US rider Michael Pollard has the early lead after the first day of dressage at the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event in Lexington, scoring 49.5 penalties on ex-racehorse Mensa G.
He is just ahead of Will Faudree on Pawlow with 49.8, and Doug Payne scored 51.2 on Crown Talisman to claim third place.
The dressage judges at this year’s Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event are Sandy Phillips of Great Britain, Gillian Rolton of Australia and Christina Klingspor of Sweden.
Defending champion Andrew Nicholson of New Zealand will hit the arena with Avebury on Friday, as does his compatriot Mark Todd with Oloa.
“I like to say that, on dressage day, you can’t win the event, but you certainly can lose it. I’m probably not going to keep the lead tomorrow, but this is a good start,” said Pollard, 33, of Dalton, Georgia. “I just tried not to panic before I went in the ring.”
Mensa G is a 16-year-old thoroughbred gelding by 1993 Belmont Stakes winner Colonial Affair and out of Fire The Secretary (by Stop The Music), bred by Rutledge Farm in Middleburg, Virginia. Mensa G raced as Merisa G, starting 40 times for five wins and $92,901 in earnings. Pollard, wife Nathalie Pollard and father-in-law Carl Bouckaert have owned Mensa G for two years. The horse was qualified for the Belgian team for the 2012 Olympic Games with Carl Bouckaert, having been sold by US rider Andrea Leatherman in 2009.
Faudree , 32, of Southern Pines, North Caroline, said he thought that he “threw points away” with mistakes at the counter-canter and medium trot. But “all in all he stayed very rideable throughout the test, and overall I was happy.”
He added that it was a disadvantage to go on Thursday morning [when the crowd is the smallest] “with a horse who benefits from atmosphere. The more atmosphere there is around the ring, the less I have to kick and the more I can show off what he can do.”
Pawlow, 15, is an Irish-bred Thoroughbred gelding by Marcuzzi who finished sixth at the 2012 Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event with Faudree aboard.
But Payne, who celebrated his marriage just a few weeks ago, thought that going on the quieter Thursday was an advantage for him. “Crown Talisman is a little more excitable, so it was good for him to get this experience,” he said.
Unlike the other leaders, Payne will not be starting on Saturday’s cross-country course, though. He’s received a Land Rover travel grant to compete Crown Talisman at the Saumur CCI4* in France later this year. Still, he had high praise for the cross-country course Derek di Grazia has created for this year’s event. Di Grazia has been designing the Rolex Kentucky course since 2011.
“It’s a hell of a lot easier to comment on a course that you don’t have to ride,” he said with a smile. “But I think that Derek often doesn’t get as much credit as he deserves. The great thing with his course is that if you jump into the first element right, it generally works out. The horses really read his questions well and jump them well. I don’t think he penalizes the horses.”
Said Pollard, the father of four young children, “This course always looks big to me. I have yet to walk a four-star where it seems easy. It may be a little bit stiffer this year, because it’s a World Championship selection trial, but it’s always hard.”
Andrew Nicholson is the new Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing ‘live contender’. This follows the news announced earlier this week that the 2013 winner of the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials, Jonathan Paget, has officially been disqualified following a “partial decision” by the sport’s governing body Tribunal. As a result of Paget’s disqualification Andrew Nicholson and Avebury have now been promoted and are the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials 2013 winners.
If he is successful again this year, Nicholson will be one competition away – Badminton – from the coveted $US350,000 Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing Prize.
The official Thursday event attendance was 7,004.
Results after Dressage Day 1
1. Michael Pollard/Mensa G (USA) 49.5
2. Will Faudree/Pawlow (USA) 49.8
3. Doug Payne/Crown Talisman (USA) 51.2
4. Marilyn Little/RF Demeter (USA) 51.3
5. William Fox-Pitt/Seacookie TSF (GBR) 51.5
6. Sinead Halpin/Manoir De Carneville (USA) 51.7
7. Emily Beshear/Here’s To You (USA) 52.2
8. Phillip Dutton/Trading Aces (USA) 52.5
9. Sarah Bullimore/Reve Du Rouet (GBR) 52.7
10. Bruce (Buck) Davidson Jr/Petite Flower (USA) 54.2