The odds of Oliver Townend and Cooley Master Class taking a second consecutive win at the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event are much more favorable after they sailed around Derek di Grazia’s cross country today.
Despite their lead, Oliver and “Coolio” weren’t immune to hiccups, and losing a shoe halfway didn’t help, but Angela Hislop’s 14-year-old Irish Sport Horse (Ramiro B X The Swallow, by Master Imp) had laser accuracy between the flags.
“I think I was very conscious of not having a shoe on, and we had a little bit of a slip turning back into the main lake. I felt like I was sort of balancing more than I normally would even at those straight forward fences, just not picking up those big distances just trying to keep him in balance all the while. It probably made me a touch more conservative than I normally am,” Oliver said.
“He’s actually come out a lot keener this time than he was last time and he felt quite strong for him in places but at the same time he was definitely up for it. He had his ears pricked all the way, and even when he made his own mind up over a few things he saw the flags and put himself between them”
They picked up 1.2 time penalties for a score of 25.3 — narrowing the gap between Oliver and rest of the field, as he no longer has a rail in hand going into show jumping tomorrow.
The dream of an American winner rests on the shoulders of Boyd Martin and Christine Turner’s Tsetserleg, who had a textbook performance for second place. In what seems like a promising sign for the WEG partnership, they finished in a time of 11 minutes and 11 seconds to remain on their dressage score of 27.9. As the highest-placed American, Boyd also leads the Land Rover/USEF 5* National Championship, presented by MARS Equestrian.
“He gave me a fantastic ride. I actually thought the course walked a bit easier this year and I was very, very surprised when there was so much trouble. I quickly realized how wrong I was — that this was quite a tough course,” Boyd said.
“He felt a lot more seasoned this year. I feel like we’re a bit more of a partnership. He’s a real trier and he’s actually, for a sort of half-bred horse he’s got a wonderful gallop, he’s got plenty of speed, and he’s very very fit. Throughout the course he just kept trying and trying and trying and never looked for a way out.”
Tim Price and Xavier Faer finished without fault and two seconds under the clock as the closest to the optimum time. The 13-year-old SHBGB (Catherston Liberator x Faerie Dazzler) owned by Tim, Trisha Rickards, and Nigella Hall carries a two-day score of 30.9.
“I was really happy with the fitness. That’s a major part of brining a horse, especially when you come from where I live. You just have to be so much more up on your game. It’s just so demanding,” he said. “I was really pleased with my horse, Xavier Fair, he just thew himself over everything. He’s sometimes a little bit, not clumsy, but he not always the most organized but he’s trying his hardest and we stayed upright in all the important places and we made it home.”
In expected fashion, Phillip Dutton showed up and delivered with The Z Partnership’s Z for fourth place. His characteristic forward riding made the track look like a cakewalk, keeping the 10-year-old Zangersheide (Asca X Bellabouche, by Babouche VH Gehucht Z) on a score of 31.7.
WEG team gold medalists Piggy French and Quarrycrest Echo, 12-year-old Irish Sport Horse (Clover Echo x Royal China, by Cavalier Royale) owned by Jayne McGivern, dropped to sixth after a spate of unlucky moments had them picking up 6.4 time penalties for a current score of 33.5.
Felix Vogg and Colero, a 10-year-old Westphalian’s (Captain Fire X Bonia, Bormio xx) owned by Jürgen Vogg, sit sixth on a score of 34.4 after picking up 6.4 time penalties.
Doug Payne and Vandiver, who is owned in a partnership between Doug, his wife Jessica Payne and Debi Crowley, shaved seconds everywhere they could around Derek di Grazia’s — most memorably by cutting inside the shrubbery at The Normandy Bank complex — to finish just one second above the optimum time. The 15-year-old Trakahener (Windfall x Visions of Grandeur, by Mystic Replica xx) carries 35.9 points into the final phase.
Lauren Kieffer sits 8th and 9th with and Jacqueline Mars’ Vermiculus (41.1) and Paramount Importance (45.6), respectively.
Ninth place belongs to Ariel Grald and Leamore Master Plan, a 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse (Master Imp x Ardragh Bash, by Cavalier Royale) owned by Anne Eldridge, as the highest placed CCI5*-L first-timers on a score of 45.7.
Holly Bennett-Award and Jollybo, a 15-year-old British Sport Horse (Jumbo – Polly Coldunnell, by Danzig Connection) owned by Hawley and the Jollybo Syndicate, are currently the best placed Canadian pair in 11th place on a score of 46.2.
What The Numbers Say
Today’s cross country jumping clear rate of 70.3% is the highest we’ve seen in five years. 83.8% of the pack completed with 8.1% going clear inside the time. But, with perfect footing and great weather, we didn’t see as many double clears as expected as those without jump penalties had an average of 4.21 penalties more than expected.
All four CCI5*-L debutants completed the cross country phase today: Ariel Grald (9th – 45.7), Matt Flynn and Wizzerd (21st – 54.8), Chris Talley and Unmarked Bills (24th – 58.4), and Dom Schramm and Bolytair B (31st – 92.6).
Joe Meyer and Johnny Royale were the biggest movers of the day, jumping 26 spots from 39th to 13 on a clear round with only 3.2 time penalties.
There were 15 jumping issues on course today: Two rider falls, one fence-related horse fall, one non-fence related horse fall, one frangible pin, one missed flag, and nine refusals.
The day was off to a rocky start with the first three all falling. Pathfinders Caroline Martin and Islandwood Captain Jack came to grief at the B element of The Normandy Bank. Caroline is fine aside from some soreness, and she decided to withdraw her other entry, Danger Mouse.
Buck Davidson broke his collarbone when he fell from Park Trader also at 20b. He then withdrew his two remaining rides, Jak My Style and Copper Beach. Mara DePuy also withdrew Congo Brazzaville C before the start of cross country.
Liz Halliday-Sharp and Deniro Z fell at fence three, an open oxer. Both were up quickly and are reporting no injuries. Colleen Loach and Qorry Blue d’Argouges slipped and fell as they turned away from The Hollow at fence 13. Both are injury-free.
Will Coleman and Tight Lines were the only pair penalized after missing a flag at fence 11a, the Rolex Grand Slam Challenge complex, which was a skinny in the water.
The Head of the Lake at 18abc proved to be the most influential combination on course with five stops. Hallie Coon and Celien had a stop at 18a. Erin Sylvester and Paddy The Caddy had a stop at 18 b, the bank out of water. Three had a fly by of the final element, which was a brush fence on a bounce distance from the bank up: Buck Davidson and Park Trader, Hallie Coon and Celien, and Australia’s Hazel Shannon and Willingapark Clifford. Hallie retired here after her second stop.
Two stopped at the logs into the MARS Sustainability Bay (5a), Sharon White with Cooley On Show, who retired after two stops here, and Daniela Moguel and Cecelia.
Dom Schramm and Bolytair B had a stop at fence 3, an open oxer, where they also broke a frangible pin.
To relive all the action with color commentary, check out our Open Thread. The final horse inspection will be held tomorrow at 8:30 a.m. USEF Network will pick up with their wall-to-wall coverage at the start of show jumping at 1 p.m. Click here to see how you can watch live.