After a relatively quiet morning, Derek Di Grazia’s cross-country course took its toll on the second group of riders at Rolex this afternoon, with four riders falling — with no major injuries — and five horses retiring on course. The overnight leaderboard also saw a major shakeup, with only four of the top 10 horses after the dressage remaining in the top 10. Most notably, leaders William Fox-Pitt and Chilli Morning retired on course at the first element of the HSBC Water Park. Chilli looked very peaky at the Curving Brushes at 6AB and never really seemed to lock on at the first water complex. William’s retirement on course means Andrew Nicholson and Quimbo move into the lead thanks to a brilliant double clear cross-country trip. Saturday turned into moving day for the Rolex field, presenting an opportunity for anyone to skyrocket up the leaderboard with a good ride. Buck moved up a collective 17 places on all three horses today, moving up from 8th to 3rd on Ballynoecastle RM, from 20th to 8th on Mar De Amor, and remaining in 23rd with Park Trader. Hawley Bennett moved up 18 places from 29th to 11th by coming in just one second over the optimum time with Gin & Juice. Kendal Lehari and Daily Edition moved up more than any other pair by jumping 20 places from 36th to 16th on a double-clear.
Andrew and Quimbo’s double clear was one of three this afternoon and 10 total double clears for the day. While the afternoon group included many of our Rolex first-timers, it also included seasoned pairs who were unexpectedly caught out. In addition to William and Chilli Morning retiring, Mary King also called it a day with Fernhill Urco at the Horse Park Shelters at 26AB just four fences from home. Mary had a runout earlier on course at the out element at the Head of the Lake and had been tied for fifth place overnight. Boyd Martin made the same decision to retire with Trading Aces at the Horse Park Shelters after Oscar began to tire badly toward the end of the course. Boyd, who was sitting in 12th place overnight, gave Oscar a brilliant ride the whole way around, and the horse looked very good early in the course. Oscar needed 30 seconds more of run today, but he showed earlier on the course that he’s definitely a possible team horse for Boyd in the future. These two retirement decisions from Mary and Boyd were true displays of horsemanship.
We reported earlier this morning that Phillip Dutton would not ride Mighty Nice, as he had decided to save the horse for another day. Phillip changed his mind and decided to ride Happy after all, perhaps after so many riders in the top 10 were caught out this afternoon. Unfortunately, Phillip and Happy had a runout at the Bridgestone Park Question and subsequently retired on course. The heartbreaker of the afternoon came when Allie Knowles and Last Call, the first to go after the lunch break, had a rough ride to the Ditch Brush at fence 12, where Fergie banged herself on the fence. Allie and Fergie then had a runout at the first element of the Sunken Road at fence 13, and were then eliminated after more stops while trying to take the option. Allie and Last Call were the highest-placed American pair coming into cross country in fourth place, and today was just sadly not their day.
There were four falls in all this afternoon and five total for the day, with the most unfortunate fall coming when Marilyn Little took a spill from RF Demeter when the mare got her legs tangled at the out element of the Land Rover Hollow. Marilyn was riding with a Grade 3 separated right shoulder and looked like she was in immense pain when she fell. But she got up quickly, and both she and Demeter are fine. They were tied for fifth place coming into cross country. Ronald Zabala-Goetschel also had a scary fall from Wise Equestrian Master Rose when the horse hung a leg at the Head of the Lake. Rachel Jurgens fell from Ziggy at the first element of the HSBC Water Park, and Heather Gillette and Our Questionnaire fell at the Head of the Lake. Becky Holder fell from Can’t Fire Me in the morning session at the last water. Luckily all horses and riders were up and looked fine.
Buck Davidson gets a huge shoutout for coming home clear on all three of his rides, with double clear trips on Ballynoecastle RM and Mar De Amor. He moves up to third place with Ballynoecastle RM and eighth place with Mar De Amor. James Alliston also came home clear with all three of his rides and had a double clear trip on Parker. To bring three rides to Rolex and bring all of them home safely is an incredible achievement — HUGE kudos to both James and Buck. The Ballsy Ride of the Day Award goes to Kendal Lehari and Daily Edition, who had a blazing fast double clear trip around and quite a few Superman moments. Meghan O’Donoghue and Pirate also had a brilliant trip around their first Rolex, and Meghan rode like a seasoned pro.
Looking at the results from the perspective of nationality, there are five U.S. pairs in the top 10 after the cross-country (Buck on two, Will on Pawlow, Lynn on Donner, and Kristi Nunnink on R-Star), three pairs from New Zealand (Andrew with his two, and Jonelle), and two from Great Britain (William and James). All three Kiwi pairs to start the competition (Andrew with Quimbo and Calico Joe and Jonelle with The Deputy) finish the day in the top seven. Canada’s highest placed rider is Hawley in 11th, but four out of Canada’s five starters moved up on the day and all of them finished the course.
Five of the top 10 horses after the dressage were eliminated or retired. Going into show jumping, Andrew Nicholson is 7.2 points ahead of third-placed Buck Davidson and Quimbo going into the show jumping. In total,19 of 21 starters in the morning finished the course, with 18 coming home clear. Just 10 of 20 afternoon starters finished, with only eight coming home clear. The course definitely proved to be very challenging, especially when looking at the afternoon rides, but the course was still incredibly safe, with no falls resulting in major injuries. Stay tuned for a full report from the press conference.