Rolex Kentucky offered drama and surprises today, but that’s pretty much to be expected. After day one of dressage, Andrew Nicholson (NZL) and Calico Joe held their lead on 40.8 penalty points.
“It’s a great arena to ride in here,” Nicholson said. “When you go down that ramp into the ring, it gives you a buzz that you’re somewhere special, but [Calico Joe] stayed cool around the ring and gave me 100 percent in the whole test. I let him down a couple of times, but he came through for me.”
Six-time Olympian Nicholson, 51, contributed to the bronze-medal won by the Kiwi team at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games at the Kentucky Horse Park. He won Burghley last September and if he happens to win Rolex this weekend, he becomes a serious contender at the following week’s Badminton horse trials with a real chance to win the $350,000 Rolex Grand Slam – awarded to the rider who wins in succession the three oldest CCI**** (four-stars) – Badminton and Burghley in England, Rolex in Kentucky. If Nicholson leads the victory gallop at Rolex on Sunday, he might just prevail at Badminton next weekend – that’s a serious jackpot…
““I’ve come out here with the Grand Slam in mind, certainly, but at the moment I’m just trying to win this one first. I’ll worry about it more next weekend at Badminton,” said Nicholson, shown here aboard Calico Joe, the early leader after the first day of dressage. Depending on how his second horse, Quimbo, goes on Friday afternoon, Nicholson might have two chances at winning Rolex. Photo © Beth Harpham – equidigital.com
Close behind the early leader on 44.2 ppt are Becky Holder and Can’t Fire Me, with four star debutantes Shandiss McDonald (CAN) and Rockfield Grant Juan not far behind on 45.7 ppt in third. William Fox-Pitt (GBR) and Seacookie TSF are in fourth (46.2), followed by Will Faudree and Pawlow on 47.2.
“It was really nice to have [Can’t Fire Me] be calm and relaxed in the ring and do what he really can do today ,” said Holder, 44, a great favorite with spectators, who has placed a number of times at Rolex. She was all smiles after the test, and for good reason. Photo © Beth Harpham – equidigital.com
In this Rolex field of 46 horse and rider combinations, there are 13 four-star debutantes – special thanks to John of Eventing Nation
(ride that live link to his “Thursday at Rolex: A Mix of Expected and Unexpected Greatness” post – we love John) - for doing the math for us! According to John, that’s a record number, which is kind of cool because some of the first-time four starrers (our term) are horses piloted by experienced riders and some duos are both breaking the four-star ice and it’s going to be an interesting competition, all things considered.
Imagine how Clayton Fredericks (AUS), the new Canadian chef d’equipe, feels about Shandiss McDonald (CAN) and Juan coming up trumps in the dressage phase of their first-ever four-star…
“I was just so happy to be here, and I was just happy that my horse was so settled and willing and did his job in the ring. We were able to do what we’ve been working on at home in the ring,” said Shandiss McDonald (CAN). Photo © Beth Harpham – equidigital.com
BUT and this is the disclaimer: Friday will see the dressage tests of 23 more contenders, including the second mounts of Nicholson, Fox-Pitt, Buck Davidson (9th with Mar de Amor), Jan Byyny (12th with Syd Kent), Phillip Dutton (17th Fernhill Eagle), and James Allison (GBR – Parker in 21st). With the tradition of dressage tests getting better scores later in the order of go, you can bet good money with confidence that the leaderboard will ring some major changes going into Saturday’s cross-country.
Meanwhile Rolex featured rider Jennie Brannigan is wondering if great TLC and the team of outstanding vets who worked on Cambalda will result in their being able to canter to that Halt at X on Friday. The on-dit is that “Ping” got rambunctious while being longed this morning, managed to break loose and, galloping back to the barn, slipped and fell on hard top. Ouch – great jingles to Jennie and Ping – plus fingers and toes all crossed that her darlin’ horse is deemed fit to perform a rescheduled dressage test on Friday.
Of all the tough luck… Fortunately, Ping’s injuries are not life-threatening although we know from experience (running and roller skating on hard top) that scrapes and bruises can be downright major owies for a few days. Again, jingles and a nudge to the ‘horse gods’ – yo, have a heart, y’all – but here’s another thing for certain: Jennie will look after her horse first and foremost. It’s the name of the game: horse and rider.
After a long few days – the trip to Rolex, then one night’s good sleep, then last night – meh, not so good in the sleep department – we were ready for some easy entertainment. So after dressage concluded, we mosied over to Dubarry Boots on Sponsors’ Row. Oh, yeah – it was like a sweet homecoming. Greeted by all their lovely gentlemen, plied with a glass of fizz – at first, we said, no, no thank you, but by the fourth or fifth offer, we folded like a silk scarf and sat down on the bench in their little patio area and watched what we think is better than reality TV (next to Duck Dynasty, that is): people trying on Dubarry Boots for the first time, people coming back for insole liners or the furry cuffs…
Dubarry enthusiasts return to Dubarry Boots on Sponsors Row at Rolex to get boot liners, fuzzy cuffs, etc etc, to encourage a friend to buy their first pair, to imbibe a glass of fizz or froth. They were rocking – perfect location, great product – we wanted to get ours ‘proofed but they were just too busy! photo© Lauren R Giannini
One gal couldn’t make up her mind – she kept looking at her feet and asking her friends what they liked. From our comfy spot on the park bench, we chimed in: “Stop looking at the boots. Close your eyes and listen to what your feet are telling you. Which boot feels better?” Alas, we couldn’t wait to learn the outcome, because we had to return to the Press Center and download photos and start this post, but we sure hope she listened to her feet.
OH winners of the Dubarry Best Dressed Contest judged during the first Vet Inspection on Wednesday – prize being a pair of Dubarry Boots (swoon) – were Boyd Martin and Katie Ruppel.
More from Rolex on Friday…
WHERE TO WATCH THE ACTION
Meanwhile, here’s some great information about how to enjoy the action from the incomparable Rolex press chief Marty Bauman (Classic Communications) and his great staff at the Rolex Press Center:
Rolex Kentucky draws more than 50,000 spectators to the Kentucky Horse Park and is seen by millions more on worldwide telecasts. This year’s event features Olympic and World Equestrian Games medalists from Australia, Canada, Ecuador, Great Britain, Ireland, New Zealand and the United States and will crown the 16th Rolex/USEF National CCI4* Champion.
The event will be televised as the Rolex Equestrian Championships, presented by Land Rover, on NBC on Sunday, April 28, from 4:00-5:00 p.m. EDT. Leading up to the NBC telecast, USEFNetwork.com, presented by SmartPak, is offering live, wall-to-wall coverage of the dressage, cross- country, and show jumping phases. This coverage can be seen on computers, tablets, and smart TV/Google TV devices in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. Google TV users can go to http://www.usefnetwork.com/googletv for an enhanced experience.
Throughout the rest of the world, FEI TV will air LIVE coverage of Saturday’s cross-country and Sunday’s show jumping competitions. To sign up for FEI TV, please visit www.feitv.org.
The full broadcast schedule is listed below and is available under the Live Broadcast Schedule tab at USEFNetwork.com. Times are subject to change.
April 25: LIVE Dressage on USEFNetwork.com, 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. EDT
April 26: LIVE Dressage on USEFNetwork.com, 10:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. EDT
April 27: LIVE Cross-Country on USEFNetwork.com, 10:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. EDT
April 28: LIVE Show Jumping on USEFNetwork.com, 12:00 noon to 3:00 p.m. EDT
April 28: Awards Ceremony on USEFNetwork.com, 3:00 p.m. ET
April 28: Rolex Equestrian Championships presented by Land Rover on NBC, 4:00 to 5 p.m. EDT
The Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event is produced by Equestrian Events, Inc. (EEI), a non-profit charitable Kentucky corporation that was established initially to produce the 1978 World Three-Day Event Championships at the Kentucky Horse Park. Following the success of those championships, EEI established an annual event that quickly evolved into what is today the only four-star three-day event in the western hemisphere, the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event. EEI started producing the Kentucky Reining Cup in 2011.
Full results and further information on the 2013 Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event Presented by Land Rover is available at the Rolex Kentucky website.
Oh – head’s up: tomorrow morning: a post about the Alltech Press Dinner and the 2014 Alltech World Equestrian Games in Normany… but for now – Good Night, Sweet Dreams!