By the Numbers: Top 15 Predictions for 2016 Rolex Kentucky CCI4*

The riders have arrived, the spectators are streaming into Lexington and the festivities have officially begun. Oh, and it’s supposed to rain every day except Friday, including something called ‘Thundershowers’ which sounds terribly interesting until you have to ride in it. Or jog in it, as the competitors will have to do later today, as they begin a wet and muddy weekend again. On the plus side at least it will be warm…ish.

Tomorrow, the riders will begin by riding the 2009 FEI 4*-B dressage test. The FEI originally stated that we would be getting new four-star tests for 2016, but that date has been pushed to 2017 now. The B test was first used in 2010 and is used in even numbered years, which means that horses and riders who have competed at the Olympic Games or the World Equestrian Games have had quite a bit of practice. The Rio Olympic Games will use a shortened, modified version of the B test that omits the walk pirouette and rein back due to time constraints.

Dr. Ernst Topp will be the President of the Ground Jury, with Sandy Phillips and Andrew Bennie joining him as members. Dr. Ernst Topp is a German judge who officiated at the World Equestrian Games in 2014, and served as a Member of the Ground Jury at Rolex last year. Sandy Phillips is from Great Britain and has judged often in the U.S. this spring at Red Hills and Carolina International, but also made an appearance on the ground jury at Adelaide last fall. The judge from New Zealand, Andrew Bennie, is a fixture over in Europe, officiating at Tattersalls, Bramham, Wellington, Luhmühlen, Barbury Castle, Burghley, and Blair Castle all in 2015. 

Both Sandy Phillips and Andrew Bennie will also be members of the Ground Jury at Rio, which will be presided over by American Marilyn Payne. Between Rolex and the two shows that Sandy Phillips judged earlier this spring on U.S. soil, it may be possible for the riders and selectors to get a feel for what qualities these judges will score well at the Olympic Games.

Derek di Grazia, who enters his sixth year designing the Rolex cross country course, has now officially been selected as the course designer for both the 2018 World Equestrian Games at Bromont as well as the 2020 Tokyo Games. While this doesn’t mean much for this year, we will likely see a larger influx of foreign riders to Kentucky each spring, trying to get a feel for how Derek designs. Meanwhile, American and Canadian riders who have been testing themselves over his courses for years may find themselves at a huge advantage for the next Olympic cycle.

Derek has an intuition for how to use terrain to make even the simplest fence quite a challenge, and generally offers up courses that require forward riding to create good flow. Bold, accurate riding is a must over obstacles with sharp angles and sloping terrain, hanging logs into water and forward distances through combinations.

The show jumping course will again be designed by Richard Jeffery, who has been busy this past year designing courses at Great Meadow, Rebecca Farm and Burghley. With the entire Rolex Stadium for him to play with, riders can expect a challenging course that encourages forward riding, rollbacks to combinations that require both accuracy and power and a time allowed that feels entirely too tight.

As a note, when doing score comparisons, I used only FEI three-star and four-star scores in order to keep a level playing field with the foreign horses. Advanced scores do not factor into these averages.

WINNER

Michael Jung and Fischerrocana FST. Photo courtesy of Rare Air Photography.

Michael Jung and fischerRocana FST. Photo courtesy of Rare Air Photography.

Michael Jung and fischerRocana FST: I found myself waiting with bated breath as closing day approached and Michael’s name had yet to appear upon the list. I wasn’t sure if I hoped to see his name listed or was relieved of its absence, wanting both to see him in person but also for an American to take the top spot. I knew that if he brought either Roxie or Sam, we were likely out of luck.

Well, we all know how that story ended. fischerRocana FST is returning to Kentucky to defend her title, and barring a Burghley nose-dive, it’s likely that she’ll accomplish just that.

In last year’s Rolex predictions, I mentioned that Roxie’s dressage had the potential to be as good as La Biosthetique Sam’s but it needed another year or two to get there. Despite winning Rolex, the mare still didn’t quite hit her stride on the flat until Luhmühlen two months later, when her dressage score plummeted into the mid-thirties. She hasn’t scored over 36.0 since this event last year when she could ‘only’ manage a 39.3. This week, I’m predicting for Michael and Rocana to hit a 36.3 to match their 2015/2016 dressage average, but wouldn’t be surprised to see them score sub-35.

Cross country was a mixed bag for this pair last year as they participated in four CCI4* events. Double clear rounds gave them a win and a second at Rolex and Pau respectively, but in between those two placings they acquired their first stop at this level and retired at Luhmühlen, then inexplicably face-planted into the water crossing a Burghley, nowhere near an obstacle.

Michael Jung isn’t likely to let either incident happen again, with an otherwise impeccable cross country record. The only time Roxie has ever had time penalties at a CCI3* or CCI4* was at the World Equestrian Games in 2014, where she finished 29 seconds over the time on a course that averaged 83.03 seconds over for the field. It’s a pretty good assumption that this pair will go double clear on Saturday.

Stadium is Roxie’s slight weakness, and I do mean slight. The last time these two had more than one rail was in 2013 at Boekelo CCI3*, which was Roxie’s first and only CCI3*. Since then, she has been a one-or-none horse, and with her dressage score dipping as low as it does, it doesn’t really matter which. One interesting thing to note is that since that Boekelo round, Roxie’s record has alternated perfectly between having one rail and going clear. If this curious pattern holds, she is due for a rail this weekend after jumping clear at Fontainebleau in March. Despite that, Michael and fischerRocana FST should handily tie up the top spot with a score just over 40.

THE REST OF THE TOP 15

Mark Todd and NZB Campino. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Mark Todd and NZB Campino. Photo by Jenni Autry.

2. Mark Todd and NZB Campino: Believe it or not, Mark Todd has yet to complete a horse at the Rolex Kentucky CCI4* since he emerged from retirement. In his first post-retirement visit to the Kentucky Horse Park at the 2010 World Equestrian Games, he finished 11th with Grass Valley but then withdrew that same horse after cross country at Rolex in 2011 and withdrew Oloa after dressage in 2014.

Despite that, it is Mark Todd, and one can’t count him out until he’s out. NZB Campino is the horse Mark rode in the London Olympic Games, and Rolex will mark this horse’s first trip outside of Europe. Although this pair does sport a couple of rider falls in 2014, their record since then has been pretty spotless.

NZB Campino is the only horse in the field whose dressage average for the three-star level, the four-star level, the B test and their 2015/2016 average all ends up in the thirties. Even Roxie can’t quite boast that statistic, although she has certainly scored more consistently in the thirties for the past two calendar years. NZB Campino maintains an incredibly consistent average through all categories, varying less than a point overall.  His overall average for the level is 39.92, and he could certainly challenge Rocana and Michael Jung on a particularly good day.

Mark Todd hasn’t incurred a jump penalty with this horse in a 3* or 4* since 2012, and I wouldn’t expect them to start now. Similarly, this pair has only once incurred double-digit time penalties since that same year, and average zero time penalties for four-stars. In the three four-stars they’ve completed, they have accrued a whopping one second over time. At both Luhmühlen and Pau in 2015, they came in 12 seconds under optimum time. We’ll be likely seeing a double clear from this pair come Saturday.

Show jumping is where things get a little shaky for NZB Campino. Overall, this horse leans towards having one rail at this level, although he sometimes has two and sometimes has none. In his three four-star completions, he has had one rail, none, and two in that order. Since his overall record leans towards having just the one rail, I’m predicting he’ll leave the door open this weekend with just one jump down. Mark Todd will pick up his first Rolex completion with a second place finish on a final score in the low forties.

Maya Black and Doesn't Play Fair. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Maya Black and Doesn’t Play Fair. Photo by Jenni Autry.

3. Maya Black and Doesn’t Play Fair: Maya’s star has been shining bright this spring on the U.S. circuit, and by all accounts, the best is yet to come. Her current trajectory could make her the most competitive American this weekend if the pattern holds.

Maya’s dressage scores have plummeted a full ten points this spring from Red Hills to The Fork. Doesn’t Play Fair has scored in the low forties before, hitting a 42.3 at Richland Park in 2014, but had more consistently been in the high forties and low fifties. It’s the right time of year to be hitting your stride in this phase though, and a flawless test from this pair could potentially push them down into the thirties for the first time this weekend. Overall this pair’s average on the flat for 2015/2016 is a 49.1, but I think we’ll be seeing these two hit closer to their last two performances, which average out at a 42.6.

Maya and Doesn’t Play Fair have a fairly impeccable record at this level, marred by only one stop in 18 starts. At the CCI level, they’ve been a bit unlucky with rider falls at Fair Hill two years in a row, but have solidly completed Bromont, Galway Downs, and Rolex with steady rounds. They’ve often proven they have the ability to make the time on cross country, coming home inside the clock on numerous courses where very few others made it. After taking a careful pace at last year’s Rolex with the mud, it’s likely that we’ll see this pair go for broke in an effort to gain a top placing. Look for these two to press the pace and come home with something in the realm of 1.2 time penalties, which would match their average pace for the 2016 season.

Doesn’t Play Fair is another top horse who has had a bit of a bugaboo about show jumping, with only a few double clear rounds at this level under their belt. They’ve mostly frequently had one rail at this level, and have had as many double clear rounds as they’ve had two rail rounds. Most recently they show jumped clear at The Fork CIC3*, but had two rails each at Carolina and Red Hills. Last year’s round at Rolex also produced two rails, but I think we’ll see improvement from this pair with a one rail round to match their overall average. Maya could sneak in as the top-placed American this weekend with a score in the mid-forties.

Phillip Dutton and Fernhill Cubalawn. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Phillip Dutton and Fernhill Cubalawn. Photo by Jenni Autry.

4. Phillip Dutton and Fernhill Cubalawn: Phillip is likely to get a hat-trick inside the top ten this weekend, with all three of his competitors proving strong in all phases. Fernhill Cubalawn is the reigning USEF Four-Star Eventing National Champion, which means he was the top American horse last year. This horse has improved a bit in the dressage while maintaining his consistency in the other two phases in the past twelve months.

The last time Fernhill Cubalawn scored in the fifties was at this event last year, and while he didn’t attempt another four-star last year, he did score consistently in the mid-to-high forties in some extremely good company. His overall 2015/2016 average is 48.24, which he is likely to match this weekend.

Phillip has completed clear every cross country run he has started at this level with Fernhill Cubalawn, and the Rolex course will be much of the same. Generally quite quick across the country, this pair averages only 0.8 penalties for all their runs. For 2015/2016 and for CCI runs, that average drops drastically…to 0.4 penalties. These two should accumulate no more than one second of time on Saturday.

Fernhill Cubalawn dropped ever so slightly in consistency in his show jumping form in the past twelve months, and by that I mean he dropped one rail at Fair Hill last fall. Otherwise, he has show jumped clear at every show since Rolex last April, so we should see more of the same on Sunday. A double clear show jumping round would put him into fourth with a score in the mid-to-high forties.

Lauren Kieffer and Veronica. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Lauren Kieffer and Veronica. Photo by Jenni Autry.

5. Lauren Kieffer and Veronica: If consistency had a middle name, it would be Veronica. After a brief career with Karen O’Connor, Lauren Kieffer took over the ride in 2012 and never looked back. A strong season on the British circuit last summer and fall further cemented their partnership and they’ve once again made waves in the lead-up to Rolex with a win in the Advanced at Red Hills and a second place in the CIC3* at The Fork. They’ll be back to prove that 2015 was a fluke, and that their second place finish at this event in 2014 is the reality.

Veronica is quite consistent on the flat with Lauren, averaging in the 45 range for their three-star average, four-star average, and 4*-B average. This pair has improved their already quality scores just a tick over the past year, with their 2015/2016 average hovering at 44.18 penalties. Matching that with a 44.2 will put them within sight of the leaders after day one.

This pair did have a fly-by on the Rolex course last year, but have two clear four-star completions at Rolex and Pau in 2014. With clean runs at every event since then, including Bramham and Blenheim CCI3*, don’t look for them to have another stop this weekend. Veronica’s determination on cross country can sometimes make it difficult for Lauren to make the time, but she historically aims for it at big CCI. Lauren has pushed the pace with this mare in the past two years, dropping their 2015/2016 average to 4.4 penalties, less than half their overall average. Look for Veronica to press the pace this weekend and end with no more than 4.4 time faults.

Show jumping is a strength for these two, having jumped double clear at six of their nine three- or four-star stadium rounds. Veronica hasn’t had a rail since the end of 2014 and combined with Lauren’s strength in show jumping, it’s likely that they’ll add another double clear round to their resume this weekend. Veronica and Lauren should be breathing down Phillip’s neck in fifth with a score in the mid-to-high forties.

Phillip Dutton and Mighty Nice. Photo courtesy of Rare Air Photography.

Phillip Dutton and Mighty Nice. Photo courtesy of Rare Air Photography.

6. Phillip Dutton and Mighty Nice: Mighty Nice has been knocking on the door of this event for quite a while, but has had more bad luck than most of the horses in this field put together. He first completed this event back in 2012 when his dressage wasn’t as consistent as it is today. In 2013, he incurred only his second cross country penalty of his 3/4* career and was subsequently retired from the course. In 2014, he was withdrawn after dressage in favor of aiming instead at Luhmühlen where he picked up a top ten finish despite a trio of rails. In 2015, the gelding was the highest placed American horse after cross country before being forced to withdraw due to a stifle injury. Send some EN karma to this horse, as he is due for some.

Mighty Nice has really hit his stride on the flat in 2015 and 2016, dropping his average from those two years almost exactly five points below his overall average. He hasn’t scored over 50 since Rolex in 2014 and most recently has been dropping scores in the 42 to 44 range. This horse’s 2015/2016 average sits at a 43.98 and it’s highly likely he equals or betters it this weekend.

Cross country is another strong point for Mighty Nice, who has only twice incurred stops in a lengthy career at this level. The last came as mentioned, at Rolex in 2013, and he has had his guns blazing ever since. Additionally, he has twice made the time at the four-star level and last year incurred only 3.2 time penalties on a rain and mud-soaked track. This pair averages only 1.2 time penalties for the four-star level, and a time inside the optimum isn’t out of reach.

Mighty Nice is yet another horse who has historically struggled with the colored sticks, almost always having one or two down until the end of last fall. His last two FEI runs have marked the first clear rounds he has had since way back in 2012, and the first time he has ever had clear rounds back to back. Still, this horse averages one rail overall, and has never had less than two rails at the four-star level; matching his overall average of one would mark a big improvement and move this pair into sixth with a score just under 50.

Sinead Halpin and Manoir de Carneville. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Sinead Halpin and Manoir de Carneville. Photo by Jenni Autry.

7. Sinead Halpin and Manoir de Carneville: The great Manoir de Carneville spent most of 2015 on the sidelines, saving his legs for an Olympic year. Sinead has had a couple of hiccups trying to get his head in the game this spring, but a good run at Carolina provided the final impetus needed to make it to Kentucky.

Dressage has been a forte of this pair in the past, with a particularly good streak dipping down into the mid-thirties for late 2012 and into 2013. Manoir de Carneville hasn’t quite hit the sweet spot since but still excels in this phase, consistently scoring in the forties overall. If we see a return to their vintage 2013 year, they are capable of a performance that could challenge Roxie. More likely we’ll see a score along the lines of their 2015/2016 average, which hovers at 46.6 penalties.

Prior to the World Equestrian Games, this pair had an incredibly impeccable cross country resume with only one rider fall marring their perfect completion record. They haven’t had many runs since the World Equestrian Games, completing a clear and quick round in 2015 in the Carolina Advanced, retiring after a single stop at Rocking Horse earlier this winter, and then proving they still had their mojo at the Carolina CIC3* this spring.

A clean round is likely now that they’ve shaken off all their cobwebs, and these two average only six seconds over the time at the four-star level when running clear across the country. Discounting WEG, they haven’t accumulated time penalties at this level since 2011. With an Olympic team slot at stake, Sinead and Tate will be going for broke this weekend.

Manoir de Carneville has varying success in the show jumping portion, bouncing anywhere from clear rounds to two rail rounds with the very occasional three rail round. Overall this pair’s average trends towards having one rail no matter the level, so I’m predicting they’ll have no more than one this weekend. They should finish well inside the top ten with a score just over 50.

Phillip Dutton and Fernhill Fugitive. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Phillip Dutton and Fernhill Fugitive. Photo by Rare Air Eventing Photography.

8. Phillip Dutton and Fernhill Fugitive: I’ve been pretty high on this horse this year, and I actually think that he has the biggest upside of Phillip’s trio of four-star horses. Fernhill Fugitive keeps quietly improving in all three phases while others in Phillip’s arsenal have plateaued. Fernhill Fugitive will have the dubious honor of going first in both dressage and cross country, which could be a positive in some ways and a negative in others.

Fernhill Fugitive really demonstrated that he has turned a page on the flat in the past year, trending towards low-fifty scores at the end of 2014 and early 2015, then hanging out in the high forties all spring before making his mark at Galway Downs. Although his 2015/2016 average sits at a very respectable 46.69, his last three FEI events have produced an average of 43.5. However, being the first ride on Thursday morning may be a difficult hurdle to overcome if the judges feel they need to leave room for better scores, so I suspect we’ll see something in the realm of 46.7 penalties.

Unsurprisingly, this horse is another consistent cross country ride for Phillip and will be the trailblazer around the course on Saturday. This will give him a distinct advantage of the best ground of the day but also a disadvantage in that Phillip gets to be the guinea pig for how the combinations ride. Fernhill Fugitive accumulated 12.0 time penalties at Rolex last year, but has spent much of the past couple of seasons proving that he can also make the optimum time. Between being the first ride and dealing with the rain, Phillip could accumulate up to 4.0 penalties, which would match their average pace for 2015/2016.

Fernhill Fugitive has also quietly improved in the show jumping phase and it is now a real strength for him. Although he averages one rail overall in his career and at the CCI levels, Fernhill Fugitive has accumulated a grand total of one rail since the end of 2014. He jumped double clear here last year, and it’s highly likely he’ll put in another double clear effort this weekend. If so, he’ll finish right on the heels of Manoir de Carneville in eighth place.

Lynn Symansky and Donner. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Lynn Symansky and Donner. Photo by Jenni Autry.

9. Lynn Symansky and Donner: Lynn Symansky and her Flying Deer are now attempting their sixth four-star together and in an Olympic year they will be playing for keeps. These two are capable of strong performances in all three phases, which will help this Thoroughbred to a top ten placing this weekend.

Donner’s four-star dressage average is only a 52.3, but this is another horse who has really improved their consistency on the flat since this time last year. Rolex in 2015 was the last time this pair saw a score in the fifties and they demonstrated their improvement in the fall by achieving their first forties four-star score at Burghley. That pattern should continue, and it’s likely that they will match or better their 2015/2016 average of 48.09 penalties.

Donner and Lynn ran double clear at their first two four-stars in 2014, so they are plenty capable of going to the Sunday jogs on their dressage score. Overall, their CCI4* time penalty average is 12.8, but that includes their WEG course which is an outlier due to their stops there. Looking at clear rounds at this level, they average only 6 time penalties and in an Olympic year, Lynn will probably be out to prove that they are still capable of finishing inside the optimum time.

This horse is quite capable in the show jumping, often putting in clear rounds but having an occasional rail. These rails do become more frequent for the pair at CCIs, and of their five four-star show jumping rounds, they have only once jumped clear. Look for a rail from Donner on the third day, which would drop him to ninth on a score in the low fifties.

Marilyn Little and RF Demeter. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Marilyn Little and RF Demeter. Photo by Jenni Autry.

10. Marilyn Little and RF Demeter: Marilyn has been sticking mostly to the show jumping circuit this spring and has foregone the traditional prep schedule for Rolex in favor of running two Intermediates with RF Demeter. One of the most experienced pairs in the field, this light prep might help RF Demeter find her CCI groove again.

RF Demeter can be quite good on the flat, but will likely be left stalking the leaders after the first phase. RF Demeter and Marilyn average a 48.69 at the four-star level, with a 49.27 average on this particular test. They’ve shown flashes of brilliance on the flat in the past year, culminating in a 40.5 in the first phase at Galway Downs last fall, but will likely score closer to their 2015/2016 average of 46.98 penalties.

Until 2014, these two had impeccable form on cross country, finishing all of their CCI attempts fast and clear save for one rider fall at Rolex in 2013 when Marilyn was riding with a broken collarbone. At the 2014 edition of Burghley, they ran clear across the country but incurred a frangible pin penalty (then worth 21 penalty points), which took them out of the running. Last year they won the Bromont CCI3*, which they ran after re-routing from Rolex where they incurred the first run-out of their four-star career together and shockingly retired after two stops on cross country at Galway Downs in the fall.

It’s likely this pair earns their cross country mojo back this weekend based on past history, and two confidence building runs in Ocala ought to give this experienced mare all the confidence she needs. Although their four-star time penalty average is 6.8 penalties, these two have gotten close to or made the time in four of their five four-star completions. Look for them to be closer to 2.4 penalties, the equivalent of their 2015/2016 time penalty average.

This mare is almost a lock to jump clear when show jumping is held before cross country, only once incurring a rail in her career when competing this schedule. The exact opposite is true when cross country is held first, and this pair has incurred at least a rail at every CCI round at this level they’ve attempted, save for Burghley in 2014 where they jumped double clear. While a double clear is not out of the realm of possibility after much stadium practice this winter, it’s likely they incur one this weekend. These two will round out the top ten with a score in the low fifties.

Kurt Martin and Delux Z. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Kurt Martin and DeLux Z. Photo by Jenni Autry.

11. Kurt Martin and DeLux Z: Kurt Martin and DeLux Z are my pick this weekend for highest placed Rolex Rookies and with the amount of success they’ve had in the past year, I’m almost surprised that this is Kurt’s first four-star. After a couple of initial hiccups last spring, this pair has become a lock for a good finish.

Overall, this pair averages a 51.88 in the dressage phase, and while they are capable of a high-forties score, a score closer to their average for their first four-star test is more likely. Kurt is a rider who speeds up the pace at a CCI after generally running slower at the CICs, and will likely go for closer to his CCI average of 4.0 time penalties. DeLux Z has never had more than one rail in show jumping and more often jumps clear. Despite that, they’ve had one rail in each round this spring, but I predict they will rise to the occasion come Sunday and deliver a double clear to keep their CCI stadium record pristine. They should finish just outside the top ten with a score in the mid-fifties.

Tim Price and Bango. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Tim Price and Bango. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

12. Tim Price and Bango: Wesko’s injury was bad news for everyone, but especially for Tim Price, who had hoped to take that horse to the Olympic Games this summer. Luckily, Bango is a strong up-and-coming four-star prospect for Tim, and while he doesn’t have the same dominance yet, he’ll certainly be competitive.

Bango is no slouch on the flat despite not being Wesko, and should come close to his 2015/2016 average of 46.78. He has yet to have a cross country jump penalty at this level, and averages 3.2 time penalties at CCI competitions. He is still developing in the stadium phase though, with an overall average of one rail and two time penalties. A final score in the mid-fifties will put them in 12th, just a shade behind DeLux Z.

Jessica Phoenix and A Little Romance. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Jessica Phoenix and A Little Romance. Photo by Jenni Autry.

13. Jessica Phoenix and A Little Romance: Jessica Phoenix is known for her partnership with Pavarotti, but it’s her gutsy ride A Little Romance who will steal the show for the Canadians this weekend. A Little Romance was originally intended to be Jessica’s WEG partner before an ill-timed injury sent Pavarotti instead, and a fluke rider fall just after Jessica gave birth to her second child scuppered this mare’s chances for her first four-star completion last year.

A Little Romance doesn’t score spectacularly on the flat but she puts in a quality effort, averaging 57.4 overall at this level. These two usually run clean across the country and close to the time at CCIs, averaging one second under optimum in two completions. When cross country runs before stadium, they tend to perform better than their average, leaning towards double clear rounds. A final score in the mid-to-high-fifties will make these two the top placed Canadian pair.

Allie Knowles and Sound Prospect. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Allie Knowles and Sound Prospect. Photo by Jenni Autry.

14. Allie Knowles and Sound Prospect: Allie Knowles and Sound Prospect have had a supremely solid year following a few problems last spring. After sorting themselves out, they proved that they could be extremely competitive on the flat and back it up with clean, quick cross country rounds and extremely solid stadium records.

These two have really raised the bar on their flatwork, and over the past two years have averaged a 49.86 in the first phase. Despite the hiccups last spring, unfortunately timed with their first Rolex attempt, this pair has been extremely solid recently on cross country, averaging only 8.0 time penalties at CCI3* events. Sound Prospect has jumped six straight rounds at this level clear in the stadium round and will likely put in a double clear on Sunday. Allie and Sound Prospect should finish in 14th with a score in the mid-to-high fifties.

Buck Davidson and Petite Flower. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Buck Davidson and Petite Flower. Photo by Jenni Autry.

15. Buck Davidson and Petite Flower: Buck and Petite Flower really had a strong spring season last year, culminating in this mare’s first four-star completion. She’s had a very light spring season, running well at Rocking Horse in February, then withdrawing from Carolina after Buck fell from another horse and from The Fork after stadium.

Petite Flower is quite consistent on the flat, averaging a 51.15 in dressage over the 2015/2016 seasons. Although cross country has been fairly dicey for them in the past, 2015 was an incredibly consistent year for them up until the mare traveled poorly to Rebecca Farm. Buck does average 7.2 time penalties with her at CCI events, which would improve on her score of 10.8 penalties from last year. Petite Flower is possibly one of the best show jumpers in the field, having last had a rail in early 2014 at this level. A double clear would sneak them into 15th with a final score in the high fifties.

Selena O'Hanlon and Foxwood High. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Selena O’Hanlon and Foxwood High. Photo by Jenni Autry.

THE DARK HORSE

Selena O’Hanlon and Foxwood High: Selena and Foxwood High scored a 55.8 at Rolex last year, retired on cross country and went home and did some homework. They showed up at Bromont fit to fight and laid down a 46.7, only scoring in the fifties once since then and establishing themselves as one of the best flat horses on the scene in the intervening months. Despite their four-star average sitting in the mid-fifites, it’s a good bet that they’ll perform better than the numbers say this weekend.

While making the time may not be the easiest thing to do for this pair, they have the potential to get close enough to the optimum time to maintain a high placing. Foxwood High has improved similarly in the show jumping phase, going from often having a rail or two to rarely having a rail. If they can prove their newly-found show jumping skills translate to the CCI4* level, they’ll be a force to be reckoned with this weekend.

Allison Springer and Arthur. Photo by Samantha Clark.

Allison Springer and Arthur. Photo by Samantha Clark.

THE SPOILER

Allison Springer and Arthur: Allison and Arthur are about to make an astonishing 11th start at the four-star level this weekend and at 17 years old, it may be one of the last times we get to see him at this level. This will be their seventh start at Kentucky. This pair hasn’t quite managed to put all the pieces together in one weekend at this level, although they came extremely close in 2012 with a second place finish.

Arthur is one of the horses in the field who could possibly challenge fischerRocana FST on the flat on a good day, with their best score at the four-star level coming at Rolex in 2014 with a 39.5. This pair has the capability to make time on the cross country, having done it at their very first Rolex in 2008, but will need to be 100% on their A game to do it.

Show jumping has long been a struggle for Arthur, who has yet to have a clear round at a four-star, but he has been jumping quite well in 2016 which may mean that this is his year to finally do it. A great effort in all three phases is within this pair’s capabilities and we’re sending some EN Karma their way!

Doug Payne and Vandiver. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Doug Payne and Vandiver. Photo by Jenni Autry.

THE SLEEPER

Doug Payne and Vandiver: Vandiver ran last year’s Rolex with Werner Geven, retiring on cross country after two stops. Shortly afterwards, Doug Payne picked up the ride on him and they’ve quickly built quite an impressive resume. These two started right off by scoring in the mid-forties in dressage and continued that pattern late this spring. Consistency for the lower scores will only increase as this partnership grows more established.

Meanwhile, these two have yet to have a rail at the Advanced or three-star level, which is means they are flawless in six tries. While initially they started off with double-digit time penalties across the country, that quickly shortened up as they gained their qualifications and will likely shorten further within the next year. Although they might not quite crack the top fifte15en this year, they’ll be a force to be reckoned with in six months’ time.

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