FAQ: Rolex

We get a lot of questions here at EN.  I’m here to answer any and all inquiries, but to save us all the trouble, I thought I’d get a batch of them out of the way today.  With a big 4* event looming upon us, let’s shed some light on the subject.


Q: What is “Rolex?”

A:  The Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event CCI****, known simply as “Rolex” (never “THE” Rolex, unless you want to sound like a total dweeb), is the USA’s biggest eventing competition, a four-star event.  Riders from across the globe will compete in dressage, cross-country, and show-jumping.

Q:  I thought Rolex was a watch.

A:  It is, and is also the title sponsor of the event for as long as most of us can remember.  The winner of the event wins a Rolex timepiece.

Q:  Do they wear those on cross-country?  Does it have a count-down beeping timer?

A:  No, you’re thinking of the Optimum Time Yellow Watch.  That’s not a Rolex.

Q: Where is Rolex? 

A: Rolex is hosted at the Kentucky Horse Park, located in Lexington, the Horse Capital of The World.

Q:  Isn’t that where some big-deal horse race is, the Derby thing?  Is that what this Rolex is all about?

A:  That is in Louisville, also part of Kentucky, but not to be confused with Lexington.  Rolex has nothing to do with the Derby, except that they both air on NBC.  And they both include horses.

Q:  I saw a sign once that said Ocala, FL was “horse capital of the world.” 

A:  They’re lying.  It’s pretty much undeniable that horses are King in Kentucky.  Go drive around Lexington sometime, you’ll understand.

Q:  I thought Bourbon was king in Kentucky.  Does Rolex serve Mint Juleps?  I like Mint Juleps.

A:  No.  That’s more of a Derby thing.

Q:  When is Rolex?

A:  April 22-25.

Q: Wait.  That’s four days.  Why isn’t it called the Rolex Kentucky FOUR-Day Event?

A: Well, each rider only rides 3 days of competition.  Dressage is spread out over Thursday and Friday.

Q: Is that to keep the judges happy, less total hours cramped in a small box reciting arbitrary numbers?  Or because the hotels and local businesses like an extra day of visitors’ money?

A:  That’s just how it’s done at major three-days.  They are four days long.  There is a perceived advantage to competing dressage on Friday, as some believe judges “save room” on Thursday for lower scores the next day.  This cannot be confirmed nor denied.

Q: OK, so how do you know who wins?

A:  The riders perform a dressage test to give them a starting penalty score.  Then they tackle cross-country, trying to jump clean and fast to avoid additional points.  Lastly, they must complete a show jumping course, where any knockdowns or disobediences also add penalty points.  Lowest score wins.

Q:  So it’s like golf, then.  Lower score is better.  And they compete on green grass.  Do riders earn negative points for going faster?  Like -1 for a birdie/flyer on the 4th fence?

A:  No.  It doesn’t work that way.  Going too fast is often dangerous and ill-advised.

Q:  But it would be cool if they could. 

A:  If you say so. 

Q:  So how long is this golf, I mean, cross-country course?

A: Generally about 30 fences, lasting from 11 to 12 minutes.  At 570mpm, that’s up to 6840m (about 4.3 miles, for the non-metric).  The jumps are spread out all over the park, so you have a lot of ground to cover!

Q:  So, like, spectators have to walk around?  You can’t sit in one spot and view all the thrills & spills?

A:  Well, there are a couple video screens.  But if all you want to do is sit and watch action, go to Bristol and watch NASCAR.  Enjoying the walk around and seeing the jumps up close is part of the fun!

Q: What else is there to do?

A: Bring extra money for the trade fair.  There is lots of shopping to do!

Q: What if it rains?

A:  You get wet.  And Bit of Britain makes a killing on ponchos and wellies.

Q:  Can I enter?  My friend has a pony I rode onceI think it can jump.

A:  No.  Rolex is a four-star event, among the most difficult in the world.  Riders and horses must be highly qualified and experienced at the Advanced level.  It takes years of hard work, talent, training, and preparation.

Q:  Is there such a thing as a five-star event?

A:  Only at Chattahoochee.

Q:  Who’s gonna win?

A:  Your guess is as good as mine!  This event will serve as important preparation for the upcoming World Games, so you know the competitors will bring their very best.  It will certainly be an exciting competition, one you can’t miss!

Can’t make it to Kentucky?  Stay tuned to EN for the latest buzz during Rolex!  We’re still mapping out our master plan of attack, but we promise to bring you the best coverage in our familiar “average, for readers with experience at this level” style.  Until then, Go Eventing! 

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