Oliver Townend leads Kentucky after cross-country; dressage top three drop down the leaderboard *H&H Plus*

  • Find out who managed the three clears inside the time today at Kentucky and who crashed out.

    By Nancy Jaffer

    Everyone expected the five-star cross-country course for the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event to be tough, but the reshuffling it provided today (24 April) made a dramatic difference in the standings. Two-time Kentucky winner Oliver Townend of Great Britain rose to first in the Kentucky Three-Day Event 2021 cross-country results after being fifth in dressage with Ballaghmor Class, adding just 0.8 of a time-penalty to bring his total to 27.3.

    Meanwhile, the Kentucky cross-country course 2021 got the best of the leader during two days of dressage, the USA’s Marilyn Little and RF Scandalous. They plummeted to 32nd on 50.1 penalties, accumulating 28.4 time-penalties at the Kentucky Horse Park.

    “I slowed down a bit in the middle. I thought it was the right thing to do for her, to give her a breath,” explained Marilyn, who called the route “mentally exhausting.” While much of it rode to plan, that wasn’t the case with everything, especially the combinations, and “It kept coming. There was a lot to do out there.”

    Discussing her mare’s ability, Marilyn reported, “She handled it beautifully, she is a big, scopey brave horse. I’m glad I had that much scope.”

    Marilyn’s compatriot, Tamie Smith, who had been second by 0.1 of a penalty on Mai Baum after the event’s first phase, accumulated 11 frangible pin penalties at the Park Question at fence 24 and six more for being over the 11-minute optimum time. She is now 18th.

    Oliver knew what he was talking about on Thursday when he gave an assessment of the course’s difficulty after walking it, saying, “I think you’ll see a lot of problems Saturday.” That was prescient.

    “Today was the toughest cross-country course for a long, long time at five-star level. It’s right up there with the very toughest in the world,” said Oliver. “Even from a technicality point of view, that’s as tough as they get.”

    Added to that was the fact that both his horses lost shoes. Cooley Master Class dropped from third to eighth with 6.4 time-penalties. Things were even more difficult for Ballaghmor Class, who went near the end of the morning as the rain was pelting down.

    “I’m still very emotional about how amazing they both are, in terms of they both have given me their hearts and souls today. Cooley Master Class didn’t have a smooth trip at all, but every time I gave him a squeeze, he put his head down and did what he could,” Oliver commented.

    Losing a back shoe meant he wasn’t full of confidence, but “he did what good horses do and dug deep.”

    Ballaghmor Class lost his shoe at the seventh fence coming out of the water. Oliver noted, “Just trying to keep him on his feet, he slipped a lot.”

    What kept the horse going? “His tenacity and his ability and his strength and complete robustness to do the performance that he did.” Had conditions been better and if his shoe stayed on, Oliver believed, he “could have been 10 or 12 seconds within the time without any sweat.”

    Three-time Kentucky winner William Fox-Pitt of Great Britain, ninth after dressage, learned about the difficulties that did not let up at the end first-hand. He made it nearly to the finish line of the 28-obstacle route before falling with Oratorio at the middle element of the Mighty Moguls, 26abc.

    Designer Derek di Grazia is also doing the layout for the Tokyo Olympics, so riders competing today, when there were 15 eliminations, should consider themselves forewarned. For those in the last 25% or so of the start list, the situation was complicated by rain that became heavier through the final hour of the division.

    It could have been worse; the five-star originally was scheduled to run in the afternoon, when the rain got heavier, but with the forecast promising a 100% chance of rain, the US Olympic selection trial was switched to the morning. The four-star short, running concurrently with the five-star for the first time, was swapped to the afternoon.

    Kentucky Three-Day Event 2021 cross-country results: four inside the time

    Only four riders from a field of 61 starters achieved a clear inside the time, the first of whom was Great Britain’s Harry Meade on Superstition. He promoted himself from equal 17th to fourth on 29.6 penalties.

    Harry was joined by three other riders who made the trip across the Atlantic, New Zealand’s Tim Price on Xavier Faer, moving up from 11th in dressage to third with 28.2 penalties, Tim’s wife Jonelle with Classic Moet (up from 46th after dressage to 12th) and Australia’s Kevin McNab. Tied for 21st after dressage, Kevin is now tied for sixth aboard Scuderia 1918 Don Quidam with Tim’s wife, Jonelle Price, on Grovine De Reve. Their score is 30.3.

    Interestingly, a review of statistics since 2010 revealed that worldwide, the percentage of horses with no jumping penalties at the highest level of the sport is 55%, but today, 66% of the field had no jumping penalties.

    Standing second in the Kentucky Three-Day Event 2021 cross-country results is the USA’s Boyd Martin with On Cue, though he seemingly spent more time on the ground than in the saddle today. Boyd had falls on two of his three mounts. The first tumble came at the Head of the Lake, where a number of entries scrambled over the brush jump that was the final obstacle in that complex. That was where Boyd came a cropper with Long Island T. As is typical for Boyd, he picked himself and rode again. With On Cue, he flew around and had only 0.8 of a time-penalty for a total of 27.8.

    When you’ve had a fall, “It doesn’t give you a world of confidence getting on the next horse,” Boyd commented, but he lavished On Cue with praise, calling her, “Such a class animal. She’s a real trier, a great galloper. She’s got a heart of gold. I was just thrilled with her round.”

    Kentucky Three-Day Event 2021 cross-country results: Boyd Martin and On Cue

    Boyd Martin fell off two of his three rides in the five-star at Kentucky 2021, but he came up aces with On Cue, standing second after Saturday’s action. Credit: Nancy Jaffer

    And then, things went south again during his last trip, made on Tsetserleg TSF, the horse with whom he finished second at Kentucky’s previous running in 2019, the 2020 event having been cancelled due to Covid. He took a hard fall at the same fence where William ran into trouble. After that, Boyd, who is still ouchy from a few past injuries, went back to his hotel room to rest, scratching from the four-star short.

    Interestingly, Oliver, Boyd and Tim were the top three in 2019, though Oliver won with his 2018 victor, Cooley Master Class.

    Oliver is the world’s number one-ranked eventer, while Tim is number two and Boyd number six. What do they say about the cream rising to the top?

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