Andrew Nicholson couldn’t quite catch William Fox-Pitt and Chilli Morning in the exciting finale of dressage here at the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event. Andrew and Quimbo put in a really lovely test for a 38 to move into second place. Aside from missing on the last change — which has proven tricky for quite a few riders today — this test was excellent. Quimbo is a fabulous mover and very light on his feet; he almost looks cat-like as he covers the ground. Andrew also sits in second place on 40.8 with Calico Joe, giving himself two very good chances to win at Rolex. A victory this weekend also puts Andrew in a potential position to win the Rolex Grand Slam, which he would clinch should he win both Rolex and Badminton on back-to-back weekends. Tomorrow’s cross-country day may prove to be a Fox-Pitt vs. Nicholson showdown.
Marilyn Little rode a stellar test today on RF Demeter despite having a Grade 3 separated shoulder, which happened last weekend when a young horse she was riding fell during a jump school. Samantha tweeted that Marilyn looked sore in warmup, but she really put on her game face and pushed through the pain. Her determination to ride this weekend despite her injury paid off, as she and RF Demeter scored a 43.7 to tie Mary King and Fernhill Urco for fifth place. David and Karen O’Connor both intently watched Marilyn’s test, and Karen looked absolutely thrilled when her score was announced. The EN team is keeping our fingers crossed for a safe trip around cross country for Marilyn tomorrow. Kudos to Marilyn for riding through what has to be severe pain.
Buck Davidson put in a superb performance on Ballynoecastle RM and moved into eighth place on a 45.2. This is the best test I’ve ever seen from Buck and Reggie, and this pair definitely deserves it. Buck gave Reggie a huge pat at the end of the test and looked thrilled when he left the ring. Cross country can be Reggie’s nemesis, so tomorrow will really make or break this pair. Buck will have three chances to get around tomorrow; he’s also sitting in 20th on Mar De Amor and 23rd with Park Trader. Jan Byyny and Inmidair looked fantastic in their test and were rewarded with a 49.2 to move into 13th place. This is J.R.’s Rolex debut, and he handled the atmosphere very well. There changes looked fabulous, and aside from a slight bobble in the canter transition out of the reinback and doing a California roll through the final salute, this was a super test.
James Alliston and Tivoli also had an excellent test, and particularly had some really nice moments in the trot work. The changes were a bit sticky, but James should be very thrilled with Tivoli in the horse’s first trip to Rolex. James and Tivoli scored 49.5 to put them in 14th place. Phillip Dutton and Mighty Nice were the final ride of the day, and unfortunately things did not go their way. Happy was fussy in the halt and tried to break to the canter right off the bat in the collected trot. The atmosphere really seemed to affect the horse, and Phillip couldn’t take his foot off the brakes to really show what this horse can do. The good news is Happy just turned 10 and is just beginning to come into his own. Phillip and Mighty Nice scored 57 to sit in 24th place; he is in 34th with Fernhill Eagle.
John predicted yesterday that the leaderboard would see a major shuffle on Day 2 of dressage, and he was certainly correct. While William Fox-Pitt and Chilli Morning absolutely wowed the crowd today, I have to give the ride of the day to Allie Knowles and Last Call, who are currently the highest-placed American pair — and in their Rolex debut no less. Allie has worked incredibly hard to get where she is with this mare — as Samantha has extensively chronicled in her training diaries series — and I’m thrilled for Allie to have such a wonderful day on such a big stage. Stay tuned for much more from Rolex, as Samantha will be bringing you a full report from the press conference. Tomorrow will be a very exciting day as the horses and riders tackle Derek Di Grazia’s Rolex cross-country course. Go eventing.