Montgomery & Loughan Glen Edge Defending Winners in Rolex Dressage Finale

Clark Montgomery and Loughan Glen. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Our top three remained unchanged from the lunch break following the conclusion of dressage at the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event. Clark Montgomery and Loughan Glen scored 33.6 to lead the way, edging two-time defending winners Michael Jung and fischerRocana FST, who settled for second place on 37.1 as we look ahead to tomorrow’s cross country.

“Glen came out this morning for his pre-ride and was a little bit on the muscle, so I didn’t quite know what I was going to get during the test,” Clark said. “When he came back out for the actual test he felt super and I thought he was going to score well, but you never know quite what you are going to get.”

What Clark and Glen received was the second best four-star score of their career, just narrowly missing their personal best of 33.3 from Badminton in 2014. With Rolex being the first CCI4* of the year, this is the first time horses and riders have tackled the new 2017 FEI CCI Four-Star Test A, and Clark said he thought it flowed well. (Watch a video here.)

“It was interesting to see how the horse’s reacted in the stretchy circle at the end. For Glen it helped him relaxed because he tends to die out in the last few movements of the test. By letting him stretch and relax, he felt rejuvenated for the last few movements.”

Now Clark and Glen, a 14-year-old Irish Sport Horse (Limmerick X Tattymacall Mustard) owned by Jess Montgomery, Kathryn Kraft, and Holly and William Becker, look ahead to Derek di Grazia’s cross country course tomorrow, which is guaranteed to shake up the leaderboard tomorrow. (Click here for a fence-by-fence preview of the course.)

Michael Jung and fischerRocana FST. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

The pressure is on with Michael Jung and fischerRocana FST sitting within striking distance on 37.1. That’s off the pace from their performance at last year’s Rolex, where they scored 34.4 in dressage on their way to taking a second consecutive win at the venue. As always, Michael said Rocana gave him “a good feeling” today.

“She was very nice to ride and very relaxed, so I could try to go forward and push her a little bit to very good marks. It was a very good test for her, maybe not good enough,” Michael said in the press conference as he glanced to the leader at his left, adding that he didn’t watch Clark’s test but wanted to see a video later “because I heard from everyone it was wonderful.”

Kim Severson and Cooley Cross Border. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Kim Severson entered the stadium with the cool confidence one gains after winning Rolex three times to pilot four-star rookie Cooley Cross Border to third place on 41.0. The score likely would have flirted with the 30s had their flying changes — which Kim has been working diligently to confirm — been a bit more polished, but it was truly a stellar debut for the 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Diamond Roller X Whos Diaz) owned by the Cross Syndicate.

“He really grew up a lot over the last six months,” Kim said after the test. “I was lucky enough to get most of my changes today, which has been my thing with him. He was very mature in there and quite good.”

As for her thoughts on the new 2017 FEI CCI Four-Star Test A, Kim said she thinks it should be performed the same way as any other four-star test: “quiet, forward, relaxed, happy.”

“I really appreciate the fact that we aren’t doing flying changes on the half circle or serpentines anymore. I think that’s a very difficult movement. The stretchy circle is good, and I love the flow of the trot work; shoulder-in to half pass is a forte to my horse. I think the test flows better than some of the others we’ve had recently.”

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Fernhill By Night. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Looking to the next spots on the leaderboard, Liz Halliday-Sharp and Deborah Halliday’s Fernhill By Night made their mark as the first pair out today, scoring 41.3 to sit in fourth place. The best two tests of the final afternoon session came from Jessica Phoenix and Phillip Dutton, both of whom have three rides here at Rolex.

Jessica Phoenix and Bentley’s Best. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Jessica and four-star first-timer Bentley’s Best, a 10-year-old Trakehner gelding (Hirtentanz
X Hauptstutbuch Baronesse XIII), put in a cracking performance in the afternoon heat to score 43.0, which puts them in fifth place just ahead of Don Good’s Pavarotti, who led yesterday and now sits sixth on 43.1. (Canadians fans will be thrilled to know that Jessica confirmed to EN she plans to run all three of her horses on cross country tomorrow!)

Lauren Kieffer, who also did her test yesterday, now sits in seventh place on 43.8 with Jacqueline Mars’ Vermiculus, followed by 2016 Pau winners Maxime Livio (who is causing quite a stir here at Rolex) and Qalao de Mers in eighth on 44.6.

Phillip Dutton and Mr. Medicott. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Phillip Dutton cruised to top positions with both of his rides today, with Tom Tierney and Annie Jones’ Fernhill Fugitive and the Mr. Medicott Syndicate’s Mr. Medicott both scoring 44.8 to round out the top 10 tied for ninth place. Phillip also has a third ride sitting inside the top 15 in John and Kristine Norton’s I’m Sew Ready, who scored 46.1 yesterday for 13th place.

Jenny Caras and Fernhill Fortitude are still holding the honors as the highest-placed Rolex Rookies following an impressive performance yesterday, which scored 46.3 and now has them tied for 14th place with Boyd Martin, who had the entire stadium cheering loudly after throwing down with Steady Eddie. The 14-year-old Australia Thoroughbred owned by Denise Lahey, Pierre Colin, and George and Gretchen Wintersteen, bettered his score from last year by 10 full points.

Boyd Martin and Steady Eddie. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

While Steady Eddie’s performance was truly impressive, Katie Ruppel’s Houdini is currently the highest-placed Thoroughbred on the leaderboard thanks to scoring 46.0, which has them sitting in 12th place. Go Thoroughbreds!

It was a bittersweet end to the day, as Allison Springer and Arthur trotted down the centerline in the Rolex Arena for the last time. Arthur was originally targeted to compete in what would be his eighth Rolex, but after a heart condition was discovered during a vet exam the decision was made to retire him from eventing.

The ground jury at Rolex granted Allison and Arthur the chance to dance in the arena at the Kentucky Horse Park one last time as an exhibition ride. They received a standing ovation from the spectators, officials, volunteers and everyone in between. It was a curtain call for the ages.

Allison Springer and Arthur. Leslie Threlkeld Photo.

Now we look ahead to tomorrow’s cross country day, which is currently forecasted to bring unseasonably high temperatures peaking at 90 degrees (32 Celsius). To quote “Mostly cloudy skies early, then partly cloudy in the afternoon. Near record high temperatures. High near 90F. Winds SSW at 10 to 20 mph.”

The chance of rain tomorrow has been lowered to just 10 percent, with a 50 percent chance of rain and thunderstorms tonight. The ground definitely feels a bit hard in spots right now, but rest assured that Mick Costello and the amazing grounds crew here at the Kentucky Horse Park are busy aerating, aggravating and watering to ensure the best possible conditions for the horses tomorrow.

As for the strategies our top three will be employing, Clark Montgomery said, “For Glen I have to make sure that I don’t come out of the start box a bit too fast. It’s big the whole way around and tricky. … You need rideability at the end of the course.”

Kim Severson said how much rain the area receives tonight will definitely affect the conditions. “The ground could be holding, which we’ve had in the past with the heat in the afternoon. I think the heat is going to be a factor. A lot of us are going to find out a lot about our horses tomorrow.”

Michael Jung said he thinks the flow of the course is better this year, but the track is still “tough with big fences and also a few very tricky combinations in the end. I think it’s a very tough four-star course. I think the ground is maybe at the moment a bit hard, but I think that’s OK. If it’s not too hot tomorrow, I think we will have a lot of fun.”

The Rolex Head of the Lake. Photo by Jenni Autry.

If you don’t have a plan for cross country day tomorrow, allow us to lend a helping hand! If you’re here at Rolex, you’ll want to watch from EN’s premium tailgate spaces at S240 and S241, near the jog strip and announcer’s tower overlooking the infield. Click here for all the details. (The tailgate is also the only place where you can buy #teamleelee stickers for $5 each. All proceeds will support the medical fund for Phillip Dutton’s stepdaughter Lee Lee Jones, who is recovering from a traumatic brain injury.)

If you’re not at Rolex, you can watch live on USEF Network or FEI TV starting at 10 a.m. EST/3 p.m. UK time. We’ll also have an open thread running here on EN, and I’ll be tweeting live from the media center, where we have four television monitors to show us every second of the action.

If you’re just tuning into EN today, you know the drill by now. Click here to catch up on all of our #RK3DE coverage, and don’t forget to download the all new EN app. [Download the EN app for iOS] [Download the EN app for Android]

Go Eventing.

#RK3DE Links: Website, Schedule, Ride Times, Live Scores, EN’s Coverage, EN’s Ultimate Guide to Rolex, Live Stream, EN’s Twitter, EN’s Instagram