If there was anyone who could’ve taken over the lead of the CCI5*-L at Kentucky, it would certainly be reigning World Champion Yasmin Ingham, and she certainly delivered today for over 13,000 spectators with her delightfully talented ride, Banzai du Loir.
Their dressage result of 22.1 was tantalizingly close to their best-ever International score, which was a 22 achieved in Pratoni, but still six points improved from their debut here in 2023.
“He felt absolutely amazing. He did absolutely everything I asked him. He had such a presence, he just felt like he was flicking his toes and it was super accurate, so I really could not have asked for any more of him today. I’m just so proud of him,” she said. “We’ve had a couple of practices at this now so we seem to have nailed his warm up. He loves this place. So he’s been super chilled all week, so actually, he’s made my life a bit easier than usual. We just took him for a little jump this morning, and just tried to loosen him up, and then we just came out and worked with Chris [Bartle] and Dickey [Waygood], just before his test. He just felt really loose and supple and on the ball.”
Riding high off their fairytale 2023 season, the options were endless for for Yas and the 12-year-old Selle Français gelding (Nouma d’Auzay – Gerboise du Cochet, by Livarot) this spring, but after finishing second here last year, the British rider felt Lexington calling her back again.
“The thought process behind that was the fact that we came here last year, and he had such a great run, and it set us up so well for his success in Pratoni in the summer, so we’re hoping that it might just do the same thing this year,” she said. “And obviously, our plans over the next two years consists of aiming for the Championships, hopefully the Europeans in the summer and then looking ahead to Paris in 2024. So that’s our main focus over these next two years, to try and prepare as best we can for those events.”
Countryman Tom McEwen handed over only one spot on the leaderboard after the second day of dressage, and he finds himself in second place with JL Dublin going into cross country. On a score of 22.6, he’s generously given his World Championship teammate one second in hand. Similarly, Tamie Smith held on to top three with her dreamboat Mai Baum on a score of 22.6. You can read all about Thursday’s action at this link.
The five-star test was a big question mark for Will Coleman’s second entry, Chin Tonic HS. With scores as low as 19.4 at the four-star level, inquiring minds wondered if he could reproduce the same work on this stage. At just 11-years-old, the Hyperion Stud-owned Holsteiner gelding (Chin Champ – Wildera, by Quinar) was slightly mind-boggled at the atmosphere, with tension sacrificing a few points here and there. Despite this, Will rode tactfully to produce a score of 25 for fourth place in Chin’s debut at the level.
“I think that the horse tried really hard. [He] definitely sort of shrunk on me a little bit in there. He’s been a lot of places, but there’s not many that feel quite like that on Friday afternoon. So all things considered, he’s still pretty green – it’s his first five-star. And so for this level, first time, I think I’m very happy,” Will said.
Another horse who reacted to the energy of the Rolex Stadium was Ocala Horse Properties’ and Deborah Palmer’s Miks Master C. Ridden by Liz Halliday-Sharp, the 11-year-old Swedish Warmblood gelding (Mighty Magic – Qui Lumba CBF, by Quite Easy) is fifth on a score of 26.9.
“Certainly Mickey was feeling the atmosphere today — he was pretty amped up, and he is a very big, powerful horse, and [there were] just a few moments where he got a little bit mouthy in the ring, which I think really hurt the score, which is unfortunate,” Liz said of “Mickey” who is the highest-placed U.S. bred horse. “And I just sort of did the best I could with a big engine fresh horse today. This is his first five-star on the biggest atmosphere he’s been in and we haven’t even been together a year yet, so we’re still still learning some things.”
Previously campaigned through the four-star level by Maya Black, Liz and Mickey’s partnership has started to settle into a comfortable rhythm, and Liz thinks the world of him.
“His potential as an absolute world class horse is undoubtable. I believe in him, and I just think the world of him. When you’re sitting on something that beautiful and that special — I sort of had dreams about being able to pull out a 20 today, but I think it’s in there, we just have to do a little more training,” she said.
Boyd Martin slotted himself into sixth place on a score of 28.3 with his Tokyo Olympics and double World Championship partner, Tsetserleg.
“He couldn’t have gone much better. It’s very rare you do a dressage test where you sort of come out and go ‘every movement was as good as I could have hoped,'” he said as he laid the credit with his two dressage coaches, wife Silva Martin and German Olympian Bettina Hoy. “Silva’s my dressage coach, and we know each other so well, that it’s important for me, obviously, to try and get other experts in here and there, and Bettina Hoy is obviously one of the best in the world. It’s sort of two people warming me up, which sounds confusing, but it’s really good stuff. They’ve been at me all week for shortening my reins and trying to get his frame out a little bit.”
The 16-year-old Trakehner gelding (Windfall – Thabana, by Buddenbrock) leaned into his years of experience, lighting up, rather than shying away from the crowd. “Thomas is so good under pressure. In the ring, where a lot of horses get nervous, he almost gets better. Like I said, before, I was thrilled with the way he went, and I couldn’t have hoped for much more,” Boyd said. “[He’s] so seasoned now, it’s just fine tuning every mark and trying to position the horse to sort of present him as best we could.”
Another experienced pair, Buck Davidson and Carlevo are gunning to match, or hopefully improve, their fifth place finish here last year, and they’re off to a great start, in current seventh place on a score of 28.4.
“He’s pretty sleepy. Walking up here you’re sort of come on, Carlevo, let’s keep going,” Buck said of Katherine O’Brien’s 16-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Caresino – Ramatuelle, by Levernois). “He is a performer, but he’s got such a good brain. And he knows me, I know him. And it’s literally just trying to keep him interested and give him enough to do. He knows how to do everything, so we’re not going to train him. And his mind is so good you can rely on him.”
The next eight positions of the leaderboard remain claimed by Thursday’s riders: Liz Halliday-Sharp and Deniro Z are eighth (29), Sandra Auffarth and Viamant du Matz are ninth (30.4), Woods Baughman and C’est La Vie 135 are 10th (30.6), Alina Dibowski and Barbados 26 are 11th (30.7), Kirsty Chabert and Classic VI are 12th (30.8), Will Coleman and Off The Record are 13th (31.2), Phillip Dutton and Z are 14th (31.9), and Zara Tindall and Class Affair are 15th (32.6).
The next fresh face comes in the form of reigning Land Rover/USEF CCI5*-L National Champions Doug Payne and Quantum Leap, a U.S. bred 12-year-old Zweibrucker gelding (Quite Capitol – Report to Sloopy xx, by Corporate Report xx) owned by Doug and his wife Jess. Their first phase score of 33.7 puts them in 16th place.
“For him, this is a pretty tough environment, and especially a bit windy and whatever — it’s definitely charged. I was really proud of him that was still, I want to say three and change [points] better than last year,” Doug said. “I think we’ve sort of got a system now as far as preparation goes. We kind of have to write off the first event or two of the year because he’s just wild, but then he starts settling in, and he’s just getting better and better. And the times that he can be confident about it, and he’s staying really relaxed, he has a lot to like.”
The only five-star debutant to come forward today was Sydney Solomon. Her test with Early Review CBF, a 14-year-old Hanoverian mare (Earl – Lois Lane CBF, by Le Primeur) owned and bred by Laurie Cameron, was sprinkled with a few exciting bucks through the flying changes, but nevertheless, Sydney was unbothered, soaking up the atmosphere of her first five-star. They’re in 35th place on a score of 43.3.
“As I went in there, I definitely felt her tense up, but honestly, some of it felt really good. Sometimes in the atmosphere, it really, really, really gets the best of us — especially in the canter work — and I at least feel like she held it together in the canter, other than in the changes, which sometimes that’s all you can ask. And I’m pretty green at the Advanced level, so I’m just excited for the rest of the weekend,” Sydney said. “We’re here for the cross country and the showjumping, so [my test] definitely could have been a lot better, but it could have been a lot worse. Overall, we got through it and I’m somewhat pleased.”
Tomorrow the four-star cross country begins at 9:15 a.m., followed by the five-star at 1:20 p.m. For questions about how and where to watch, click here.
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