It’s a Cooley Master Class for Oliver Townend at Kentucky

Oliver Townend and Cooley Master Class. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

At the conclusion of the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event, it is difficult to choose a headline for the outcome. Any of the following would suit …

Cooley Master Class is All Class to Win Kentucky

Stage Set for a New Rolex Grand Slam Winner

Oliver Townend Poised to Become New FEI World No. 1

It is the first time in four years that Michael Jung’s name has not been in the headline of EN’s final report from Kentucky. With fischerRocana FST here to defend her throne for a fourth consecutive title, many questioned whether the wundermare could be beaten.

But prior to today, she had only jumped clear show jumping rounds in two of her seven CCI4* completions. The numbers pointed towards Rocana dropping a pole, and that’s what happened today over Richard Jeffery’s course.

Last year Rocana could afford a pole down to still win. This year she could not. The reigning queen of Kentucky ultimately settled for second place at the conclusion of the competition, while Oliver Townend won with CCI4* first-timer Cooley Master Class on a final score of 28.7.

The odds weren’t exactly in Oliver’s favor today. EquiRatings noted that in his last 50 CCI4* appearances, Oliver had only jumped four clear show jumping rounds on the final day. But that just goes to show you that sometimes the things you can’t quantify — like heart and guts and the will to win — will prevail.

As Oliver also won Burghley last fall — with another CCI4* first-timer in Ballaghmor Class — he has now teed up a shot at becoming the third rider in history to clinch the Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing, a title he would take next week were he to also win Badminton.

Not only that, but EquiRatings has forecasted that Oliver’s win today — plus finishing seventh with MHS King Joules — will push him past Michael Jung in the FEI World Rankings to become the new World #1.

Oliver said he has always been a believer in Angela Hislop’s Cooley Master Class, a 13-year-old Irish Sport Horse (Ramiro B X The Swallow, by Master Imp) he produced from a 4-year-old.

“He’s always been a favorite at home by all the members of staff and myself. He came right at the end of a period when I had sold an awful lot of good horses … He came right at the right time in terms of when I sat on him I said, ‘This one we’re going to one way or another keep.’ I was lucky enough to sell him to Angela Hislop to keep the ride.

“He’s never really let us down. He’s just had a couple of niggles injury-wise, and at certain stages at his career we’ve often thought, ‘My God is he actually ever going to come through with what we know he can come through with?’ We know how talented he is; we’ve seen him do some very special things at the home competitions, but at certain points in his career it didn’t quite look like he was ever going to come to fruition. In his last two seasons he’s toughened up, and we’ve found a way to manage him better and learn more about him. He’s always been cheeky — always been talented, and we’re just very pleased that he’s finally come through.”

Michael Jung and fischerRocana FST. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Michael Jung could not have been more gracious about settling for second place on 31.5 with fischerRocana FST, a 13-year-old German Sport Horse (Ituango xx X Rose II, by Carismo) owned by Brigitte and Joachim Jung.

“I’m very happy about fisherRocana. I was a little bit sad — more about me because that was absolutely my mistake. I was too far away from this fence, but my mare tried hard. It was still a good round. One down — one down too much, but I’m happy all in all; it was a very nice week again in Kentucky.”

With only two poles separating the top 10, we expected quite a bit of movement on the final leaderboard today. Marilyn Little and RF Scandalous, a 13-year-old Oldenburg mare (Carry Gold X Richardia, by Lario) owned by Phoebe and Michael Manders and Jacqueline Mars, jumped one of the eight clear rounds inside the time to move from sixth up to third place on 32.8. As the highest-placed American combination, Marilyn and “Kitty” are the new Land Rover/USEF National CCI4* Champions.

Marilyn Little and RF Scandalous. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

“She is very trusting, and she’s a wonderful horse to ride. She has an incredible sense of the moment. She knows when to turn it on. She loves performing for a crowd, so the bigger the crowd the better,” Marilyn said. “She’s a real princess, which was actually a concern early on. We wondered if she was going to be too delicate, too fragile, too careful for eventing, but she’s actually become a very courageous, brave horse and she will give you 150% of everything she has.”

The mare can be notoriously hot and fired-up before cross country, and Marilyn said she bit her bottom lip in warm-up yesterday. FEI officials confirmed that they examined the cut and cleared RF Scandalous to still leave the startbox, but blood was visible on the mare’s lips during her round.

“I said, ‘I absolutely do not want to go out on course unless she’s 100% OK.’ We called for the vet, Duncan Peters, who immediately came over. He said, ‘Yes, it’s just a cut on the outside of her lip. It has nothing to do with the bridle.’ Her bit is wrapped in rubber, so he notified the official veterinary delegate and contacted the ground jury and the stewards. Everybody said, ‘It’s OK to compete; she’s OK.’ And it looked like the bleeding was subsiding. I left the startbox thinking all protocols had been followed and the boxes were checked and that she was OK to compete,” Marilyn said.

“She tripped on the landing from number three — perhaps that had something to do with why (the bleeding) restarted, but we also know with adrenaline and her heart beating faster, things can happen. It was very obvious from the photos that it was more on the right side, and it had nothing to do with the bit. She just bit her lip. Then, of course, the (vet) came and checked her at the finish … I’m really devastated that it happened, but I’m really glad that people were there to get it checked out.”

Event officials later released a statement that “there was no report of blood at the finish,” though blood is visible in photos of the horse on the course, and photos also show the mare’s mouth being wiped after finishing the course.

Looking to the rest of the leaderboard, Phillip Dutton and Z, a 10-year-old Zangersheide (Asca X Bellabouche, by Babouche VH Gehucht Z) owned by the Z Partnership, jumped clear and inside the time to move from eighth up to fourth place on 33.7 in the horse’s CCI4* debut.

In the previous three runnings of Kentucky, only eight pairs managed to jump clear show jumping rounds inside the time. Thanks to dry weather and perfect footing on cross country yesterday, we saw eight combinations jump clear and inside the time today.

Lauren Kieffer and Jacqueline Mars’ Vermiculus, an 11-year-old Anglo Arabian (Sazeram X Wake Me Gently), jumped a beautiful clear inside the time to move from 10th up to fifth place on a final score of 34.8.

Lynn Symansky and Donner, a 15-year-old Thoroughbred (Gorky Park X Smart Jane, by Smarten) owned by The Donner Syndicate, had one rail down to finish sixth on 35.5.

Oliver Townend and MHS King Joules, a 13-year-old Irish Sport Horse (Ghareeb X Gowran Lady, by Cavalier Royal) owned by Tom Joule, had one rail down to finish seventh on 35.3.

Sharon White and Cooley On Show. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Sharon White and her own Cooley On Show, an 11-year-old Irish Sport Horse (Ricardo Z X Jogantina, by Grand d’Espagne), jumped a beautiful clear inside the time to finish eighth on their dressage score of 35.6.

Chris Burton and Nobilis 18, an 11-year-old Hanoverian (Nobre xx X Lilli, by Lemon xx) owned by Sue Lawson and Carolyn Townsend, came to Kentucky hoping to put their four poles down at Burghley 2016 behind them. They dropped two poles today to finish ninth on 35.9.

Buck Davidson and Copper Beach, a 12-year-old Irish Sport Horse (Radolin X Cloverballen) owned by Sherrie Martin and Carl Segal, jumped clear and inside the time to move up from 18th to finish 10th on 36.0.

EN’s superstar data analyst Maggie Deatrick once again crunched the numbers today. The average for the field was 1.28 rails per horse, down from 2017 (1.52 rails), 2016 (1.55 rails), and 2015 (2.27 rails).

Time seemed tight today on Richard Jeffery’s course, but the average of 1.19 seconds per pair was on par with 2015 (1.03 seconds) and 2016 (1.8 seconds) and well behind the average of 2017 (2.62 seconds).

EN’s Biggest Mover Award goes to OTTB Truly Wiley and Kelly Prather, who moved up 25 places from 41st after dressage to finish in 16th place on a final score of 46.6. Click here to view final scores from #LRK3DE.

EN coined the term “insanity in the middle,” so it should come as no surprise that we are currently battling the most epic server crash in the site’s history. While we always take extra measures to boost our servers for the #BestWeekendAllYear, you fabulous readers went above and beyond and still took the servers down in a blaze of glory. Lesson learned: Never underestimate eventing fans.

Please join me in thanking Leslie Wylie, Leslie Threlkeld, Shelby Allen, Maggie Deatrick and Abby Powell for going above and beyond to bring you stellar coverage of #LRK3DE despite the uphill battle with the servers. Shout outs also go to Samantha Clark, Diarm Byrne and John Kyle for all of their help behind the scenes.

Just like it takes a village to get a horse to a four-star, it takes a village to bring you coverage of this event. EN is lucky to have the best team in the business, which wouldn’t be possible without your support as readers. Thank you for making us your official Kentucky headquarters. Go Eventing.

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