World Number One Oliver Townend’s got one thing on his mind this weekend: getting behind the wheel of another gorgeous Land Rover at the conclusion of Sunday’s show jumping, and he’s well on his way after smashing a 24.1 in the first phase of the 2019 Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event, presented by MARS Equestrian with Cooley Master Class.
“It’s obviously a great feeling to be back here. It’s one of my favorite events full stop. The people here are very friendly. The atmosphere is second to none, and the stadium is out of this world. It’s an event that if I had the last event of my career, this would be the one I’d want to be at,” Oliver said.
He and Angela Hislop’s 14-year-old Irish Sport Horse (Ramiro B X The Swallow, by Master Imp) delivered a masterful performance to beat personal best at the level by over four points.
“It’s nice to be on the lead after dressage. I’m very happy with his performance. He was very laid back, almost bone idle. The weather was looky, but I wouldn’t have wanted it any hotter because he was nearly going to sleep on me. He knows me very well and I know him — I’ve had him since he was four, so I’m basically going in there to do a clear round and press the buttons,” he said.
Compatriot Piggy French also got the personal best memo, as she and Qarrycrest Echo, a 12-year-old Irish Sport Horse (Clover Echo x Royal China, by Cavalier Royale) owned by Jayne McGivern, delivered their own on 27.1 points.
“It’s windy in there. You go down the tunnel and actually the breeze gets you, so it just felt quite stormy. And he just felt a bit fresh when I got on him so I’m relieved there was no big mistakes,” Piggy said. “I know in his work bits could be better — he’s not a great trotter — so he needs to be as relaxed and as up as he possibly can to get the 7s or 7.5s, but his canter work is usually pretty good. I was delighted with him from how he felt in the warm up to go in there and be professional and do his job.”
Boyd Martin leads the Land Rover/USEF CCI5*-L National Championship as the highest placed American sitting in third place with Christine Turner’s Tsetserleg on a score of 27.9.
“I was happy with my bloke. Dressage is a frustrating sport because you can always look back on it and wish you did things better. Last year he was very green here and sort of scraped through all three phases. This year he’s a bit more seasoned and confirmed at this level,” he said.
“Last year was a little bit of a rush getting through this and going to the WEG. It felt like we were doing everything on a wing and a prayer. It’s been good to take a moment to get to know each other.”
Overnight leaders Felix Vogg and Colero, 10-year-old Westphalian’s (Captain Fire X Bonia, Bormio xx) owned by Jürgen Vogg, now sit fourth on a score of 28.
New Zealand’s Tim Price joined Liz Halliday-Sharp and Ocala Horse Properties/The Deniro Z Syndicate’s Deniro Z on a score of 30.9 tie for fifth place.
After winning Burghley last fall, Tim is here this weekend chasing the Rolex Grand Slam dream with Xavier Faer, a 13-year-old SHBGB (Catherston Liberator x Faerie Dazzler) owned by Tim, Trisha Rickards, and Nigella Hall.
Seventh place belongs to Phillip Dutton and Z, a 10-year-old Zangersheide (Asca X Bellabouche, by Babouche VH Gehucht Z) owned by the Z Partnership, on a score of 31.7.
Buck Davidson sits 8th with his first of three rides, Park Trader, a 17-year-old Irish Sport Horse (Master Imp x Ballyhast Polly, by Highland King) owned by Carl and Cassie Segal. He carries 32.1 points into tomorrow’s cross country.
He’s also 15th with Kathleen and Roberto Cuca’s Jak My Style (34.1) and 21st with Carl Segal & Sherrie Martin’s Copper Beach (35.9).
Erin Sylvester piloted Frank McEnte’s Paddy The Caddy, a 12-year-old Thoroughbred (Azamore x Slamy), to 9th place after a personal best dressage result of 32.2.
Waylon Roberts ties for 10th with Halie Coon & Celien after his 32.7 dressage test aboard Lancaster, A 12-year-old Canadian Sport Horse owned by Michelle and John Koppin.
By The Numbers
Overall, the judges differed an average of 3.19% per test, 0.68% higher than we saw here last year. Now let’s unpack those who saw differences of more than 5% among judges: 2017 saw this in 1.7% of riders, 2018 was 8.7%, and this year 16.7% of the competitors had more than a five percent difference between their highest and lowest scores.
As a group, scores were 1.49 points above what we expected, with Friday morning’s session faring the best at just 0.25 points above. Thursday morning took the brunt with their results were an average of 2.58 points above expected.
As a whole, riders earned more favorable scores on Friday. The Friday group scored an average of 0.87 points above expected, while Thursday’s rides averaged +2.20.
Judges didn’t heavily punish those at the lower end of the spectrum but those expected to score well had to earn every point. Horses expected to score in 20s scored +1.36, expected 30-35 were +2.88, expected 35-40 were +0.61, expected 40+ were +0.13.
EN’s Data Analyst Maggie Deatrick has been madly crunching numbers all day. She’s compiled a summary into the handy graphic above to demonstrate the range of each pair. Pale orange demonstrates the range that each pair scores in 67% of the time while the black mark shows their average over the last twelve months. Actual score is a black dot, so you can see how your favorite pairs did!
As we look ahead to tomorrow’s cross country phase, we’ve got perfect ground and even better weather in the forecast, so the time should be easier to achieve than in rain-soaked years. But there’s no doubt that Derek di Grazia’s beefy track will, as usual, play a major influence. You can check out our fence-by-fence preview at this link.
Last year Oliver Townend was the only rider in the field to pilot both his horses around Derek’s track inside the time, so he’ll be ready to put his foot on the pedal tomorrow.
“It always amazes me how much the course does change from year to year here. Even questions that you think not many people got 100% right last year all of a sudden disappear and a new question arrives. It’s something that’s very different over here possibly to a lot of places that we ride in England,” Oliver said.
“I’m a huge fan of Derek di Grazia’s courses. I think he has a real knack knowing exactly what works in terms of distance between the combinations and also what a horse can see in terms of the lines,” he continued. “This course I think is as tough as I’ve seen here and I think that you need to be switched on every step of the way. I think you could have a very easy blip without doing too much wrong. It’s a true five star test, and I think that it’s definitely not a dressage competition. It’s a proper, proper job from start to finish.”
First horse will leave the box tomorrow at 10:30 a.m. EST. You can watch every single second of the action live (and for free!) on USEF Network. Click here for details on how to watch. If you can’t watch, be sure to follow along here on EN in our open thread or on Twitter.