Liz Halliday-Sharp and Fernhill By Night Take Rolex Lunchtime Lead

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Fernhill By Night. Photo by Jenni Autry. Liz Halliday-Sharp and Fernhill By Night. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Fernhill By Night are your leaders on 43.0 at the lunch break on the first day of dressage at the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event. That bests their dressage score from last year’s event by more than five points, and Liz said after the test that she’s thrilled with “Blackie,” a 13-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding owned by Deborah Halliday.

“I’m really pleased with him,” Liz said. “I think he tried really hard. He can be quite lazy, but he kept plugging away. He did everything that he needed to do.”

Blackie didn’t have the most ideal lead up to Rolex, as he cut his leg on cross country in their final prep run at The Fork and had to miss some work while he healed, but Liz said she actually thinks that played to his advantage in their test.

“He knows all the movements now, and in a way it was good not to school too much the flat,” she said. “We just started doing flying changes again two days ago. It helped him be fresher, and he felt happy in the ring.”

Phillip Dutton and Fernhill Fugitive. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Phillip Dutton and Fernhill Fugitive. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Phillip Dutton and Fernhill Fugitive kicked us off this morning with a lovely test that scored 43.1, besting their score from last year by more than four points. That slots them very close behind Liz and Blackie in second place currently.

Jack, an 11-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding owned by Tom Tierney and Annie Jones, has emerged as one of Phillip’s most consistent partners at the upper levels, and we’ve predicted him to once again finish in the top 10 in his second career four-star start.

Maya Black and Doesn’t Play Fair, heavy favorites to deliver an impressive showing at Rolex this weekend, significantly improved on their performance in the sandbox from last year (52.3), scoring 45.5 to round out the top three at the lunch break.

Clean flying changes likely would have put “Cody” in the lead, but that score will still have the 11-year-old Holsteiner gelding owned by Dawn Dofelmier well positioned as we look ahead to cross country.

Maya Black and Doesn't Play Fair. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Maya Black and Doesn’t Play Fair. Photo by Jenni Autry.

If you missed EN’s course preview with photos of each fence on Derek di Grazia’s track, click here to get caught up to speed. Tim Price, who is currently sitting in equal fourth place with Bango, also gave us his thoughts on the course.

The 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding owned by the Numero Uno Syndicate scored 48.3, which is a bit higher than his dressage performance at Luhmühlen last year in his four-star debut. We have Tim and Bango predicted to finish in the top 15.

Katie Ruppel and Houdini were the final pair to go before the lunch break and also scored 48.3 to tie Tim and Bango for fourth place. Affectionately known as “Screwdini,” the quirky 12-year-old off-track Thoroughbred gelding held his composure admirably while also improving on his score from last year’s Rolex (49.8).

Katie Ruppel and Houdini. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Katie Ruppel and Houdini. Photo by Jenni Autry.

We saw solid tests across the board from our Rolex Rookies in the morning group, with Courtney Cooper and her homebred Who’s A Star leading the way for the first-timers so far on a score of 50.9 to sit just inside top 10. The smile on Courtney’s face after finishing her test with “Tag” said it all — how special it must be to compete at Rolex on a homebred!

Nilson Moreira da Silva and Muggle are also making their four-star debut in the hopes of representing Brazil at the 2016 Olympic Games this summer. The 12-year-old Dutch gelding owned by the Phoenix Syndicate isn’t the easiest horse to ride on the flat, but Nilson has the advantage of training with Brazilian team coach Mark Todd, as well as Bruce Davidson, who he’s been working with for the past year.

While the week’s weather forecast has included plenty of threats for heavy rain and thunderstorms, we’ve been lucky today so far, with a mix of sun and clouds making for an ideal day to spectate at the beautiful Kentucky Horse Park. More than 90,000 tickets were sold for this year’s event, so it’s sure to be an action-packed weekend.

Courtney Cooper and Who's A Star. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Courtney Cooper and Who’s A Star. Photo by Jenni Autry.

If you missed this morning’s Dressage Open Thread presented by SmartPak, click here for a full rundown on all the action. You can also watch the competition live on USEF Network and FEI TV.

If you’re just tuning into EN for the week, what are you even doing with your life? Click here to check out all of our coverage so far. We posted a full photo gallery from yesterday’s first horse inspection, plus our picks for EN’s Best Dressed. You all voted Sinead Halpin and Matt Brown as the winners!

Don’t forget to keep checking EN’s Instagram for tons of photos from both the competition and behind the scenes with Chinch as he runs wild around Lexington. He’s even taking a very special field trip with our friends at Horseware to meet the only and only American Pharoah today!

Dressage resumes at 1:30 p.m. with Kurt Martin and DeLux Z leading off after the lunch break. We still have plenty of exciting pairs to come, but of course all eyes will be on last year’s winners Michael Jung and fischerRocana FST as they enter the sandbox at 1:46 p.m.

Will Michael and “Roxie” — who we’re calling the Beyoncé of event horses — defend their title? You’ll have to keep it locked on EN to find out. Go Rolex. Go Eventing!

#RK3DE: WebsiteScheduleLive Scores, Entry List & Ride TimesLive StreamEN’s CoverageEN’s Rolex GuideEN Tailgate InfoTwitterInstagram

Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 1.09.10 PM