The 2019 top two could repeat their results in a rematch, says H&H eventing editor Pippa Roome as she previews the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event...
The Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event (22-25 April) had a tumultuous build-up this year, with the initial decision to cancel being overturned after crowd-funding raised over $550,000 (about £400,000). Seventy-one horses from seven nations are scheduled to start – a strong starting field for the only five-star of the 2021 spring season.
So who are the key Kentucky Three-Day Event riders you need to know about?
Phillip Dutton, 57 (USA)
Phillip is the US’s most recent Kentucky winner, back in 2008 on Connaught. His top ride Z (pictured) has been fourth and seventh here, as well as 13th at the 2018 World Equestrian Games, and good recent four-star form suggests he can be in the top five again, although he wouldn’t expect to head the first phase. His second ride Fernhill Singapore makes his five-star debut and could also be in the money.
Liz Halliday-Sharp, 42 (USA)
Deniro Z’s (pictured) only previous Kentucky ended in a fall at fence three, but he’s been eighth at Luhmühlen and 15th at Burghley. He missed one of his prep runs due to an abscess, but if he can show the form that led to two CCI4*-S wins last season, he should be competitive. He finds flying changes tricky, but is otherwise smart in the first phase. Liz is also entered on Cooley Quicksilver.
Marilyn Little, 39 (USA)
Third here in 2018 and fourth at Luhmühlen the year before, Marilyn and RF Scandalous (pictured) are certainly in it to win it. They’ve triumphed 13 times internationally, helped by brilliant dressage scores. Their cross-country form is a touch uneven and they retired across country on their four-star long run last autumn, but bounced back with four-star short wins at Red Hills and Stable View this spring.
Boyd Martin, 41 (USA)
Boyd has three horses entered, but the undoubted star is Tsetserleg TSF (pictured), who was second here the last time the event ran, in 2019, and who has won Pan Am Games double gold since. He also took the four-star long at Tryon in the autumn last year. This pair are probably the US’s greatest hope for a home-side win and a good result would confirm their selection for Tokyo too.
Lauren Nicholson, 33 (USA)
Vermiculus (pictured) spearheads Lauren’s campaign, having been fifth and ninth here. Kept to relatively quiet runs since finishing ninth at Burghley in 2019, he could provide the all-round winner’s package. Lauren also brings forward Paramount Importance – a European team silver medallist for Ludwig Svennerstål – and the pair were eighth here in 2019.
Jonelle Price, 40 (NZL)
Jonelle’s only previous Kentucky start was in 2013. Her three rides this time are headed by the 2018 Badminton winner Classic Moet (pictured), while Grovine De Reve should build on 12th at Pau last year and Grappa Nera makes her five-star debut. They are all likely to be playing catch-up after dressage, but Classic Moet should rule on cross-country day and all three could be in the ribbons.
Tim Price, 42 (NZL)
Xavier Faer (pictured) can be overshadowed by flashier stablemates, but he’s been third here in 2019 and at Badminton 2017. His record isn’t flawless, but on his best form, he’s very competitive. Tim also brings forward Bango, another experienced campaigner who has been fifth and 10th at Burghley, though Tim fell from him here in 2016. Neither will lead the dressage, but don’t discount either.
Oliver Townend, 38 (GBR)
Britain’s world number one has a strong winning chance with both Angela Hislop’s double Kentucky winner and European team silver medallist Cooley Master Class and Ballaghmor Class (pictured), who won Burghley 2017 and has been in the top five on all his five five-star runs. The younger Tregilder makes his five-star debut and could be well placed, but is unlikely to win this time.
Other Kentucky Three-Day Event riders flying in from Europe
William Fox-Pitt (GBR): The three-time Kentucky winner brings forward Oratorio II, who was 13th at Badminton 2019. Outside chances to win.
Harry Meade (GBR): A Kentucky debutant who is recovering from a serious brain injury last autumn. Superstition, who has won at four-star with Harry and previous rider Lucy Jackson, makes his five-star debut.
Richard Coney (GBR): Impressed on his five-star debut at Pau last year, where he was ninth on the good jumper Mermus R Diamonds. This pair won’t lead the dressage, but this will be great experience for the 22-year-old British rider.
Anna Siemer (GER): Not as strong in the dressage as many Germans, but Anna and FRH Butt’s Avondale were 13th at the 2019 Europeans and are strong in the jumping phases. The retirement of Julia Krajewski’s Samourai Du Thot opens up the German Olympic selection and creates particular interest around Anna’s Kentucky result.
Kevin McNab (AUS): Kevin had planned to make this trip with Scuderia 1918 Don Quidam last year. Seventh at Pau 2019 and would be bidding for a ticket to the Olympics.
Jesse Campbell (NZL): Diachello makes his five-star debut after third at Lignières CCI4*-L in decent company; an eye-catching run could give him a tilt at Tokyo.
Other Kentucky Three-Day Event riders hoping to catch the US selectors’ attention ahead of Tokyo include Hannah Sue Burnett (Harbour Pilot), Will Coleman (Off The Record), Doug Payne (Vandiver) and Tamie Smith (Mai Baum).
Kentucky will also be an important selection trial for the Canadians, with six pairs entered, including three from the 2018 World Equestrian Games in Lisa Marie Fergusson (Honor Me), Hawley Bennett-Awad (Jollybo) and Colleen Loach (Qorry Blue D’Argouges), who was also at the Rio Olympics on the
And don’t forget Britain’s 2004 Olympic champion Leslie Law, who has lived in the US since 2005. He is unlikely to trouble the dressage leaders, but jumped a double clear here for 10th with Voltaire De Tre’ in 2019 and was recently third in a CCI4*-S.
This exclusive preview is also available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 15 April
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