing as he has a Land Rover grant to compete at Saumur in France.
Sarah Bullimore, the only other Brit drawn to go today, is in 9th place with Reve Du Rouet. This pair scored 52.7 with the horse’s only blip coming at the end of the walk pirouette.
“I should be pleased because he’s been difficult this spring. For him it was a super test as there are days when he can act like a 4-year-old,” said Sarah.
Looking ahead to cross-country
Derek di Grazia’s 27-fence cross-country track with an optimum time of 11min 12sec is already prompting much discussion.
Sarah Bullimore said: “There are plenty of places to make a mistake and the double of brushes is on a particularly acute angle. I was told this was an ideal run for my first time here, but when I arrived I found that they had beefed up the track.”
Will Faudree said: “The Kentucky track is always so beautifully presented and inviting, but the effect of the fences is cumulative.”
This 37th running of this event was given an added dimension by yesterday’s announcement that Jock Paget had lost his Burghley title, leaving the winners Andrew Nicholson and Avebury in line with a chance to clinch a 2nd leg of the Rolex Grand Slam here in Kentucky.
This pair will appear in the arena tomorrow afternoon at 2.02pm local time near the end of the penultimate session.
Britain’s Rolex debutante Alice Dunsdon will ride Fernhill Present on Friday morning, while leading lights due into the arena in the afternoon include William Fox-Pitt on Bay My Hero and the USA’s Alison Springer with Arthur, enjoying his first run at 4-star level since he finished 6th at Burghley in 2012.
Rolex Kentucky Horse Trials results after dressage day one
1, Michael Pollard/Mensa G (USA), 49.5
2, Will Faudree/Pawlow (USA), 49.8
3, Doug Payne/Crown Talisman (USA), 51.2
4, Marilyn Little/RF Demeter (USA), 51.3
5, William Fox-Pitt/Seacookie TSF (GBR), 51.5
6, Sinead Halpin/Manoir De Carneville (USA), 51.7
7, Emily Beshear/Here’s To You (USA), 52.2
8, Phillip Dutton/Trading Aces (USA), 52.5
9, Sarah Bullimore/Reve Du Rouet (GBR), 52.7
10, Buck Davidson/Petite Flower (USA), 54
31, James Alliston/Parker (GBR), 69.2