Three Kiwis in top 20 at Kentucky

Nobody could head off German Michael Jung's dressage score on the second day of dressage but New Zealand's riders are certainly not out of contention.

The dressage phase is all over at Kentucky, and the New Zealand riders are sitting in relatively good positions, especially Sir Mark Todd, Jock Paget and Tim Price who are in the top twenty.

USA's Allison Springer on Arthur finished second after the dressage phase of Rolex Kentucky 2016. Photo Libby Law Photography
USA’s Allison Springer on Arthur finished second after the dressage phase of Rolex Kentucky 2016. Photo Libby Law Photography

Michael Jung with FisherRocana FST’s mark of 34.4 couldn’t be caught by anyone on the second day, although the very last competitor of the day did the best job, being the only other competitor to score under 40. Alison Springer on Arthur scored 39.6, waving the American flag high to the delight of the home crowd. Fellow American Marilyn Little on RF Demeter got the next closest, finishing third on 42.5. Marilyn has been competing successfully at Grand Prix show jumping lately – what a talented rider!

Marilyn Little riding RF Demeter. Photo Revolution Sports
Marilyn Little riding RF Demeter. Photo Revolution Sports
Sir Mark Todd on NZB Campino is in 6th+ place after dressage at Rolex Kentucky. Photo: Libby Law Photography.
Sir Mark Todd on NZB Campino is in 6th+ place after dressage at Rolex Kentucky. Photo: Libby Law Photography.

Sir Mark Todd’s experience shone through and he has finished the best of the New Zealanders, in sixth equal place on NZB Campino. As the commentators said, the legendary rider’s sense of rhythm and balance is amazing. “He’s an unbelievable competitor” said Karen O’Connor.  The first flying change, the reinback and the extensions were stand outs, with the three judges scoring him nine, eight and eight for his first change.

“I was a little disappointed” said Sir Mark, after the test to the FEI TV interviewer. “He is capable of doing very good tests, and he wasn’t quite with me. He was a little nervous, but nothing major.” Judges gave him scores of 75.5%, 70.83% and 67.33%, resulting in a final penalty point total of 43.2.

The huge grandstands were packed for the second day of dressage.

Blyth Tait on Xanthus II in their dressage at Rolex Kentucky. Photo Libby Law Photography
Blyth Tait on Xanthus II in their dressage at Rolex Kentucky. Photo Libby Law Photography

Blyth Tait on Xanthus III did some lovely work, especially at the trot. The horse did get a little overcome by the atmosphere, having had little experience at this level. He lost valuable marks for his canter work. Overall however, it was a good effort and something for Blyth to build on. He was disappointed with the performance though telling Samantha Clark from Eventing Nation that he thought the horse was capable of doing a great test. “He isn’t experienced in atmospheres like this. His trot work was satisfactory but he got tense in the canter, getting strong and rigid.” Blyth joked that “he would have to go faster” in the cross country now. He thought the track was big. “All of the fences in isolation are OK but when you put them all together the accumulative effect starts to add up. It is a good test, and a big test of stamina.”

Sir Mark also said the course had some big challenges but was very fair. “It is a bit more twisty this year so I think the time will be difficult to get.”

Caroline Todd was on hand to help with her husband’s preparation. Apparently it has been 16 years since she last visited Kentucky Horse Park.

Over 14,000 were at Rolex Kentucky on the second day of dressage. Good time for shopping! Photo credit Libby Law Photography
Over 14,000 were at Rolex Kentucky on the second day of dressage. Good time for shopping! Photo credit Libby Law Photography

The weather will play a big role in the cross country tomorrow and forecasts are changing, but some rain is expected. That’s not great news for Sir Mark or second placed Alison Springer who are towards the end and at the end of the field, and will have to cope with the ground being cut up by previous competitors.

Michael Jung, who has an early draw, is in the prime spot and says his “mare is in very good form.” Michael is chasing the Rolex Grand Slam of eventing, with the Burghley win already under his belt and his best horse La Biosthetique Sam entered for Badminton next week. At the press conference after the dressage, the German said that it is very important to him to win the Grand Slam. “Not coming here to have a nice holiday” he joked. With the Rolex Grand Slam being worth USD$350,000, of course it is important!

The press conference at the conclusion of the dressage phase, Rolex Kentucky. Photo: Libby Law Photography
The press conference at the conclusion of the dressage phase, Rolex Kentucky with Alison Springer, Michael Jung and Marilyn Little. Photo: Libby Law Photography

It was also interesting to hear Michael say that he has already walked the course three times and planned on walking it twice more, once tonight and once in the morning. He leaves no room for error, saying he has  “a plan for every fence, two or three plans.”

New Zealand bred and Donna Smith produced horse FIS Prince Charming unfortunately had a shoeing issue and was withdrawn before the dressage. Lisa Barry issued this statement on her Facebook page: “I have had to make the very difficult decision to withdraw Peanut from competition here at Rolex. His feet are just a bit too sore after the hard footing we’ve had for the last couple of weeks. Although we could make him happy enough to get through the dressage I don’t think it’s in his best interest. I want to thank my wonderful team and sponsors for all their help in getting us this far and of course my mom and my coaches for all their support!!! This sport has its highs and lows but little Peanut is more important to me than anything and we will live to fight another day!”

The other horse that we are keeping a close eye on because he is so stunning (and has been a long time favourite) is Tiana Coudrey’s Ringwood Magister. They have finished in 16th place on 46.9.

How does Ringwood Magister's tail stay so white? #RK3DE

A post shared by Eventing Nation (@goeventing) on

So at the end of the dressage phase consisting of 71 competitors, New Zealander’s scores are:

  • Sir Mark Todd, NZB Campino: 43.2, sixth equal place
  • Jonathan Paget, Clifton Signature: 47.5, 17th place
  • Tim Price, Bango: 48.3, 20th equal
  • Blyth Tait, Xanthus: 54.1, 38th
  • Joe Meyer, Clip Clop: 60.6, 60th place

Live scoring (with the full list of everyone’s scores) can be found on this link. The cross country starts at 2am Sunday morning New Zealand time and you can watch it on FEI TV.

The ramp where all the horses enter and exit the arena. Photo Libby Law Photography
The ramp where all the horses enter and exit the arena. Photo Libby Law Photography