Adding to the pressure of competing at the nation's biggest event (and for some, a spot on the team!), competitors must indulge the media in daily press conferences. Lucky for us, they are friendly and have plenty to say about the weather, the cross-country course, and their amazing horses.
"Cool Mountain is a very talented horse on the flat...to produce his best test today, in this atmosphere, is a credit to him, but I think he's got more in him."
On Saturday's test: "Last year the course was a bit tricker but there are plenty of chances to make mistakes."
"If it rains it will be huge."
"I've been working really hard to improve myself and my horse in all three phases, and I hope that this weekend we can really put it all together."
"This is a place I've always dreamed to be."
Press conference video from EventingUSA
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
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
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
Everyone gets three votes again this round, and the top three from each group will move onto round 3.
Everyone gets three votes again this round, and the top three from each group will move onto round 3.
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Phillip's Equisearch blog announced this morning that the Icelandic volcano that has grounded flights in the UK and wreaked havoc with WFP's and Olliver's travel plans has also prevented Woodburn from traveling to England for Badminton. This gives Phillip 4 rides at Rolex which requires FEI approval.
Check out Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7 of EN's Rolex competitor previews, and vote in today's poll as Eventing Nation works our way toward a collective Rolex prediction. So far the riders who have made it onto the next round are: Allison, Will Faudree, Mara Dean, Phillip and Kheops, Kim, Hawley Bennett-Awad, Boyd and Neville, Bonnie, Leslie Law.
Will Coleman and Twizzel: Homepage
Will and Twizzel are one of the USA's best pairs, and they are as likely as anyone right now to make the WEG squad, except for Phillip and Buck. That said, if Will rides XC at Rolex, I will go streaking on Sunday. Will broke his collar bone 12 days ago at The Fork, he had surgery to repair the break. Even if he could, I can't think of any reason why Will would run at Rolex rather than waiting for the Luhmuhlen CCI4* in mid June. I am even more confident saying this because word in the barns is that Will has already received an 'OK' from the USET to run at Luhmuhlen. Will placed 5th at Luhmuhlen last year with Twizzel, and they should still be considered favorites to make the WEGs.
Continuing our discussion of how Phillip makes the time on XC better than anyone else, one of the things Phillip helps teach his students is to save a second before, over, and after each jump. Saving a second before the fence means improving the length of time it takes to collect from gallop to the suitable canter for the obstacle, saving a second over the fence mean taking a smart line, and saving a second after the fence means galloping away efficiently. If you can save three seconds over every fence on a course with 30+ elements...do the math. When you watch Phillip ride this weekend, observe how close he gallops to the ropes, and the efficient lines he takes with his horses.
Phillip has such a great relationship with 'Chip' that you will really get to see all of Phillip's time saving techniques on display with this horse on Saturday. Chip hasn't competed in a 4* since 2005, but in that year he completed both Rolex and Burghley with a grand total of 4 jumping penalties for both events and finished 2nd at each. Chip is also perhaps the best show jumper in the field with one rail in 8 previous rounds. Oh, and Chip hasn't had a stop since 2003. Oh, and he dropped a 24.7 at Southern Pines in the best dressage test I have ever seen him have. Chip is Jimmy's runner up pick for Rolex, but we have to consider that Ms. Jones threatened Jimmy not to jinx the horse. I haven't been threatened yet (maybe my picks are considered the anti-jinx when you factor in EN Karma), but I'll hold off on making my final pick until later. For now, let's just say that if Chip competes through the weekend, he's as close to a lock for a top-3 finish as you will ever find.
Kristi Nunnink and R-Star: Bio
Our fun fact about Kristi is that she is coached by Derek Di Grazia out in California. Kristi and R-Star (16.2 Greg Holsteiner M) are another west coast pair making their Rolex debut, and they are perhaps the best of that bunch. R-Star is just 8 years old, but shows great potential, with clean rounds in her last 16 XC rides and a quality show jumping record. I think Kristi will take her time around the XC to give this young mare a good experience, but they are a pair to keep an eye on for the future.
Debbie Rosen and The Alchemyst: Homepage
Wow, the west coast is really showing up at Rolex this year! Debbie and The Alchemyst have a stop at their only advanced competition this spring, the CIC3* at Galway, but they jumped around Rolex '09 to finish in 25, and a similar placing this year would be a quality weekend.
Our fun fact about Boyd is that he likes the Hilltop Hoods. Jimmy jokingly doesn't give Remington much of a chance at Rolex this year, but that's the story of this horse's career. Two years ago I thought Remi would make some young rider a very nice first prelim horse, but Boyd has shown once again that he can find the 4* hidden deep within a horse. It's the Thomas story and the Neville story all over again; a nightmare for any owner who spends $150K to buy a superstar for their pro. Remington hasn't stopped in 31 starts with Boyd, and he was 6th at both the Jersey and the Fair Hill CCI3* last year. Fine, sit there and tell me that the horse doesn't have the jump, tell me he's a little slow, point out that it has a couple of suspect show jumps on its record: I won't argue with you. But the horse has guts, and with Boyd that's good enough for a top-10 even with some time on XC.
(note: I'm not sure if anything in this Hilltop Hoods video is explicit lyrics because I can't understand what they are saying, but it's entirely possible)
Selena O'Hanlon and Columbo (CAN): Facebook
After a tough 2008 with a stop at Rolex and two stops at the Olympics, Selena and Columbo had a quality 2009, finishing just within the ribbons at Rolex. With her experience and consistency of late, Selena should win the 'Crosby trophy' as the highest placed Canadian at Kentucky this year, with a shot at the top 10 if they pick up the pace on XC, eh? Our fun fact about Selena is that she and her mom make a great team at the events.
Michael Pollard and Wonderful Will: Bio
Michael bought Wonderful Will from Mike Winter around the time Mike moved to England last year. Wonderful Will gives me the impression of controlled (sorta) chaos on XC, but his attacking style suits Michael and they had a great looking XC round at The Fork. Rolex will be Michael's first three-day with Will, but I'm expecting good things.
Ashley MacVaugh and All's Fair: Homepage
Our fun fact about Ashley is that she placed 5th individually at the Pan Ams in 2003 with All's Fair. All's Fair is probably the most experienced horse in this field. All's Fair has finished 4 Rolex events ('03, '04, '06, '07), jumping around 3 of those cleanly and finishing in 18th, 20th, 20th, and 29th respectively. All's Fair also finished Burghley in '04 with one stop. The 18 year old Thoroughbred will give Ashley yet another run at Rolex this year and let's be sure to give the veteran horse a special cheer along the way for being with us at Kentucky for so many years.
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.
The past few days have seen some significant withdraws from the Rolex entry list and, with a couple of additions, the official number of Rolex entries sits at 59.
Allison and Arthur delivered a great test today and lead the CIC3* by 4.1 points over Mara Dean and Nicki Henley. In the advanced division, Mara, Phillip, and EN's own Hannah Burnett are tied for the lead on High Patriot, Connaught, and St. Barths respectively. The second half of the dressage for the CIC3* and advanced starts Friday morning.
45 of the 72 current Rolex entries are entered in the CIC3* or Advanced this weekend, which means we will get to see all but a couple US Rolex horses in action together.
One thing is clear: the Team is sending its riders to Rolex. In the past, the USET has sometimes elected to send horses to spring 3*'s, but if you want to ride in Kentucky this fall, it looks like you're going to have to ride in Kentucky this spring. Even though the WEG track will look very different from Rolex (except for a few shared elements), it makes sense to give the horses a feel for the environment and setting. The WEG course will also be bigger than Rolex, so we might as well see who can handle 4* size and technicality now.
Will C. and Twizzel (5th Luhmuhlen CCI4* 09)
Buck and BallyNoe Castle RM (11th Burghley 09, 15th Rolex 09)
Boyd and Neville (9th Rolex 08)
Phillip and TruLuck (4th Burghley 09, 9th Rolex 07)
Phillip and Woodburn (12th Rolex 09, 9th Rolex 08)
Amy and Leyland (14th Burghley 09, 13th Rolex 09)
11 out of 14 B-listers are entered:
Stephen and Brandenburg's Joshua (10th Rolex 09, 4th Rolex 08)
Phillip and Waterfront (24th Rolex 07)
Buck and My Boy Bobby (3rd Rolex 09)
Phillip and Connaught (7th Rolex 09, DQ Olympics, 1st Rolex 08, 2nd Rolex 07)
Phillip and Kheops du Quesnay (none, unless he did one before PD got him)
Will F. and Pawlow (none)
Kristi Nunnink and R-Star (none)
Karen and Mandiba (E Burghley, 44th Olympics)
Allison and Arthur (E Burghley 09, 14th Rolex 09, 13th Rolex 08)
Amy and Coal Creek (none)
Jennifer Wooten-Dafoe and The Good Witch (31st Burghley 09, MR Rolex 09, 7th Rolex 08, 11th Pau 07)
As a trivial experiment, taking the highest placed horses at 4*'s would yield a four horse team of Connaught (1st Rolex), My Boy Bobby (3rd Rolex), Brandenburg's Joshua (4th Rolex), Twizzel (5th Luhmuhlen) because PD isn't allowed to take 2 horses. Thankfully, that's not how selection works...I think.
If riding around a four-star in front of tens of thousands of people isn't enough pressure, consider that a team spot is on the line, a position which represents an incredible personal achievement, big sponsorships, recognition for the horse, and, most of all, that red jacket. The WEG selectors will take countless factors into consideration, but their memory of how each pair looked at Rolex, around the biggest course, on the biggest stage, on the WEG facilities, will surely have a huge impact on their selections.