It’s Rolex Jog Day! This year, Jenni and I are teaming up to bring you the most comprehensive Rolex preview ever! If you didn’t catch her post yesterday afternoon with the first half of the riders, be sure to click here to read through so you’re all caught up on all the information before the action begins.
Laine Ashker & Anthony Patch: Laine and Al are one of my all-time favorite pairs to cheer on, and I know that they’ve got three really phenomenal phases in them. Al can lay down a great dressage test (provided that there isn’t anything spooky in the bushes), Laine is one of the most determined cross-country riders out there, and Al is allergic to show jumps. While they were 14th with a clear round in their debut together in 2010, they had a blip on cross country in 2011 and Laine popped off in 2012, so they’re coming back to Kentucky with something to prove. They’ve been very successful at the three-star level, and I truly hope that this is their year to show the world what they can accomplish.
Jan Byyny & Inmidair: Jan and JR are another one of my favorites (it’s so hard to choose!), as they have a wonderful partnership, and nobody works harder than Jan. They did the dressage last year here in Kentucky together, but sadly had to withdraw due to a breathing issue. The good news is that JR scored a 49.2 in his first four-star test, and he’s only gotten better since then. After winning the Fair Hill CCI3* last fall, they’ve been on a roll and have looked incredible everywhere I’ve seen them. This horse is still unproven at this level, but he’s a phenomenally scopey jumper and great on cross country. I’m looking for them to at least hit the top 15, ideally top 10.
Hannah Sue Burnett & Harbour Pilot: Hannah has been around Rolex a few times before, but this will be William’s first visit to Kentucky. They travelled to Pau CCI4* last fall and posted the best American dressage score with a 45.7, but sadly were unable to complete the event when William slipped and Hannah fell off between fences on cross country. That being said, these two have all the makings of a top pair and have been incredibly competitive on U.S. soil in all three phases. They’ve come to make it or break it at Rolex, and I hope they can pull off a great performance.
Ruy Fonseca & Tom Bombadill Too: This will be this pair’s first Rolex, but not their first trip to Kentucky, as they competed for Brazil in the 2010 World Equestrian Games at this very same venue. They are probably one of the more experienced pairs in the crowd, having also been to the 2012 London Olympics as well. Ruy has just recently moved to the U.S. to prepare for his 2014 season, and he’s looking forward to another WEG later this summer in France. I expect a good clean run from them; they’ve got quite enough experience to get the job done.
Bobby Meyerhoff & Dunlavin’s Token: As another of our Rolex Rookies, Bobby and Token were entered last spring for their Rolex debut, but were sadly thwarted the Monday of the event with a bit of soreness. They took it easy last year, but finished in 21st place in the Fair Hill CCI3* with one stop on course. This horse is not the easiest on the flat, but he’s a super jumper. They’ve looked great this spring out on course, and they should be ready for the next challenge here at Rolex.
Alice Dunsdon & Fernhill Present: While this might be their Rolex debut, this pair has already run around Pau in 2011 and Burghley in 2012 with a two clean cross country rounds. This 12-year-old gelding isn’t always competitive in the dressage phase, but he has a great cross country recor and seems to be a good enough show jumper. This should be a good trip around Kentucky for this pair as they make their North American debut.
Phillip Dutton & Mr Medicott: Between them, Phillip and Cave have more CCI4* events than any other pair here. They’ve both been to the Olympics, the World Equestrian Games and almost every other four-star in the world. They were 4th at Pau CCI4* in the fall, and they excel in the three-day format. They’ve been getting along well, and I hope that they can pull together a dressage test that will hit the next level of competitiveness on the international scale because we all know they can jump clean in the next phases! I expect at least a top-10 finish as they look forward to the WEG.
Kaitlin Spurlock & Expedience: One of my favorite Rolex Rookies, Kaitlin and Spedy are a great match. This 17-year-old chestnut Thoroughbred mare eats cross country for breakfast and dinner. She may not enjoy the first phase, but Kaitlin knows full well that at the end of the three day it’s all worth it to be able to jump her around the next two phases. This will be Spedy’s last hurrah, as she heads out to enjoy her glory days after Rolex, and I expect them to both finish with big smiles on their faces.
Lauren Kieffer & Veronica: Veronica has been to Rolex once before with Karen O’Connor in 2012, where they scored a 47.8 before Karen took a tumble in the first water. She’s since then been under the guidance of Lauren, who has piloted her to multiple wins at the three-star level. Lauren hopped around her first Rolex a few years ago with her own Snooze Alarm, and she’ll be thrilled to be back here this year. They both have incredible talent over all three phases, and if they can put them all together this weekend, they’ll be playing spoiler to all the more experienced pairs.
Daniel Clasing & Houston: Dan and Houston hopped around their first Rolex last year a bit under the radar, but with ease nonetheless. A horse that Dan has raised from a foal, they have a great partnership together. They won’t be competitive on the flat, but they’ll be jumping around the cross country cleanly and hoping to improve on their 21st place finish from last year.
Tim Bourke & Luckaun Quality: Tim and Obie are a very cool pair, as they’ve come up the levels together quietly. They were 8th together at their first CCI3* last fall at Fair Hill, and they’re heading to their first four-star together here this weekend, hoping to bring home some glory for team Ireland. Tim has an incredible work ethic, and I expect that his excellent jumping phases will really pull him up through the ranks to a top 20 finish.
Lindsey Oaks & Enchantez: Lindsey and Taylor had a go at Rolex last year and made it about three-quarters of the way around the cross country course before chalking up one too many stops on course and heading home early. They took the rest of 2013 off and have completed two events this spring, recently finishing 27th at The Fork in the CIC3*. While being competitive isn’t their goal this weekend, Lindsey will be happy to finish her first CCI4*.
Jessica Phoenix & Exponential: Yet another pair that needs no introduction, Jessie and Tucker have been around a few CCI4* competitions together, and this horse’s exuberant jumping style always wins the hearts of the fans. They didn’t do more than dressage last year, but they rebounded to win Jersey CCI3* with domination, and they’ve looked great all spring. Jessie plans to just do dressage this year and give Tucker some more exposure to the atmosphere in preparation for the WEG later this year.
Rachel Jurgens & Ziggy: Rachel and Ziggy attempted their first Rolex last spring, but sadly didn’t make it around the cross country. Ziggy is 18 years young, and Rachel has brought this horse from the ground up, getting him right off the track and coming up the levels together. They’ve worked hard for this, and they deserve a good round. While they may not enjoy the dressage phase, they’ll be happy to get around their first CCI4* together and improve upon last year’s performance.
Kim Severson & Fernhill Fearless: Kim knows Rolex like nobody else, and while Sparky may not have been around a CCI4* yet, he has yet to meet a cross country fence that he can’t dominate. Kim gave up her spot on the USEF Selection Committee because she believes that she finally has another international horse that’s worth the shot, and Sparky might just prove her right. He’s a funny looking little horse, and he has a very odd jumping style, but with their forces combined, they might just play spoiler this weekend. Kim is the ultimate competitor, and I hope they kick some serious ass this weekend.
Dana Widstrand & Relentless Pursuit: Dana and her OTTB Rover are heading to their very first Rolex together, and they’ve been working towards this goal for 14 years. Another Rolex Rookie, Rover will actually turn 18 years young today as they do jogs in Kentucky. They actually qualified for Rolex in 2008, but a small injury kept them out of the running, and then life kept them away from the upper levels for a little while. They completed Fair Hill CCI3* last fall in 22nd place with one stop on course, and they’ll be looking forward to a great experience at their first CCI4*.
Caitlin Silliman & Catch A Star: Caitlin and Hoku made their Rolex debut last year and had a cracking good cross country round, minus one small blip that marred an otherwise great trip. They’ll be looking to stay in the low 5-s in the dressage and improve upon their standing from last year, and a top-20 finish is will within their reach.
Ellen Doughty & Sir Oberon: Yet another Rolex Rookie, Ellen and Obie have a big weekend ahead of them. They’ve been competitive against the best pairs on the East Coast, finishing 6th in their first CCI3* at Fair Hill last fall, completing with just one rail to add to their dressage score. As our pick for the best rookie performance, I expect that these two will be laying down three solid phases to stay right up there with the big names.
Mark Todd & Oloa: This horse has been doing really well for Mark lately, and he’s been pretty consistently competitive in all three phases. They were 7th in their first CCI4* last fall at Burghley, with a 48 in the dressage and just a rail and some time to finish on. Mark knows more than any other rider here, and I think this might be the horse that will bring him back into the spotlight. I expect a sub-50 dressage score and for him to finish close to that, and given that, a top-10 finish isn’t out of the question.
Marilyn Little & RF Smoke On The Water: As Marilyn’s second ride of the weekend, this grey gelding is very talented in all three phases. He won’t be as competitive as RF Demeter, but this will be a good step for Smoke for the future. The only thing that could catch this pair out is their need for speed on cross country, which has in the past cost them some events at the top level. With a good educational round to bring this nice young horse around his first CCI4*, they could finish quite nicely.
Selena O’Hanlon & Bellaney Rock: Selena is coming back in a WEG year in a big way with two horses entered here this weekend. This horse is a super jumper, and I think he’ll be able to pop around his first CCI4* with Selena in the irons. While they might not be competitive in the dressage, the rest should be alright, and hopefully Selena will be able to find a good replacement for her old international partner Columbo.
Jennifer McFall & High Times: Another Rolex Rookie, Jennifer and Billy have been having a ball on the West Coast and made their East Coast debut last spring at Jersey Fresh CCI3*, where they finished in 9th place. They’ve only been competing at the Advanced level for a year, so they’re still new to the level, and this will be their first time at such a big competition together. They have a great partnership, and no matter what, they’ll have a blast competing here this weekend and running around their first CCI4*.
Peter Barry & Kilrodan Abbott: Peter and Eddie have been around this course more times than almost any other pair here this weekend. They won’t be terribly competitive on the flat, but I’d be willing to bet my hat that they can turn in both a clean cross country and a clean show jumping round to finish in style.
William Fox-Pitt & Bay My Hero: William’s second mount hasn’t been to a big three-day since Pau CCI4* in 2012, but he did place 4th there in his debut at this level. While he’s been taking it easy since then, it would be silly to discount his chances simply due to a light competition schedule. I don’t think William would fly him all the way over here if he didn’t think he was ready to kick some American butt. He’s pretty consistently amazing on the flat, and if anybody can produce some clear jumping rounds, it’s William. I would watch out for these two if you know what’s good for you.
Sharon White & Wundermaske: A lot of people are thrilled to see Patch here in his CCI4* debut, and none more than Sharon and her team of orange groupies. He’s a great little horse with a lot of heart, and I think he’s going to be very nice in the future. He might not be able to compete with his stablemate Reggie this weekend, but I think this weekend will be a great educational experience for him and help Sharon build her string of international competitors.
Kristin Schmolze & Ballylaffin Bracken: Kristin and Rox are heading back to their second Rolex, where last year they placed 25th. They have looked really in sync this spring, and I think Rox might even be growing up and fulfilling his potential in the dressage ring! Kristin knows all about talented but difficult horses, and she loves this big beautiful guy, and they’ll be looking to improve upon last year’s performance and maybe impress some selectors for the future.
Allison Springer & Arthur: Allison and Arthur need no introduction, and I know that they’re equally thrilled to be here with one another this weekend. This pair will surely kill on the flat, easily scoring in the top five there. They should be able to hop around the cross country easily with all their experience at this level and can hopefully leave all the poles up on the last day to finish out a great weekend with a dominant performance.
Libby Head & Sir Rockstar: Libby and Rocky are heading towards their first Rolex performance, and I know that they’re more than capable of zooming around the jumping phases, as they proved by finishing 12th at Fair Hill in the CCI3*. The challenge for this pair will be surviving the stadium atmosphere on a busy Friday afternoon for dressage. If Rocky can hold his brain in place and let Libby get through this first phase, they’ll be golden for their first CCI4* experience.
Phillip Dutton & Trading Aces: Oscar has been aiming at this event all year, and he’s got some demons to slay, as he had to pull up just a few fences from home last year in his CCI4* debut. With a different rider in the irons and his sweating problems under control, Oscar has to do well this time out to prove himself as a contestant for the WEG once Boyd’s leg heals. He has all the pieces of a top horse, and he just has to put them all together here this weekend.
Buck Davidson & Park Trader: Kobe is Buck’s final entry here at Rolex, and he’s a super talented horse. He completed his first CCI4* here last year, finishing in 22nd place. This horse isn’t terribly easy to ride, so Buck might be wearing his crash helmet on Friday! After their 2nd place finish at Fair Hill CCI3* last fall, they should be able to take that momentum into this event and improve upon their finish from last year.