Jog day at the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event is upon us! With the first horse inspection at 2 p.m. this afternoon and dressage kicking off tomorrow, the EN team is ready to make our picks for horses and riders we think will stand out in seven categories: Big Winner, Top American, Top Canadian, Best Rookie, Spoiler Alert, Top Thoroughbred and Best Mare.
Let us know your own picks in the comments below, and don’t forget to pick your team for EN’s Rolex Kentucky Fantasy League presented by Dubarry of Ireland. Stay tuned for Maggie Deatrick’s detailed predictions for the top 15 finishers, including a Dark Horse, Sleeper and Spoiler. Go Eventing!
Jenni Autry: We get it, Michael. You’re the best. You win.
Samantha Clark: Maya Black and Doesn’t Play Fair. I love everything about their partnership.
Maggie Deatrick: Michael Jung isn’t paying for a plane ticket for his top mare for her to place second. fischerRocana FST could easily end up as the first back-to-back winner since Winsome Adante by the end of this weekend.
Kate Samuels: I won’t make the same mistake as last year, and while it seems impossible that Michael Jung could win back to back on the same horse, we all thought it was impossible for him to keep beating our butts year after year at all the championship events. Ze Terminator fo sho.
Sally Spickard: After last year’s dominant performance and her subsequent second place finish at Pau last fall, it’s hard to bet against the super mare that is fischerRocana FST. The mare is only 11 this year, and it’s crazy to think of how successful she has already been. Michael will be in prime “put me on the Olympic roster” form, so I think we can all expect a dazzling performance yet again.
Leslie Threlkeld: I wonder if Michael Jung keeps all his first-place ribbons. He must have hundreds by now and surely he’s run out of wall space, and who wants to toss those hard-earned tassles in the trash? I can take them off your hands, buddy. And one of those fancy watches, too. Forever Jung.
Leslie Wylie: As someone who showed up to the last World Equestrian Games in an American flag bikini, and since it’s an Olympic year, I cannot in good conscience put my money on anyone but an American to win. So, with a filthy dirty conscience, I put my life savings on Michael.
Jenni Autry: Maya Black and Doesn’t Play Fair. From EN’s Got Talent to winning top events like Plantation Field and The Fork, I’ve watched these two carve out a place for themselves at the upper echelons of the sport in the U.S. Now I’m going all in on their second trip to Rolex.
Samantha Clark: Lauren Kieffer and Veronica. Duh.
Maggie Deatrick: A sharply-improving Maya Black and Doesn’t Play Fair will be waiting in the wings to take advantage should things not go Jung’s way and if the ever-remarkable Mark Todd continues his history of non-completion at Rolex.
Kate Samuels: Boyd Martin and Shamwari 4. This horse hasn’t been out at the top levels since the 2014 WEG, but he’s a fierce competitor and lovely in all three phases. This is where I’m putting my bets. Plus, Boyd is really fun to watch when he becomes something of a cowboy in the lap of honor.
Sally Spickard: I’m a big believer in Allison and Arthur, and their success this spring makes me feel really confident about their chances in Kentucky. We all know Arthur will be right up there with the big guns after dressage, and I feel it’s going to come down to a gritty cross country ride to seal the deal for Allison. This is one of the best partnerships to watch in the sport today, and it will be a treat to see Allison and Arthur (#Allithur) back out there this year.
Leslie Threlkeld: I voted for them last year and I’m going with them again. Lauren Kieffer and Veronica.
Leslie Wylie: If he can’t win, Phillip Dutton can at least one up his 2015 result by having not two but all three horses (Mighty Nice, Fernhill Fugitive and Fernhill Cubalawn) in the top 10.
Jenni Autry: Multiple Pan American Games gold medalists Jessica Phoenix and Pavarotti have proved time and time again that they are a force to be reckoned with and always seem to rise to the occasion when it really counts.
Samantha Clark: Jessica Phoenix … It doesn’t matter who she’s riding!
Maggie Deatrick: A Little Romance hasn’t had the best four-star luck, but as the quickest and most consistent jumper in Jessica Phoenix’s arsenal, she could find herself as the Top Canadian despite not being quite as strong on the flat.
Kate Samuels: Selena O’Hanlon and Foxwood High. This horse continues to improve and has already blown us away in the dressage. Selena has tons of experience at this level and a great relationship with the horse.
Sally Spickard: Jessica Phoenix and Pavarotti. We all know this pair can throw down on the flat, so if they can tie things up with a shiny cross country bow and leave the sticks in place on Sunday, they’ll be sitting pretty during the awards ceremony.
Leslie Threlkeld: Foxwood High and Selena O’Hanlon. There’s an O Canada joke in here somewhere.
Leslie Wylie: I’m going to double-down on the Canadian here and pick Jessica Phoenix and her Canadian-bred mare A Little Romance.
Jenni Autry: Matt Brown and Super Socks BCF have flown under the radar this spring with limited runs, but after making a splash in their overseas debut at Boekelo last fall, they proved they have what it takes to be competitive with the best in the world.
Samantha Clark: Kurt Martin and DeLux Z — Great form through the spring!
Maggie Deatrick: Kurt Martin and DeLux Z. The winners of the inaugural Rebecca Farm CCI3* are making their first four-star attempt. As consistent as they’ve been, a top-15 finish isn’t an unlikely scenario even in such strong company.
Leslie Wylie: Matt Brown and Super Socks BCF. You can take an eventer out of the West Coast, but you can’t take the West Coast out of an eventer, and Matt is permanently imbued with the sort of California confidence that makes him a formidable competitor anywhere (Exhibit A: Boekelo last fall). I dare Rolex to try to melt the ice in this pair’s veins.
Jenni Autry: Allie Knowles and Sound Prospect have quietly racked up consistent good results in the past calendar year, and they have all the tools in place to take a top spot on the leaderboard come Sunday. Plus, how great would it be to see a Kentucky-based rider shine on a Kentucky-bred Thoroughbred?
Samantha Clark: Sinead Halpin and Manoir de Carneville … because they could win the whole thing and because I’d love them to.
Maggie Deatrick: Allison Springer is bringing Arthur to make his eleventh start at a CCI4* and they have all the necessary tools to bring three phases together in one weekend, including an improved show jumping record this spring.
Kate Samuels: Hannah Sue Burnett and Harbour Pilot. William has been off the radar for some time since his injury at Burghley in 2014, but he came out this spring swinging, and I think he’s grown up a lot in the time away from competition. She can easily put together three competitive phases and surprise us at the top on Sunday.
Sally Spickard: Boyd Martin and Blackfoot Mystery. I really, really like this horse. He wowed us last year at Fair Hill when Boyd had barely established a partnership, and you have to think of how much more solid this pair could be this year. If the stars align, maybe we’ll see Boyd ride side saddle in the victory gallop.
Leslie Threlkeld: Maya Black and Doesn’t Play Fair. They’ve been crushing it this spring. Plus the horse is a little pocket rocket and those are my faves.
Leslie Wylie: Here I go committing blasphemy against my American flag bikini again but who would get a bigger standing ovation than Mark Todd if he made Rolex history? With two top 10 four-star finishes last year on his Olympic mount NZB Campino at Pau and Luhmühlen, a bring-the-house-down performance in Kentucky is far from out of the question.
Jenni Autry: Expect Blackfoot Mystery to be in the hunt heading into the final phase. Boyd Martin has worked diligently with Richard Picken to fine-tune this horse’s show jumping. If they can leave the poles in the cups, these two have a shot at a top finish.
Samantha Clark: Laine Ashker and Anthony Patch. How can you not cheer for them? #bringit
Maggie Deatrick: Donner is making his sixth four-star start, and improved consistency on the flat rewarded them last fall with a score in the 40s at Burghley. A similar score here will make this pair even more formidable than they already are.
Kate Samuels: Lynn Symansky and Donner. Easy peasy. Donner loves Kentucky and has more experience at the four-star level than most in the field. I predict he will slowly stalk his way up the scoreboard to finish in the top 10.
Sally Spickard: I’m laying my bets down on Anthony Patch. Call me sentimental, but Laine may have been on to something with her draw number 77 for Al’s seventh Rolex. May the sevens be with you, Laine!
Leslie Threlkeld: I can’t decide. All the Thoroughbreds are winners. (Click here to meet all of the Thoroughbreds competing at Rolex this year.)
Leslie Wylie: Of all the OTTBs on the Rolex start list Ryan Wood’s Frankie won the most money on the track: $99,000. That’s a horse with expensive taste, who runs faster when there’s something shiny dangling at the finish line. Like a Rolex watch.
Jenni Autry: fischerRocana FST, better known as Roxie. Can we officially crown her the Beyoncé of event horses?
Samantha Clark: RF Demeter — because I’ve always admired her in all three phases.
Maggie Deatrick: fischerRocana FST. Generally if a mare wins the event, they also happen to win Best Mare!
Kate Samuels: fischerRocana FST. Like, duh.
Sally Spickard: Go with the Queen. Always go with the Queen. Rocana, we all bow to you.
Leslie Threlkeld: fischerRocana FST first. Veronica second.
Leslie Wylie: All hail Queen Bey.