Tim Price holds the lead at Rolex Kentucky Horse Trials after the cross-country.
The New Zealand rider piloted the joint dressage leader Wesko — owned by Christina Knudsen and The Wesko Syndicate — to one of six clear rounds inside the time over Derek di Grazia’s course.
As expected, the weather was a factor today, with some rain overnight and more from 9am until about two-thirds of the way through the competition. The schedule was altered last night in an attempt to get through the cross-country before the thunderstorms predicted for this afternoon.
“I gingerly opened the curtains in the hotel this morning and it didn’t look like it had been raining all night, so that was good,” said Tim. “It was always going to be a track where you had to ride well and use your intuition and that was amplified by the going.
“But they had done a great job on the take-offs and landings so they felt safe and secure. I tried to take each fence as it came and build a good round.”
Tim dismounted when he was held on course before fence 17, due to young American Mackenna Shea — sixth overnight — falling at the double of corners at fence 21ab on Landioso.
Britain’s William Fox-Pitt was one of the last riders to compete, so had the worst of the going with Catherine Witt’s Bay My Hero. He racked up 8.4 time-faults to drop from overnight third to fourth, but was very pleased with last year’s winner.
“I was a bit worried about the ground as it had really deteriorated and he’s not a thoroughbred and doesn’t have the scopiest gallop, but I’m delighted with him — he worked hard all the way round,” said William.
Germany’s Michael Jung moved up from fourth to third with his first ride, FischerRocana FST, who went clear in the time. Joint leader La Biosthetique-Sam FBW finished one second over the time, so is now in second place.
Australia’s Bill Levett also went clear in the time on his Kentucky debut and sits in fifth — up from 19th after dressage — with Improvise. American Boyd Martin (Master Frisky) holds sixth, with his compatriot Phillip Dutton seventh (Mighty Nice) and ninth (Fernhill Cubalawn). Will Coleman’s clear in the time elevated him and OBOS O’Reilly to eighth — he won a 24-month lease on a new Land Rover for the best American cross-country performance.
Colleen Rutledge dropped to 10th with 12 time-faults on Covert Rights, fifth after dressage, but was still delighted with her homebred four-star first-timer. Lauren Kieffer (Veronica) and Marilyn Little (RF Demeter) — also home side riders who were in the top 10 overnight — both retired on course, while Laine Ashker (Anthony Patch), dropped 30 places from seventh with a stop at the coffin at fences 8 and 9ab.
Wilson next best Brit
Among the other British riders, Nicola Wilson held 11th on her parents Mary and Barry Tweddle’s Annie Clover, who had 11.2 time-faults at the end of the day. She also dropped a couple of places to 32nd with Jo and James Lambert’s Watermill Vision, who had 20 penalties at the angled rail at fence 16b when he showed his inexperience by not focusing on the fence having jumped the preceeding keyhole.
“They had only had one two-star run because I broke my collarbone at the start of the season so I’m proud of both horses for coming out and giving me lovely rounds,” she said.
Francis Whittington had to ride really hard on Catherine Witt’s Easy Target, who demolished the corner at fence 18c. The fence was not classed as frangible — it did not have pins or a MIM clip — so he was classed as jumping clear, albeit with 16.8 time-faults. He sits 16th overnight, having been 15th after dressage.
“From the beginning he wasn’t taking me,” he said. “I’m not sure if he was unsettled by the footing coming to the fences. After the corner, I kept coming and he actually built in confidence. I felt I had to nurture him and I’m glad I didn’t have a heart rate monitor on today!”
US-based Brit James Allison was eliminated on his second horse, Tivoli, but went clear inside the time on his first ride, Parker, who was another held on course.
“He’s a very fast horse and good across country, but I did get down on my minute markers,” he said. “The hold helped him as he was able to get his breath back.”
The press office has confirmed that there were no serious rider or horse injuries, a relief to hear as New Zealand rider Emily Cammock’s Dambala pulled up very lame after a good round and was taken away from the wash-off area in the horse ambulance.
More updates from Kentucky online tomorrow. Full report in H&H this week out Thursday, 30 April.