Strong Kiwi field for Kentucky

The Rolex Kentucky is the only four-star event in the United States, and there is going to be a strong New Zealand contingent competing.

CIC3* winners at Tattersalls, Sir Mark Todd on NZB Campino. CREDIT: Libby Law Photography
CIC3* winners at Tattersalls, Sir Mark Todd on NZB Campino. CREDIT: Libby Law Photography

Rolex Kentucky will have a cracker Kiwi line-up when it starts on April 28, with five New Zealand entries in the 90-strong field. Tim Price has entered his young star, Bango.  Unfortunately Wesko was entered but was withdrawn on 18 April after his season-ending injury. Sir Mark Todd has NZB Campino and Blyth Tait is riding Xanthus III. Jock Paget is the other UK-based Kiwi entered, with Clifton Signature, while US-based Joe Meyer will start on Clip Clop.

They are chasing the glory which also comes with a prize-purse of US$350,000: the winner will be presented with $110,000 and a Rolex watch, and each of the top 20 placegetters will receive prize money.

Wesko is a great showjumping but had one unlucky rail at last year's Rolex Kentucky to finish in second place
Wesko is a great show jumper but had one unlucky rail at last year’s Rolex Kentucky to finish in second place. We were so looking forward to seeing him at the event, but it is not to be.

While we are all disappointed that Wesko has withdrawn, Tim does have Bango entered. This is a promising young horse, with one four-star completion to his name, and is also qualified for the Olympics. Bango is Tim’s number two choice for the Olympics, so Tim will be looking to get some more good experience for him at Kentucky – and don’t be surprised if they appear in the line-up for prizes.

Sir Mark Todd first competed at Kentucky in the World Championships in 1978 and has ridden there many times since, but this is one of those few titles he has never won. This year he is on NZB Campino, and has a good chance at the title.

Blyth Tait on Xanthus at Tattersalls, where they finished third in the CIC3*. CREDIT: Libby Law Photography
Blyth Tait on Xanthus at Tattersalls, where they finished third in the CIC3*. CREDIT: Libby Law Photography

Blyth Tait has won Kentucky before, back in 2000 on Welton Envoy. This year he’s entered Xanthus III, one of the horses who helped him gain re-entry to the New Zealand High Performance squad – and a horse that improves with every outing.

Jock Paget is the other UK-based Kiwi who will compete in Kentucky, riding Clifton Signature. Jock has ridden there before, including at the 2010 World Equestrian Games when he finished seventh individually on Clifton Promise. His four-star debut was at this competition in 2010, when he finished 27th, and he improved to sixth place in 2012. Clifton Signature has competed at four-star level once, at Pau where he finished 14th.

US-based New Zealander Joe Meyer will start on Clip Clop. While Joe has ridden at four-star level plenty of times, it will be the horse’s first time. ‘Clippy’ apparently has many naughty and cheeky tendencies but his performances in the last 12 months have been very good, including a recent second placing at Poplar Place CIC3*.

The Jung team - we wonder who got to wear the Rolex watch? Photo credit Libby Law Photography
The 2015 Jung team – we wonder who got to wear the Rolex watch? (Image: Libby Law)

Last year’s winner and the world’s leading event rider, Michael Jung, has his eyes on the Rolex Grand Slam this season, with entries at both Kentucky and Badminton four-stars. Michael is the live contender in the competition, having won Burghley last September.  The Grand Slam of eventing awards $US350,000 (and another Rolex watch) to a rider who wins Burghley, Kentucky and Badminton consecutively (though not necessarily on the same horse). The Grand Slam started in 1999, and has been won only once so far, by Great Britain’s Pippa Funnell, in 2003. Andrew Nicholson got close recently, having won Burghley and Kentucky in the same season, but couldn’t pull off that elusive Badminton win to seal the grand slam.

Last year's winners of Rolex Kentucky, Michael Jung on Fisherroccana. Photo Libby Law Photography
Last year’s winners of Rolex Kentucky, Michael Jung and FisherRocana. (Image: Libby Law)

Michael has just one shot at each of Kentucky and Badminton; he’s entered his top horse, La Biosthetique Sam FBW, for the latter, and is taking FischerRocana FST to Kentucky. The event was a happy hunting ground for Michael and this mare last year, as they took the win.

The only New Zealanders to win Kentucky are Andrew Nicholson, in 2013 with Quimbo, Blyth Tait in 2000 on Welton Envoy, and Nick Larkin in 1998 on Red. The New Zealand horse, Parklane Hawk, ridden by William Fox-Pitt, won it in 2012.

The draw has just been done and Tim Price will be the first New Zealander to go, having drawn tenth. We’ve then got a bit of a wait until Joe Meyer on Clip Clop (37th) and Jock Paget (41st). Blyth and Sir Mark are well down the starting order.  Last year’s winner, Michael Jung is 34th to go. Here is the link to the dressage start times. Converting those to New Zealand times, Tim is on at 1.58 am on Friday morning, Joe at 6.18 am, and Jock at 7.06 am. On Saturday (NZT) Blyth is on at 3.18am, with Sir Mark on at 6.50 am. Cross country will start at 2am Sunday morning our time.

Derek di Grazia is the cross-country course designer, a position he has held since 2011. It has recently been announced that he will be the course builder for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.

Fabulous venue, Kentucky Horse Park. Photo Libby Law Photography
Fabulous venue, Kentucky Horse Park. (Image: Libby Law)

Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event is run by a non–profit Kentucky corporation formed initially to stage the 1978 World Three–Day Event Championship. This was won by Bruce Davidson of the USA on Might Tango; Canada won team gold.

We will bring you as much coverage from Kentucky as possible. Our photographer Libby Law will be at the event and there is also live streaming on FEI TV.

Go the Kiwis!