April 27, 2008

With a faultless cross-country round, Becky Holder moved a giant step closer to winning her first Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event. Holder, of Minnesota, has kept her No.1 placing since Thursday, aboard Courageous Comet, her grey thoroughbred gelding.

Holder and Courageous Comet were the only pair in the top 10 to record a completely clear performance on Saturday, although Phillip Dutton, on Connaught, received .4 time faults to move up from third to second, and Stephen Bradley, on From, received 5.2 time faults to move up from fourth to third. Missy Ransehousen, of Unionville, Pa., rode Critical Decision to a fault-free round to climb from 12th to fourth, and Alison Springer, of Marshall, Va. rode Arthur to a fault-free round to climb from 13th to fifth.

Three-time winner Kim Severson is sixth on Tipperary Liadhnan, after placing 16th in dressage.

Holder, 39, has a lead of 2.4 penalties over Dutton, with Bradley 6.1 penalties behind him.

After being held on course because another rider had fallen, Holder made a mistake when she restarted her stopwatch to start again. She accidentally double-punched the start button, resetting it to 0. "I'm not very clever at math, and then I thought, 'Maybe this is a good thing. It will make me concentrate on jumping the jumps,'" she said.

"He was still full of run at the end, and he'd just hit another gear every time I put my hands down to pat him," Holder added.

Dutton, 44, said, "Sometimes I wish he didn't try quite so hard over the jumps, because it slows him down, and the galloping is really hard for him. But there's not a better horse to ride over fences. I'm so proud of my horse.

"This is the fastest I've ever gone with him [at Kentucky]. He just gets better and better all the time," added Dutton about Connaught's fourth start at Rolex Kentucky. Connaught is a 15-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding.

From, a 15-year-old Russian-bred thoroughbred, gave Bradley some anxious moments at the first and third water jumps when he added strides at the last moment. "He was getting a little bit tired and a little behind my leg. He was really genuine," said Bradley. "That's why I keep telling people that, as I get older, I only ride horses who are really good jumpers."

Said Bradley about finishing 13 seconds slower than the 11-minute optimum time: "I jumped around as quickly as I could, so I'm pleased."

Of the 40 horses that started on the cross-country course, designed by Michael Etherington-Smith, 13 finished with no jumping or time faults, and another 12 finished with only time faults-a total of 25 horses (50%) finished without jumping faults. Five horses finished with one refusal, including Bonnie Mosser and Merloch (seventh after dressage). Two horses finished after their riders fell off, including Northern Spy with Heidi White (second after dressage) and Dobbin with Corrine Ashton (fifth after dressage). Three riders retired after refusals on course, including sixth-placed Emilee Libby on Cahir and ninth-placed Polly Stockton on Charles Owens Tangleman. Four horses were eliminated, three for fall of horse.

One of those was Frodo Baggins and Laine Ashker, who fell at fence 5. Ashker sustained injuries but was conscious, talking and able to move all extremities when she was transported to the University of Kentucky Hospital. She is currently under the care of the emergency and trauma services staff.

Frodo Baggins was immediately attended by a team of veterinarians. He was given intravenous fluids and supportive medications for shock and pain. After he was stabilized, he was sedated and transported by horse ambulance to nearby Hagyard Equine Medical Institute, where he was immediately attended by emergency personnel.

Further tests showed that Frodo Baggins had sustained a fracture at the base of his skull, as well as severe lung injury. As the prognosis was very poor, a representative of the family concurred that euthanasia was the most humane option for the horse. A complete necropsy examination will be performed. Everyone at the event is saddened by the loss of this brave horse.

A record crowd off 50,275 spectators watched the cross-country phase of North America's only four-star CCI. A total of 83,059 have attended over the first three days.