This weekend’s Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event is the third leg of the FEI Classics series for the season, with previous winner William Fox-Pitt a front-runner for both titles.
But he will have to battle reigning RK3DE champion Andrew Nicholson, who is currently the world’s number one eventer.
The pair are among the 60-plus entries at North America’s premier event. The result of this weekend’s competition could ultimately determine the winner of the valuable FEI Classics, now in its seventh year.
William Fox-Pitt, who has won 12 CCI4*s – more than any other rider – plus the FEI Classics three times, makes his annual visit to Lexington, with the German-bred Seacookie TSF, runner-up last year and winner of Les Etoiles de Pau at the start of the FEI Classics season last October, plus the exciting prospect Bay My Hero.
Last year’s Kentucky winner Andrew Nicholson (NZL), the world number one and winner of last year’s FEI Classics, has opted to take his 2013 winning ride Quimbo to Badminton (GBR) this time and has instead entered Avebury, one of the most talented and popular horses on the circuit.
This is the first time the lovely home-bred grey gelding, by the part Irish Draught stallion Jumbo, has competed at a CCI4* out of Britain, but he has a formidable record which includes first and second places at Burghley (GBR) in 2012 and 2013 and it will be interesting to see what he makes of Derek de Grazia’s rolling track at Kentucky.
Eight nations are represented – Australia, Brazil, Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, New Zealand, The Netherlands and the USA – and the host side will be hoping they can pull Kentucky back into American hands again for the first time since 2008, when Phillip Dutton won on Connaught.
Dutton must have another great chance this year – he is three-handed with Mighty Nice, Trading Aces and his new ride Mr Medicott, the Olympic team gold medalist with Frank Ostholt (GER) in 2008, the highest-placed US horse at the London 2012 Olympic Games with Karen O’Connor, and who was fourth at the opening leg of this series in Pau last year with Dutton.
Buck Davidson (USA), whose father Bruce is the most successful rider of all time at Kentucky, is the first rider into the dressage arena on Friday morning at 10am local time. He also has a trio of rides: Petite Flower, the experienced Ballynoe Castle RM and Park Trader.
Marilyn Little (RF Demeter and RF Snow on the Water) and Alison Springer (Copycat Chloe and the veteran Arthur) are two-handed, as is Canadian rider Selina O’Hanlon with Foxwood High and Bellaney Rock.
The most senior rider in the field, however, is New Zealand’s Mark Todd, 58, who has been riding at Kentucky longer than anyone else – since 1978. He has an interesting prospect in Oloa, seventh in his first CCI4*, Burghley, last year.
FEI Classics 2013/2014 Leaderboard (after 2 of 6 events)
1 William Fox-Pitt (GBR) 15 points
2 Christopher Burton (AUS) 15
3 Maxime Livio (FRA) 12
4 Sonja Johnson (AUS) 12
5 Craig Barrett (AUS) 10
6 Phillip Dutton (USA) 8
7 Shane Rose (AUS) 8
8 Andrew Nicholson (NZL) 6
9 Stuart Tinney (AUS) 6
10 Donatien Schauly (FRA) 5