Our fun fact about Phillip is that he is the fastest rider in the US, and maybe the World. Let's spend a little time talking about this, and I may continue the discussion in our previews of Phillip's other rides. Several years ago, Karen summarized the secret to one part of Phillip's speed beautifully when she said that he can collect without slowing down. When you see Phillip riding on Saturday, watch how it happens. The process starts with a slight rebalance by Phillip, but then as the jump gets closer, his horse will rebalance itself off of the fence, and then Phillip adds leg and presto! Phillip achieves better collection and better balance in the canter than anyone else at 50 meters per minute faster than anyone else. The exact method for teaching this process to horses is a closely guarded government secret, and if I told you, I'd have to kill you, but it takes years of near perfect training. On top of it all, Phillip hits the perfect spot every time, which never hurts.
Now, after explaining all of that, I should point out that Kheops, the first of Phillips rides, has a reputation for being strong on course, which can make implementing Phillip's technique challenging because sometimes Phillip will just have to take a couple of tugs and lose those precious seconds like the rest of us. However, Phillip has been very patient producing 'Danny' and the horse looked like he was really listening to Phillip at Southern Pines, which was their last outing together. A 30 in the dressage at SoPo was a great sign as well, and Danny has one of the better show jumping records in the Rolex field. I see Danny putting in a solid dressage test, moving up to striking distance on the XC, delivering a 0 or 4 point show jumping round and then waiting to see how far that jumps them up the scoreboard.
Sara Kozumplik and Somerset: Colorful Interview
Sara is a former A Pony Clubber, and won young riders in 2000, and our fun fact about Sarah is that she will have the best hair in the Rolex field. Somerset (17hh Dark Bay TB G) is an extremely nice horse, the kind of horse that the very top riders talk about wanting. Somerset placed 16th at Rolex last year, adding just 1 point to his dressage score. Sarah and Somerset have only competed in 3 events since then, and they withdrew from The Fork after XC, which raises major questions, but if they are good to go for Rolex I expect a nearly clean jumping effort to put them in very solid contention.
Another one of our left coast teams, this will be Kelly and Ballinakill Glory's first 4*, but they have international experience with a trip to Poland last year for the World Cup final where they placed 16th, and they finished the year off with a 17th at the muddy Fair Hill CCI3*. Kelly and 'Pippa' (16.2 Bay ISH M) collected a stop at the Galway CIC3*, a track that rode pretty easily, but, other than that, they bring a solid dressage and show jumping game to Rolex and I expect at least a top 20 finish. Our fun fact is that in the hood, 'Ballinakill' means 'to accidentally or intentionally kill someone with and Air Jordan while playing basketball.'
Kim's fun fact is that she is the biggest perfectionist as a rider that I have ever seen. In previewing Rolex, this is one of the toughest combinations for me to figure out. On one hand, Kim is the queen of Kentucky. With three Rolex wins, nobody has had more success in Kentucky, and when you combine that with her other international accomplishments, Kim gives me the feeling that she would find her way into the top 10 at Rolex riding an Alpaca. Of course, Paddy (17.2 Grey Irish Draught G) is anything but an Alpaca, and he placed 5th with Kim at Rolex '08. Since then, he has only completed 8 events, and watching The Fork show jumping left me with some questions, but a great weekend at Kentucky puts the pair right back into the thick of the WEG hunt. Do you want to bet against Kim riding at Kentucky for a chance to compete at Kentucky in the World Equestrian Games later this fall? This is Kentucky, this is Kim, this is clutch time; I'm expecting a great performance.
A perennial Rolex team, Tara and Buckingham Place have competed in Kentucky the last 3 years in a row. The fun fact is that Tara is married to a friend of mine, and they have a beautiful baby. Tara and Buckingham Place collected a stop but also the win and a new car at the Red Hills CIC3* earlier this year and they have not competed since then. As one of the most experienced Rolex pairs in the field, look for a savvy XC ride from Tara and Buckingham Place on Saturday.
Hawley Bennett-Awad is another rider based in California competing at Rolex this year. As a fun fact, Hawley carried the Olympic torch for Canada on it's relay this winter. While this is Gin & Juice's (Ginny's) fist four-star, Hawley has gained considerable experience competing with the lovely Livingstone, including the Olympics, Pan Ams, Rolex (4 times), and Badminton. WIth Ginny, Hawley won the Bromont CCI3* in 2009, and they bring an all-around solid three phases against the best in the World at Rolex.
Our fun fact about Andrea is that her family owns Twin Rivers Ranch in California, home of several events including a fall CIC3*. With only 5 events on record since 2008 and all of those on the West Coast, it's hard to know what to expect from Estrella in her first four-star, but being a small chestnut mare, I'd expect a mediocre dressage test followed by some fire on the XC.
Jessica Hampf and High Society (16hh B TB G) bring a very clean but slow XC record to Rolex with over 20 time penalties in 11 of their previous 12 events. Not many people trim time at Rolex, especially in their first time at a 4*, so I would anticipate a solid weekend for Jessica but not a top placing.
Peter Atkins and Henry Jota Hampton: Homepage
After a few years away from the top levels of eventing, Peter has made a strong comeback and is poised for a good performance at Rolex this year. Our fun fact about Peter is that he is the helmet-cam guy. I have never met Peter, but I like what I have seen from watching him at competitions; he is a tall, polished rider who treats his horses kindly. Henry (16.2 Bay Argentine SH G) has a very good XC record, with only two stops and two TE's with Peter in their 24 competitions together, and they have only had double digit time penalties once. If Peter can avoid jumping the wrong jump at Rolex, I think this pair should do well and could easily flirt with a top 10.
EN's Rolex Pick: Remember that you can vote for three combinations, and the top three will advance to the next round. Please vote for the 3 pairs that you think will place highest in Kentucky.