Rolex Preview and Predictions

My pick to win is William Fox-Pitt and Chilli Morning. Photo by Samantha Clark.

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Barring any further scratches, 47 pairs will present at the jog for the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event tomorrow afternoon. I’ve compiled information and recent results for each Rolex horse and rider combination to help you know who to keep an eye on when you’re wandering around the cross-country course or watching the USEF live feed. While I would love to see an American win, my pick to take home the Rolex watch is William Fox-Pitt and Chilli Morning. Here are the 47 horses and riders in the order we’ll see them for dressage and cross country, along with my predictions for how they’ll fare:

William Fox-Pitt and Seacookie TSF
14-year-old bay Trakehner gelding owned by Catherine Witt
Seacookie TSF hasn’t competed in a four-star event since Burghley in 2010, but he did place second, so we can’t rule him out. While his competition record is peppered with a lot of retirements and withdrawals, he also has some really fantastic finishes, like winning the Blenheim CCI3* last year. The horse most recently finished ninth in his intermediate division at Weston Park. With William in the irons, Seacookie should finish high up the leaderboard.

James Alliston and Parker
11-year-old bay Thoroughbred gelding owned by James
EN blogger James and Parker retired on course at last year’s Rolex, so they’ll be looking to complete again this year, which they first did in 2011 by finishing 14th. Parker finished sixth in the Galway Downs CCI3* last fall and most recently finished third in the Advanced division at Galway Downs last month. Out of James’ three Rolex mounts, I expect we’ll probably see him have the best finish on this horse.

Buck Davidson and Park Trader
11-year-old bay Irish Thoroughbred gelding owned by Carl Segal
Buck took over the ride in 2011 on this horse and has steadily put together a string of decent finishes at major events. This pair finished 17th at Fair Hill CCI3* last year and most recently finished 19th in the CIC3* at Red Hills. While Buck withdrew Park Trader before cross country at The Fork, the horse is sound and ready to tackle his first four-star. I imagine Buck’s main goal will be a solid trip around cross country to build this horse’s confidence for down the road.

Jan Byyny and Syd Kent
15-year-old bay Thorougbred gelding owned by Jan
I’m pretty positive I jinxed Jan at The Fork when I had her offer analysis on the new CIC3* coffin combination for an EN post. That pesky coffin combination caught her out with both Syd Kent and Inmidair. I promise I won’t walk the Rolex course with you, Jan. I love Syd Kent, and he’s had a very solid season, winning his Advanced division at Pine Top Spring Advanced and finishing 11th in the CIC3* at Red Hills. This pair can lay down a really nice dressage test; don’t underestimate them.

Andrew Nicholson and Calico Joe
11-year-old bay Thoroughbred gelding owned by In Mind Syndicate
Andrew retired this horse on cross country at Rolex last year, but went on to finish fourth at Luhmuhlen CCI4* and 13th at Burghley. Unfortunately, he’s had rails at all of his outings so far this spring, most recently pulling four poles at Weston Park. But if Calico Joe can leave up the rails this weekend, we should see them finish very well.

Jan Byyny and Syd Kent. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Phillip Dutton and Fernhill Eagle
13-year-old bay Irish Sport Horse gelding owned by Team Rebecca
Fernhill Eagle looked fantastic at The Fork earlier this month, where he placed eighth in a very competitive Advanced division. He’s had a fairly easy spring season, but this horse really has nothing to prove. He was third in the Fair Hill CCI3* last fall and placed 12th at Rolex last year. I expect to see a another top 15 finish from this pair.

Madeline Blackman and Gordonstown
15-year-old black Irish Sport Horse gelding owned by Madeline
Maddie kicked around for a 24th place finish at Rolex last year. The pair retired on cross country at Fair Hill CCI3* last fall and have had a quiet spring this season. They were sixth in their Advanced division at Poplar Place last month and had a stop on cross country in Advanced at The Fork earlier this month, finishing 25th.

Caitlin Silliman and Catch A Star
13-year-old grey Holsteiner mare owned by Caitlin
I’ll definitely be rooting for Caitlin and Hoku, the mare that cheated death during the tragic fire at True Prospect Farm and came back from terrible burn wounds to compete again. This pair has had a lackluster spring, with their best finish being 15th in their Advanced division at Pine Top in February. Caitlin is a fighter and will be looking to make it around her first four-star course.

Beth Perkins and Sal Dali
15-year-old bay Thoroughbred gelding owned by Cynthia Barclay
Beth and Sal Dali were 26th at Rolex last year, where they jumped around cross country clear with 12.4 time penalties. This pair was most recently 32nd at The Fork CIC3* and finished in 10th in their Advanced division at Pine Top in February. Beth will be looking to bring home another Rolex cross-country trip with no jump penalties.

Will Faudree and Pawlow
14-year-old Thoroughbred gelding owned by Jennifer Mosing
Will has the potential to finish high up the leader board on this horse; they were 15th at Rolex in 2010. Last season, they finished fourth in the Bromont CIC3* and third in the Jersey Fresh CIC3*. Most recently, this pair finished 14th at The Fork CIC3*. They looked a touch quiet there to me, but if there’s any place to step up your game, it’s Rolex.

Will Faudree and Pawlow at Southern Pines. Photo by Samantha Clark.

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Jennie Brannigan and Cambalda
11-year-old bay Irish Sport Horse gelding owned by Nina Gardner
Some mistakes in dressage kept Jennie and Ping from fighting for the win at The Fork CIC3*, where they placed second. But that dressage test still looked fabulous despite the bobbles, and Jennie will be looking to prove herself at her first Rolex. This pair placed fourth in the Red Hills CIC3* and also completed the Boekelo CCI3* last year. Watch out for them.

Becky Holder and Can’t Fire Me
14-year-old grey Thoroughbred gelding owned by Phil and Melissa Town and Tom Holder
This pair unfortunately didn’t finish Rolex last year when a cut on the horse’s leg and visible blood forced them to retire on cross country. Becky will be back this year with a vengeance. Two rails and time on cross country kept them from finishing higher up the leader board at The Fork, but I’m predicting a top-10 finish should all go according to plan in Kentucky.

Peter Barry and Kilrodan Abbott
14-year-old bay Irish Sport Horse gelding owned by Peter, Susan and Dylan Barry
Peter and Eddie represented Canada at the Olympics last year, where they had an unfortunate fall. They’ve been looking for redemption this spring, placing 20th in the Red Hills CIC3* and 36th at The Fork CIC3* after an unfortunate runout at the coffin combination. I love this horse and the partnership this team shows.

Jessica Phoenix and Exponential
15-year-old bay Thoroughbred gelding own by Jessica
Jessie and Tucker were the only Canadian to pair to complete at London last year, finishing 22nd individually. They’ve had a quiet spring preparation for Rolex, finishing fifth in their Advanced division at Poplar Place last month and sixth at The Fork CIC3*. They looked absolutely brilliant at The Fork, completing the event with no jump penalties, which I expect them to do again at Rolex.

Peter Atkins and Henry Jota Hampton
12-year-old chestnut Argentine Sport Horse gelding
Peter’s broken leg sidelined much of his season with Henny last year, but they’ve come back this season looking excellent. Peter and Henny finished ninth in their Advanced division at Rocking Horse II in February and most recently finished ninth in the Red Hills CIC3*. This pair is experienced under pressure, having competed at the World Equestrian Games in 2010 and Rolex that same year. I’m predicting a solid showing for Peter and Henny.

Jennie Brannigan and Cambalda at The Fork. Photo by Jenni Autry.

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Kristin Schmolze and Ballylaffin Bracken
13-year-old bay Irish Sport Horse gelding owned by Kristin, Bill and Janet Schmolze
Kristin is no stranger to Rolex, having completed at Kentucky three times previously with Cavaldi; this is Rox’s Rolex debut. This pair placed 15th in the Fair Hill CCI3* last year. This season, they finished fourth in their Advanced division at Pine Top in February and 23rd in the Red Hills CIC3* due to cross-country time penalties. I expect them to hold nothing back here.

Katie Ruppel and Sir Donovan
11-year-old chestnut Irish Sport Horse gelding owned by the rider
Katie is due for some good luck at Rolex. After being eliminated in dressage in 2011 and falling on cross country last year, she is back to hopefully prove that the third time’s the charm. It’s all a mind game for Katie and Sir Donovan at this point. This pair placed sixth in Advanced at Red Hills and most recently finished ninth in The Fork CIC3*. God speed, Katie.

Daniel Clasing and Houston
12-year-old chestnut Anglo-Arabian gelding owned by Daniel
This horse is a cross-country machine, and we caught a glimpse of just how good Daniel and Houston can be at Fair Hill last year, where they finished eighth in the CCI3*. While show jumping tends to be a challenging phase for this horse, I think Daniel will be thrilled to get around his first Rolex cross-country course without any jump penalties. I think they can do that.

Hawley Bennett-Awad and Gin & Juice
13-year-old Thoroughbred mare owned by Hawley and Linda Paine
Hawley and Ginny have had an incredible spring season and are coming into Rolex on a three event winning streak, most recently claiming victories in Advanced at Twin Rivers and Copper Meadows and in the CIC3* at Galway Downs. Hawley and Ginny are a force to be reckoned with; I’m predicting a top 15 finish.

Kristi Nunnink and R-Star
12-year-old grey Holsteiner mare owned by Kristi
Kristi and R-Star completed two four-stars last year and jumped clear around the Burghley cross-country course. While Kristi hasn’t gone for time yet this season, I fully expect her to put the pedal down at Rolex. This pair most recently finished third in Advanced at Twin Rivers at third in the Galway Downs CIC3* last month. Expect great things from Kristi and R-Star.

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Daniel Clasing and Houston at The Fork. Photo by Samantha Clark.

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Sally Cousins and Tsunami
14-year-old bay Thoroughbred mare owned by Sally
Sally and Sue were 14th at Rolex last year, showing just how dangerous they can be to crack the top 10. They were most recently third in the CIC2* at Poplar Place and 16th in the CIC3* at The Fork. Sally told me after The Fork that she wasn’t trying to go for time, but Sue’s huge stride just ate up the course and only left them with 3.2 time penalties. Look for Sally and Sue to jump clear on cross country and come very close to making the time.

Shandiss McDonald and Rockfield Grant Juan
11-year-old bay Irish Sport Horse gelding owned by Jorge Bernhard
Shandiss came so close to finishing in second at The Fork CIC3* with this horse, only to slip and fall on one of the final turns coming home on cross country. She looked absolutely devastated when I saw her in the vet box afterwards, and I know she’ll be looking for redemption this weekend. This pair won their Advanced division at Poplar Place last month and have all the tools they need to play spoiler.

Buck Davidson and Mar De Amor
13-year-old bay Selle Francais gelding owned by Leigh Mesher
Buck and Mar De Amor have had a very solid spring, finished third in their Advanced division at Rocking Horse II and Poplar Place. They most recently ran second in Advanced at The Fork. This horse certainly has the talent to finish well in his four-star debut at Rolex. Part of me thinks Buck will play it safe with this horse and give him a good confidence-building ride, but I also wouldn’t be surprised for Buck to go for it on cross country.

Lynn Symansky and Donner
10-year-old Thoroughbred gelding owned by Lynn
Coming off a win in The Fork CIC3*, Lynn has to be feeling very confident about her chances with Donner. While she’s riding in a cast on her hand due to a broken pinky, that injury didn’t hold her back at all at The Fork. When I spoke to Lynn after her win, she seemed very optimistic about a solid showing in Kentucky. This is a really lovely horse with the potential to perform in all three phases. I’m predicting a top 15 finish.

James Alliston and Jumbo’s Jake
15-year-old bay Irish Sport Horse gelding owned by James and India McEvoy
This pair placed 17th at Rolex in 2011 and retired on cross country last year. James and Jake have had a solid spring preparation, finishing fourth in the Galway Downs CIC3* and winning the Advanced at Twin Rivers earlier this month. They also placed second in the Galway Downs CCI3* last year. All the pieces are there. It’s really a matter of whether James and Jake can deliver.

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Sally Cousins and Tsunami at The Fork. Photo by Samantha Clark.

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Allie Knowles and Last Call
14-year-old bay Mecklenburg mare owned by Allie and Christie Campbell
This is Allie’s Rolex debut with her lovely mare Last Call, who looked stunning at The Fork. This horse can be incredibly competitive in dressage. If Allie can handle her nerves and the atmosphere, look for them to be well up the leaderboard after dressage. Allie and Last Call most recently finished sixth in Advanced at The Fork and will be looking for a solid cross-country trip.

Austin O’Connor and Ringwood Mississippi
11-year-old bay Irish Sport Horse gelding owned by Kate Jarvey
Austin and Ringwood Mississippi completed the Blenheim CCI3* last year and were most recently 11th in Intermediate at Twesledown and eighth in Intermediate at Weston Park. This is their first four-star appearance, and it’s great that Austin chose Rolex for the horse’s CCI4* debut. They will be looking for a performance to build on for the future.

Meghan O’Donoghue and Pirate
11-year-old bay Thoroughbred gelding owned by Meghan
I really love this horse. In his entire eventing career, he’s jumped clear on cross country at every single event but one. I have no reason to believe that he can’t put in the same performance at his first four-star. Megan and Pirate were 12th in the Fair Hill CIC3* last year and most recently placed 19th at The Fork.

Mary King and Fernhill Urco
12-year-old grey Portuguese Sport Horse gelding owned by Edwin and Sue Davies and Janette Chinn
Fernhill Urco placed second at Rolex in 2011. After taking all of 2012 off, he’s back this season and most recently placed eighth in his Advanced division at Burnham Market. Mary almost clinched the Rolex watch on this horse once. While he’s been out of four-star competition for awhile, I’m predicting a top-10 finish for this pair.

Michelline Jordan and Irish Diamonds
15-year-old bay Thoroughbred gelding owned by Michelline
After retiring on cross country in the CIC3* at The Fork, Michelline and Irish Diamonds rerouted to Ocala, where they finished seventh in their Intermediate division. They were 24th in the CIC3* at Red Hills last month and will be looking for a positive cross-country trip to build confidence for future runs at the four-star level.

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Meghan O'Donoghue and Pirate at The Fork. Photo by Samantha Clark.

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Ronald Zabala-Goetschel and Wise Equestrian Master Rose
13-year-old bay Irish Sport Horse gelding owned by Ronald
Ronald and Big Boy completed at the Olympics last year, becoming the first rider from Ecuador to represent his country in eventing. Big Boy has been slowly coming back from an injury he incurred right before London, and Ronald told me at The Fork that the horse is finally starting to feel like his old self. They had an easy cross-country trip at The Fork CIC3* to finish 28th, and I think Ronald will step it up on the Rolex stage.

Erin Sylvester and No Boundaries
13-year-old bay Thoroughbred gelding owned by Erin
Erin and No Boundaries finished in 13th at Rolex last year and have since also completed at Burghley. Most recently, this pair finished second in their Advanced division at Pine Top and eighth in Advanced at Southern Pines. They did not go for time at The Fork CIC3*, where Erin and No Boundaries finished 20th. This pair has a good shot to finish in the top 15 again this year.

Jonelle Richards and The Deputy
11-year-old bay Irish Sport Horse gelding owned by Lucy Sangster and Jonelle
This is The Deputy’s first four-star. He and Jonelle were 32nd at the Blenheim CCI3* last year and have been out three times this year, finishing seventh in Intermediate at Isleham, sixth in Intermediate at Tweseldown and seventh in Advanced at Weston Park earlier this month. Competing in England gives this horse an edge over other Rolex first-timers.

Emily Renfroe and Walk The Line
11-year-old chestnut Hanoverian mare owned by Emily
Emily and Walk The Line placed 19th in the Fair Hill CCI3* last year and will be looking to complete around their first first-star cross-country corse. This pair most recently finished third in their Advanced division at Rocking Horse II and 18th in the Red Hills CIC3*. This horse is very good on cross country and certainly has the talent to get around the course.

Boyd Martin and Trading Aces
9-year-old bay Irish Sport Horse gelding owned by Trading Aces Syndicate
Boyd has had much success at Rolex in years past. He guided Otis Barbotierre to a third-place finish last year in the horse’s four-star debut, and I have no doubt he will get Oscar around safely and confidently. Oscar looked a bit quiet at The Fork to me, but Boyd typically likes to set up his horses to peak at the big events, so I imagine that’s the strategy here with this horse.

Boyd Martin and Trading Aces at The Fork. Photo by Jenni Autry.

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Lindsey Oaks and Enchantez
13-year-old bay Thoroughbred gelding owned by David Oaks and Bobbie Faircloth
Lindsey and Enchantez are yet another first-time pair at Rolex. They were seventh in the Fair Hill CCI3* last year thanks to a very fast and clean cross-country trip. They were most recently 26th in the Red Hills CIC3*. This pair definitely has the talent and experience to get around their first four-star course.

Rachel Jurgens and Ziggy
17-year-old bay Thoroughbred gelding owned by Rachel
Ziggy ties for the oldest horse in this year’s Rolex field, but age is just a number to this horse. He’s still very full of running and has had a great spring season leading up to Kentucky. This pair most recently finished seventh in the Advanced at The Fork. This is their first trip around a four-star, and I imagine Rachel is feeling confident going in.

Emily Beshear and Here’s To You
13-year-old bay Thoroughbred gelding owned by Emily
Emily and Quincy finished 20th at Rolex last year and certainly have the talent and experience to improve on that this year. This pair also finished 24th out of 90 starters at the Blenheim CCI3* last year. Most recently, they were 17th in the Red Hills CIC3* and 12th in The Fork CIC3*. If Emily goes for time, Quincy has the potential to be up there with the leaders going into show jumping.

Kendal Lehari and Daily Edition
15-year-old chestnut Thoroughbred gelding owned by Kendal
Kendal and Daily Edition came back this season after taking most of 2012 off. They were most recently 28th in the Red Hills CIC3* and won their Advanced division at Poplar Place last month. This is another pair making their four-star debut at Rolex.

Heather Gillette and Our Questionnaire
17-year-old bay Thoroughbred gelding owned by Heather Gillette
It didn’t look like Heather and Questie would make it to Rolex after the horse injured himself during the trailer ride home from Poplar Place last month. But Heather has worked incredibly hard to get Questie healed to compete in what will likely be his last Rolex. This pair most recently finished 33rd in the Red Hills CIC3*. They competed at Rolex in 2011 but retired on cross country.

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Emily Beshear and Here's To You at The Fork. Photo by Jenni Autry.

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William Fox-Pitt and Chilli Morning
13-year-old chestnut Brandenburg stallion owned by Lisa Stone
This is a relatively new ride for William, who took over the ride from Mary King last year. Since then, the horse won the Bramham CCI3* and finished fifth in the Pau CCI4*. Most recently, William and Chilli Morning were fourth in their Advanced division at Weston Park. After a fantastic start to his partnership with William, I’m predicting Chilli Morning will win Rolex. Plus, did you see him in the video Samantha posted? He looks fantastic.

James Alliston and Tivoli
13-year-old chestnut Dutch Warmblood gelding owned by James
Tivoli has had a fantastic preparation leaded up to his four-star debut. He and James won the CIC3* at Woodside and the Galway Downs CCI3* last fall. Most recently, this pair placed second in Advanced at Twin Rivers and in the CIC3* at Galway Downs. I still think that his stablemate Parker will just edge Tivoli on the leaderboard, but this horse might surprise us.

Marilyn Little and RF Demeter
11-year-old chestnut Oldenburg mare owned by Raylan Farms
We had originally heard that Marilyn Little withdrew after she separated her shoulder on Sunday. But we now have confirmation that she will still compete. Marilyn and Demeter were ninth at Rolex last year and have continued to produce top placings since then, finishing fourth at the Fair Hill CCI3* last fall and most recently finishing fourth at The Fork CIC3*. Marilyn will almost certainly go for time, so I expect to see them bring home another top 10 finish.

Buck Davidson and Ballynoecastle RM
13-year-old bay Irish Sport Horse gelding owned by Cassie Segal
I love this horse; unfortunately, he always seems to be plagued by a bit of bad luck. Buck and Reggie are returning to Rolex for the first time since 2009, when they finished 15th. They competed together at the 2010 WEG and went to Pau last year, where Buck was eliminated on cross country. Buck and Reggie most recently finished third in The Fork CIC3*.

Jan Byyny and Inmidair
14-year-old bay Thoroughbred gelding owned by Jan
Jan didn’t have the ideal conclusion to her Rolex prep when she and J.R. were eliminated at the coffin combination at The Fork CIC3*. But they had a solid season prior to that, finishing sixth in their Advanced division at Southern Pines and sixth in the Red Hills CIC3*. This is the horse’s first trip to Rolex, so I imagine Jan will be looking to give him a steady ride.

Andrew Nicholson and Quimbo
10-year-old bay Spanish Sport Horse gelding owned by Deborah Stellar
If there’s anything we’ve learned during Andrew’s incredible career, it’s to never count him out. He could easily swoop in here and play spoiler in Quimbo’s four-star debut. This horse was second in the Barbury CIC3* and won the Boekelo CCI3* last year, so he’s certainly ready to make the step up.

Phillip Dutton and Mighty Nice
9-year-old bay Irish Sport Horse gelding owned by Bruce Duchossois
If any American pair is going to win Rolex, it’s likely going to be Phillip on one of his two mounts. I was incredibly impressed with this horse at The Fork, who would have challenged Lynn Symansky for the CIC3* win had they not pulled two costly rails in show jumping. Happy has had an excellent spring season, winning the Red Hills CIC3* and placing second in Advanced at Pine Top. This pair finished 10th at Rolex last year; look for them to improve on that this year.

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