British raider William Fox-Pitt has won the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day-Event for the third time, riding Bay My Hero to a faultless jumping round to claim the title in Lexington at the weekend.
The first five placegetters all finished on their dressage scores, with US riders filling the minor placings. Lauren Kieffer and Veronica were second, with Buck Davidson and Ballynoe Castle RM third, Sinead Halpin and Manoir de Carneville fourth, and Marilyn Little and RF Smoke on the Water fifth. Little was also sixth on RF Demeter.
Halpin finished on the same score as Davidson, but as the latter was nearest to the optimum time on the cross-country phase, he took third place.
Fox-Pitt had moved up to the lead after the cross-country phase with and Bay My Hero, one of three Irish Sport Horses in the top eight.
For Fox-Pitt, 45, this Kentucky victory was his 13th win in a CCI4*, the highest level of eventing. This victory was worth $US80,000.
Fox-Pitt also won the trophy aboard Cool Mountain in 2010 and Parklane Hawk in 2012. He said: “Each one is special for its own merits. You can never believe it’s happened until it’s come off. I didn’t come here expecting to win. I came here expecting to enjoy two nice horses,” he said.
When asked how he’ll wear three Rolex watches, Fox-Pitt replied, “My wife, Alice, has the second one, and I guess this one will be for one of my sons.”
He said of Bay My Hero after his foot-perfect round: “He was superb. Lauren really put the pressure on so I was going in there thinking I am so pleased that even if it’s not me then its going to be an American because the support is so amazing over here. The atmosphere in there was crazy – he jumped so well – he was magic! Its very, very exciting and so good to have an American second as well is great for the sport and USA is looking in great shape for WEG, but I am so pleased with my chap.
“I’m so proud of him. I’ve had him since he was a six year-old, and he just jumped superbly today. I’m very happy with him.”
Breeder Bryan Maguire said from Wexford last night: “I’m as proud as punch. I sold Bay My Hero, who is fully Irish, when he was a four year-old after he came second at Tattersalls. His owner Catherine Witt has brought him along slowly and carefully without any pressure, and I believe that’s the way to produce winners. The proof was seen today. Catherine and William have been a great team, and Catherine keeps me in touch with every step of his progress. I’m delighted for them.”
Bay My Hero is by the thoroughbred stallion Cult Hero (Silver Deputy x Joyful Juliet, by What a Pleasure) and out of the Irish Draught mare Bing Power (Tomgar Power Crest x Coolbawn Lady, by King of Diamonds).
Kieffer, who is trained by David and Karen O’Connor, said: “It took a lot of mental focus to stay cool, but I really tried to go in there and ride it like anything else – I think my coach will be pleased with me!” She earned $US37,000 for second place.
Also flying the flag for Irish horses was Buck Davidson’s third placed Ramiro B gelding Ballynoe Castle RM, bred in Ireland by Sylvester Cullen, while in eighth was Trading Aces, sired by Coevers Diamond Boy and bred by Ireland’s Patrick Minogue.
Davidson, 38, paid tribute to Ballynoe Castle RM: “Reg has been a consistent horse his whole career. It was only a couple of months ago that he was in hospital with pneumonia – the heart that that horse has is unbelievable – basically if you tell him it’s Kentucky and he’ll go!”
He was, though, “a bit disappointed with my dressage score. I thought it was the best test he’s ever done.”
Still, “We have such a great partnership. I was like a little kid talking to my pony on cross-country. I was saying, ‘Come on, Reggie, we only have two more minutes to go!’
“He’s truly a horse of a lifetime. Every time I ride him, I think how lucky I am,” Davidson added.
He takes home $US30,000 for third place.
Kieffer’s, Davidson’s and Little’s scores propelled the US to victory in the first Dubarry of Ireland Nations Team Challenge, in which the three-highest riders from each nation determined the result. The winning team members shared $10,000 in prize money. The US score of 150.1 easily bested Great Britain (163.8) and Canada (200.9).
Fox-Pitt’s second ride, Seacookie, also went clear to finish ninth overall.
Grand Slam contender Andrew Nicholson has a disastrous jumping round on Avebury, dropping 6 rails and incurring a time fault to finish with 76.7 penalties in 21st place.
The world’s number one eventer, who was defending his title, moved into sixth place before the showjumping but the rails tumbled after an uncharacteristic round from 14-year-old Avebury.
Avebury seemed fine for the first half of the course, but Nicholson said when a rail fell mid-field, he started to feel as though it was hard work for him.
“He’s 14 and has high mileage in these top events,” said Nicholson. “He’s been doing this since he was nine and does two biggies a year.”
Mr Medicott, ridden by Phillip Dutton, was withdrawn before show jumping, having been in third place after cross country.
As the winner, Fox-Pitt now becomes the new live contender of the Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing prize and will go to the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials from May 7 to 11 in search of victory and the second leg of the Rolex Grand Slam events.
The stadium was sold out for the jumping, with attendance at 22,388, bringing the event total to 78,623.
1. William Fox-Pitt/Bay My Hero (GBR) 44.0
2. Lauren Kieffer/Veronica (USA) 46.7
3. Bruce (Buck) Davidson Jr/Ballynoe Castle RM (USA) 51.7
4. Sinead Halpin/Manoir De Carneville (USA) 51.7
5. Marilyn Little/RF Smoke on the Water (USA) 52.5
6. Marilyn Little/RF Demeter (USA) 55.3
7. Jan Byyny/Inmidair (USA) 56.7
8. Phillip Dutton/Trading Aces (USA) 52.5
9. William Fox-Pitt/Seacookie (GBR) 59.1
10. Selena O’Hanlon/Foxwood High (CAN) 59.4
Additional reporting: Colin McLelland, Marcus O’Donnell, Marty Bauman, Diana Dobson.
Below: Bay My Hero’s cross-country round.