It’s officially Rolex week, EN! We’ve been bringing you all the news on the entries and withdrawals, introducing you to the Rolex Rookies, and scouring social media for everything you need to know about this year’s event. Now the EN team is ready to unveil our picks in seven categories: Big Winner, Top American, Best Rookie, West Coast Wonder, Spoiler Alert, Top Thoroughbred and Best Mare.
Let us know your own picks in the comments. You can see all 77 entries at this link; click on a rider’s name to see full stats and details on their horse. Keep it locked on EN as we continue to bring you coverage of the only CCI4* event in North America. Check back soon to see resident fortune teller Maggie Deatrick’s predictions for the entire top 15.
Rolex Links: Website, Entries, Schedule, EN’s Coverage
Jenni Autry: Michael Jung &
his unicorn La Biosthetique Sam FBW. It is difficult to imagine a scenario in which Michael and Sam don’t add a Rolex watch to their already hefty collection of hardware, which includes five total Olympic, WEG and European gold medals.
Maggie Deatrick: Michael Jung & La Biosthetique Sam FBW. Michael and his indomitable Sam are like the elven queen Galadriel in Lord of the Rings: all shall love them and despair.
Kate Samuels: I’m giving the advantage to defending champions William Fox-Pitt & Bay My Hero. I know the easy choice is Michael Jung, but WFP has won here multiple times on multiple horses. Bay My Hero scores well and is consistent.
Sally Spickard: Michael Jung & fischerRocana FST. It’s very difficult to bet against the Germans in any scenario, and Michael Jung has already shown us that he can win in Kentucky. It’s a bit of a toss-up between Sam and Rocana, but I’m going with the mare. She tore through WEG and has never really seemed to miss a beat.
John Thier: Michael Jung & La Biosthetique Sam FBW. Google has invented the world’s first machine that can ride horses, and its name is Michael Jung.
Leslie Threlkeld: Michael Jung & La Biosthetique Sam FBW. I’d love for it to be his mare, but how can you bet against a sure thing?
Leslie Wylie: Michael Jung & La Biosthetique Sam FBW. 2010 remix.
Jenni Autry: I’m going all in on Lauren Kieffer & Veronica, who have emerged as one of the most consistent pairs in U.S. eventing. After one more year of solidifying their partnership and a pair of Advanced wins this season, we can expect greatness in Lexington.
Maggie Deatrick: Lauren Kieffer & Veronica. Lauren and her Troll haven’t put a foot wrong all season; don’t look for them to start now.
Kate Samuels: Lauren Kieffer & Veronica. They were 2nd last year a little under the radar, and the mare has come out brilliantly this spring. Lauren is completely on a roll with all her horses, and while I don’t know where she’ll finish amongst the Europeans, she’ll be top of the U.S. pack.
Sally Spickard: Buck Davidson & Ballynoe Castle RM. I root for Buck and Reggie each year, and they seem to be ever improving their already solid partnership. They’ve placed higher at each Rolex they’ve completed and this could very well be their year to seal the deal.
John Thier: Lauren Kieffer & Veronica. A decade of coaching from David O’Connor and two years of learning what not to do from being my Young Riders teammate.
Leslie Threlkeld: Lauren Kieffer & Veronica. Lauren has been unstoppable this spring, and she doesn’t strike me as one to crack under pressure.
Leslie Wylie: Buck Davidson & Ballynoe Castle RM. Buck + Reggie = together 4ever.
Jenni Autry: Maya Black & Doesn’t Play Fair. Maya and Cody made the move up to the Advanced level last year and never looked back. They won Plantation Field in the company of Olympic and WEG horses, which shows just how deadly they can be. This little jumping bean should bounce around the course.
Maggie Deatrick: Maya Black & Doesn’t Play Fair. Cody looks primed and ready to ping around the Rolex course with his usual enthusiasm.
Kate Samuels: Maya Black & Doesn’t Play Fair. I’m picking this horse because I saw him run cross country at Carolina International this spring, and while his stature may make the jumps on Saturday look bigger than ever for Maya, he’s a complete little monster, and I think they’ll rip around in good style.
Sally Spickard: Leah Lang-Gluscic & AP Prime. I’m going with Leah and AP Prime because I liked their performances around two of Derek di Grazia’s tougher tracks: Bromont and Fair Hill. AP is a true blue Thoroughbred, and the big galloping course at Rolex should suit him well.
John Thier: Leah Lang-Gluscic & AP Prime. EN karma.
Leslie Threlkeld: Elisa Wallace & Simply Priceless. If he can hold it together in dressage, he’ll put in a respectable test and then go clear and fast everywhere else.
Leslie Wylie: Elisa Wallace & Simply Priceless. Go Mustangs!
West Coast Wonder
Jenni Autry: John Michael Durr & Esprit de la Danse are peaking at just the right time, finishing on their personal best three-star score in their final prep run at Galway Downs last month. John Michael is poised to deliver a performance that would make his mom extremely proud.
Maggie Deatrick: James Alliston & Tivoli. Tivoli is talented in all three phases and will make the West Coast proud.
Kate Samuels: Jordan Linstedt & Revitavet Capato. I remember when Jordan went around Rolex the first time, impossibly slow! The trust and bond she had with Tullibard’s Hawkwind was awesome, and with Capato, she’s blossomed into a sophisticated rider. This horse is phenomenally athletic, and I love the pair of them.
Sally Spickard: John Michael Durr & Esprit de la Danse. John Michael is one of our Rolex Rookies this year, and he’s been on the ride of his life with his powerhouse mare. Dani doesn’t have a cross country jump penalty on her FEI record with John Michael, and she tends to be quick across the ground.
John Thier: Jordan Linstedt & Revitavet Capato. Talented rider + athletic horse.
Leslie Threlkeld: Jordan Linstedt & Revitavet Capato. As has already been said, Jordan’s a classy rider, and have you seen this horse’s mesmerizing gallop?
Leslie Wylie: Maya Black & Doesn’t Play Fair. Little horse, the biggest heart!
Jenni Autry: I feel decidedly unpatriotic not picking an American, but I have to go with Francis Whittington & Easy Target. They laid down a 36.2 in dressage at Badminton last year, won Blenheim on a score of 38.8 and are hovering on the edge of greatness.
Maggie Deatrick: Jennie Brannigan & Cambalda. Jennie and Cambalda’s average performance will land them well inside the top 10, but if they throw down their best dressage test too, look for a jump up to finish as high as second place.
Kate Samuels: Jennie Brannigan & Cambalda. Four times unlucky at the four-star level, and I think everyone has stopped expecting them to win. They might benefit from some of the spotlight being removed, and Ping did go clear last year (at least he thought he did).
Sally Spickard: Marilyn Little & RF Demeter. Marilyn and Demi are one of the most consistent pairs we see on a regular basis here in the U.S. This mare is almost always near the top in FEI competition, and we already know that she’s quick footed, even around the bigger tracks.
John Thier: Jennie Brannigan & Cambalda. Nobody puts Jennie B in a corner.
Leslie Threlkeld: That’s a tough choice between Marilyn Little & RF Demeter and Jennie Brannigan & Cambalda. With karma on their side, Jennie and Ping will do well, but for the spoiler category, I have to choose the show jumper turned winning eventer.
Leslie Wylie: Jennie Brannigan & Cambalda. Third time’s a charm.
Jenni Autry: Lynn Symansky hasn’t played her full hand yet with Donner this season. Expect to be wowed when he puts on his dancing shoes; they’re poised to deliver their personal best dressage score, which will put them within striking distance of the leaders.
Maggie Deatrick: Donner. The Flying Deer is as Thoroughbred as they come, and Rolex is old news to him.
Kate Samuels: Anthony Patch. Lainey Ashker and Al have all the pieces to be in the top 10 or even top five, but they’ve been thwarted several times by Rolex for some reason. I need it to be their year in 2015. #LAE
Sally Spickard: Anthony Patch. Lainey will have her game face on in Kentucky this year after her weekend was ended before she could even canter down centerline last year. This is another pair who is consistent and has one of those partnerships that some of us can only dream of.
John Thier: Donner. First time back to the Kentucky Horse Park after a top-five finish as a youngster in 2013.
Leslie Threlkeld: Anthony Patch. Laine is always proud of him, and they both work too hard to be disappointed once again.
Leslie Wylie: Donner. Runs like a deer.
Jenni Autry: I’ve got a fever, and the only prescription is more Veronica.
Maggie Deatrick: Michael Jung & fischerRocana FST. As if one super horse isn’t enough, Michael has yet another waiting in the wings to take his place.
Kate Samuels: A tie between fischerRocana FST and Veronica. I mean, it is Michael Jung, but Veronica looks to me like she could take on the big guns this year. (I feel like Veronica is a mare that you don’t mess with.)
Sally Spickard: fischerRocana FST. This mare is fascinating and with Michael in the irons, the sky itself may not even be the limit. This may only be fischerRocana’s third CCI4*, but she’s come dangerously close to winning both attempts — one being WEG — so it will just be a matter of peaking at the right time and putting together three consistent phases.
Leslie Threlkeld: fischerRocana FST. I wouldn’t actually be surprised if Jung pulled a Mary King and finished first and second.
John Thier: fischerRocana FST. What Leslie T said. You heard it here second.
Leslie Wylie: Veronica. Move, fischerRocana FST, get out the way.