Welcome to round 3 of EN's group Rolex picks, whereby we have selected 3 combinations from each of our preview posts to move on to round 2. This is a bracket style competition, and at the end we will have a collective EN pick as the result of our voting in polls throughout the bracket.
Note: We will also have a separate contest where everyone can enter their own Rolex picks, per the suggestion of PlayerHater. One member of Eventing Nation will win this contest outright, and they will have the distinction of beating the best and the brightest in the eventing community. We might have a prize for this contest, depending on if I have time to find a company to sponsor it. More about that later.
19 Rolex pairs from our preview posts advanced to round 2:
From preview part 1 & 2: Boyd and Neville (25%), Bonnie and Merloch (23%), Leslie Law and Mystere (19%)
From preview part 3: Phillip and Kheops (30%), Kim and Tipperary (35%), Hawley and Gin & Juice (13%)
From part 4: Allison and Arthur (30%), Will and Pawlow (28%), Mara and High Patriot (17%)
From part 5: Will and Twizzel (14%), Phillip and Chip (34%), Boyd and Remington (23%)
From part 6: Stephen and Joshua (20%), WFP and Cool Mountain (18%), Becky and Comet (19%)
From part 7: Oliver and Ashdale Cruise Master (28%), Karen and Mandiba (23%), Amy and Coal Creek (19%)
Judge's save: Woodburn
This is a very strong list, and I think any of these combos has a shot to win Rolex. Except, I still don't think there is any chance of Will riding Twizzel less than three weeks after breaking his collar bone, but if they did ride at Rolex, I would put Will and Twizzel in my top 5 for sure. They have looked great this spring.
In an effort to foster discussion, here are the best 5 dressage, XC, and show jumping pairs, in my opinion, based on watching the horses this spring and staring at their records for hours for the previews.
(In no particular order)
Best 5 Pairs at Dressage:
Becky and Comet: obvious Mara and High Patriot: best dressage rider in the field Kim and Tipperary: Jimmy said they would be top 3 after dressage Will and Twizzel: looked extremely polished in the training sessions and at The Fork Leslie and Mystere: consistently good
Best at Cross-Country:
Phillip and Chip: 2/2 double clears at four-stars
Phillip and Woodburn: best gallop in the field Oliver and Ashdale Cruise Master: because Oliver is riding Boyd and Neville: veteran, tough, hard working horse Will and Pawlow: meshing at just the right time
Best at Show Jumping:
Stephen and Joshua: 8 SJ penalties since 2003 Phillip and Chip: one rail in last 8 rounds WFP and Cool Mountain: great SJ rider Allison and Arthur: looked super at jumping training sessions Karen and Mandiba: gotta like Karen on Sundays
Coal Creek, Gin & Juice, and Remington all have solid all around games. I also was close to putting Chip and Ashdale Cruise Master in the best dressage group, and Mystere almost made the top show jumping group.
Everyone gets three votes again this round, and the top three from each group will move onto round 3.
Oh, I almost forgot-subk requested a preview for Woodburn, but I am very tired so this is going to be short: Wodburn's dressage is improving, but he has a tendency to get tense and lose his cool. Best case scenario for Phillip is to get Woodburn in a time slot where there will be a small crowd. Woodburn is absolutely automatic on XC, with a tremendous gallop. Show jumping is a liability for Woodburn with the over-under at one rail. Look for Phillip to ride fast in the early part of the show jumping and steady Woodburn toward the end as Woodburn tends to get more tense as the round progresses. I think Woodburn will win a 4* someday, and that day could easily come in a few days, but he might need a rail in hand and I'm not convinced that this XC course is going to give that to him.
Oh, I almost forgot, Eventing Nation is new to the world of Twitter, but we plan to learn on the fly at Rolex and the goal is to integrate Twitter into our Rolex coverage. www.twitter.com/eventingnation
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 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.
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.
(1) In the advanced A, Becky Holder and Courageous Comet moved up to win after Kim and Tipperary Liadhnan pulled three rails. Phillip and Woodburn remained in 3rd with just one rail.
(2) The top 4 in the advanced B remained steady, with four double clears at the top. Pawlow finished off a very strong weekend, collecting the win with Will Faudree.
(3) Phillip rode three of his advanced horses this weekend (Woodburn, The Foreman, Kheops Du Quesnay) and finished all of them in the top four of their divisions.
(4) The advanced and intermediate show jumping at Southern Pines was held in the grass across the street from the sand rings, which may have contributed to the low number of clean rounds (just 13 in the advanced divisions) with several very high penalty rounds.
(1) At Poplar Place, Colin Davidson and Draco won the advanced on a 56.6, beating Karl Slezak and Charley Farley by less than a point. Buck and Titanium added 16 time penalties on the XC and 3 in the showjumping, but finished a solid weekend in 5th.
(2)Leslie Law and Fleeceworks Mystere Du Val retired after falling at an irish bank on the advanced XC. Several of the first few horses out on course had major issues with the fence, and it was removed from the course soon thereafter.
Chelan Kozac has posted pics of her fall at the irish bank on her blog. In her description, Chelan says "[expletive] the second to last jump was an Irish bank nay, an effing HUGE Irish bank!! Three horses fell then they removed it." Fortunately both Chelan and her horse were fine.
(3)Northern Spy and Heidi White took their time around the XC, but this is yet another pair with other goals in mind for the spring.
(4) In the CIC2*, Clark Montgomery won with Loughna Glen, adding 14 XC time to his dressage score. Buck finished with Absolute Liberty, Haifa Bay, and All The Aces in the top five of that division.
(5) In the CIC1* Rowdie Adams won with No Money Down, beating Cathy Wieschhoff and Simba by 3 points. Go eventing.