The leaderboard has changed dramatically following the completion of the dressage phase at the Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event in Lexington, with the USA’s Allison Springer taking the lead on Arthur with the only sub-40 dressage score.
The duo are well-known dressage exponents and can always be relied upon to produce a beautiful test at this level, but the elegant chestnut gelding also has a tendency to suffer from nerves.
Springer holds the lead with 39.8 penalties, followed closely by Britain’s William Fox-Pitt and Parklane Hawk on 41.3.
Springer, a Kentucky regular, explained: “I’ve tried to bring a different attitude this year, not putting as much pressure on myself. He’s never going to be a relaxed horse, but I am working on figuring out what I need to do to keep him calm and confident. I haven’t figured it all yet but he’s a good horse and I am excited about the partnership I can have with him.”
Burghley winner Fox-Pitt (GB) has kept his Rolex Grand Slam chances alive. If he wins at Kentucky, and then at Badminton (GB) a week later, where he has two useful rides, he will be the first rider since Pippa Funnell (GB) in 2003 to capture the elusive $350,000 prize which goes to the rider who can triumph at the three CCI4*s consecutively.
Of his dressage test, Fox-Pitt said: “I am very pleased. Parklane Hawk is a fantastic horse with great ability and good focus. The test wasn’t 100% perfect and showed a few glitches he didn’t have last year. He felt the pressure of coming back in a big arena and was a bit edgy at times but, overall, he did a great job. This weekend will tell me more about his abilities. If all goes well, he could be the one for Greenwich!”
US riders are in the next two spots, with Clark Montgomery and Loughan Glen on 43.2 in third, and Karen O’Connor on Mr Medicott fourth with 44.2.
Montgomery said: “My horse is young and green but he’s a sweetheart and he wants to do his job. He understands the three phases of Eventing and he always tries, which makes him a real competitor.”
Next in the rankings is New Zealand’s Jonathan Paget with Clifton Promise on 44.8. The combination was seventh at the 2010 World Equestrian Games at the venue.
First day leader Boyd Martin (US) and his 16-year-old former hunter Remington XXV hold sixth. O’Connor’s Veronica has dropped to ninth place, and Andrew Nicholson and Calico Joe are now 10th. His second ride, Qwanza, is 24th with 55,8, and compatriot Lucy Jackson and Kilcoltrim Ambassador are in 30th spot with 58.0.
Martin, who made his US team debut in 2010, is one of the many riders for whom Kentucky is a key Olympic selection trial. “He’s a good old horse,” said Martin of Remington XXV. “He’s taken me all around the world now, and it was wonderful to ride a test on a horse who knows what he’s doing.”
O’Connor (USA), 54, a three-times winner of Kentucky, is one for whom the weekend has special significance, as she is aiming for her fifth Games and has spent the winter focusing on her personal fitness.
“This competition (Kentucky) is extremely important to me, and I owe it to myself and everybody who’s put a lot of time and effort into me to be ready for it and for whatever may be beyond,” said O’Connor, who is lying fourth on new ride Mr Medicott and ninth on Veronica. “If I don’t give it 110%, then shame on me.”
Fifty-seven competitors from five nations went before the Ground Jury of Anne-Mette Binder (Denmark) and Nick Burton (GB), both of whom will be officiating at the London Olympic Games this summer, and Michel Asseray (France).
Kentucky is the only four star three day event held in the United States, and is the third leg of the six part HSBC FEI Classics – in which Nicholson is sitting third – with riders vying for part of the $250,000 prize purse and a shot at the $350,000 Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing which goes to any rider who wins Kentucky, Badminton and Burghley in succession.
Fox-Pitt is also the current leader of the HSBC FEI Classics, which he has won twice before, and is wearing the armband as leader of the HSBC Rider Rankings.
“The HSBC FEI Classics have become a vital part of the Eventing calendar and a real focus for the riders. You have to be in it to win it,” he said.
Reporting: Kate Green
Results after dressage
1 Alison Springer/Arthur (USA) 39.8
2 William Fox-Pitt/Parklane Hawk (GBR) 41.3
3 Clark Montgomery/Loughan Glen (USA) 43.2
4 Karen O’ Connor/Mr Medicott (USA) 44.2
5 Jonathan Paget/Clifton Promise (NZL) 44.8
6 Boyd Martin/Remington XXV (USA) 45.3
7 Michael Pollard/Icarus (USA) 46.7
8 Lucy Wiegersma/Granntevka Prince (GBR) 47.5
9 Karen O’Connor/Veronica (USA) 47.8
10 Andrew Nicholson/Calico Joe (NZL) 48.7