Royal touch as Zara makes readies for first RK3DE start

Zara Phillips and High Kingdom
Zara Phillips and High Kingdom. © Mike Bain

Royalty is heading state-side with the addition of the Queen’s granddaughter, Zara Phillips, to next week’s Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event field.

Phillips, who is having her first start at the RK3DE is among several international riders at this year’s event, which gets under way at the Kentucky Horse Park on April 23. She will ride High Kingdom, her team silver medalist from the 2012 Olympic Games and 2014 World Equestrian Games.

Her team-mate William Fox-Pitt – who has won the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event trophy three times – in 2010, 2012 and 2014  – has travelled to the US to ride last year’s winner Bay My Hero in the event, and is joined by fellow Brits Nicola Wilson (Watermill Vision and Annie Clover) and Francis Whittington (East Target). Us-based British rider James Alliston will ride Parker and Tivoli.

The Brits will face challenges from the world’s finest riders, including Germany’s Michael Jung, who won individual gold at the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky in 2010 and who is the current Olympic title holder. He has two rides – La Biosthetique Sam and Fischerrocana Fst.

Ireland has two starters in Austin O’Connor (Balham Houdini) and Tom Bourke (Luckaun Quality), while Dutch rider Werner Geven, with Vandiver and Vilas County, is the sole starter for The Netherlands. Likewise Jennie Jarnstrom is the only Swedish rider to enter, riding Cape Town.

All of North America’s best equestrian athletes will be competing at Rolex Kentucky this year. Among them will be the 2008 winner Phillip Dutton, Olympic team member Boyd Martin and Buck Davidson, son of Bruce Davidson, who won the 1978 World Championships at Kentucky – the first major event to be held at the venue.

Emily Cammock and Dambala at New Zealand's Horse of the Year show last month.
Emily Cammock and Dambala at New Zealand’s Horse of the Year show last month. © Annie Studholme Equine Photography

New Zealand has just two entrants this year, British-based Tim Price with Wesko, and Christchurch eventer Emily Cammock and her grey stationbred Dambala, who won the CIC3* Horse of the Year in Hastings.

Since working in the US for Olympian Kim Severson in 2001, Cammock, 33, has had dreams of returning to compete at Rolex Kentucky and now it is nearly a reality, but just getting there has been a huge mission in itself.

Following a delay after fog forced his first flight out of Christchurch to be abandoned, Dambala’s (“Oscar’s”) journey began on April 3, and after travelling through Sydney, Shanghai and Anchorage for more than 40 hours, the pair finally touched down in New York on April 5.  The pair arrived at their base at Boyd and Silva Martin’s barn in Pennsylvania on April 7, and have been settling into a new routine before the team takes the 10-hour road trip to Kentucky on April 20.

A former Australian, Boyd Martin will ride Master Frisky and Cracker Jack for the USA at the RK3DE.

Pippa Funnell was thrilled to get around on Billy Beware, and finish in  sixth place.  © Badminton Horse Trials
Pippa Funnell. © Badminton Horse Trials

The RK3DE is one of only six Four Star Three-Day Events in the world and the only one in the Western Hemisphere.  It is offering $300,000 in prize money – with $100,000 going to the winner – as well as a shot at the $350,000 Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing, which is awarded to any rider who wins the Rolex Kentucky, Mitsubishi Motors Badminton and Land Rover Burghley Four Star Events in succession.

To date, only one rider – Rolex Eventing Testimonee Pippa Funnell – has won this most prestigious series. In 2003 the much-medalled mainstay of British teams for many years took the Rolex Kentucky crown on Primmore’s Pride. She progressed to Badminton a week later and won there on Supreme Rock, her double European Champion, and added the Burghley title that autumn on Primmore’s Pride – beating Zara Phillips into second place on her four-star debut at the same time. Pippa Funnell immediately joined the ranks of sporting greats, respected by her peers and the media alike as an exceptional athlete.

Since then, two of the three legs of the Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing have been won by four riders: Australia’s Andrew Hoy, Britain’s William Fox-Pitt and Oliver Townend, and New Zealand’s current live Rolex Grand Slam contender, Andrew Nicholson.

The Dubarry of Ireland Nations Team Challenge will be featured again this year, awarding $20,000 in prize money to the winning nation with the fewest penalties after adding together the final scores of the three highest-placed individuals from that nation.

The RK3DE gets under way with the first horse inspection on Wednesday, April 22 followed by the first day of dressage on Thursday, April 23. The cross country phase is on Saturday, April 25, with the final show jumping phase the next day.


2014     William Fox-Pitt (GBR), Bay My Hero
2013     Andrew Nicholson (NZL), Quimbo
2012     William Fox-Pitt (GBR), Parklane Hawk
2011     Mary King (GBR), Kings Temptress
2010     William Fox-Pitt (GBR), Cool Mountain
2009     Lucinda Federicks (AUS), Headly Britannia
2008     Phillip Dutton (USA), Connaught
2007     Clayton Fredericks (AUS), on Ben Along Time
2006     Andrew Hoy (AUS), Master Monarch
2005     Kim Severson-Vinoski (USA), Winsome Adante
2004     Kim Severson-Vinoski (USA), Winsome Adante
2003     Pippa Funnell (GBR), Primmore’s Pride
2002     Kim Severson-Vinoski (USA), Winsome Adante
2001     David O’Connor (USA), Giltedge
2000    Blyth Tait (NZL), Welton Envoy
1999     Karen O’Connor (USA), Prince Panache
1998     Nick Larkin (NZL), Red
1997     Karen O’Connor (USA), Worth the Trust
1996     Stephen Bradley (USA), Dr. Dolittle
1995     David O’Connor (USA), Custom Made
1994     Julie Gomena (USA), Treaty
1993     Bruce Davidson (USA), Happy Talk
1992     Stuart Young-Black (USA), Von Perrier
1991     Karen Lende (USA), Mr Maxwell
1990     David O’Connor (USA), Wilton Fair
1989     Bruce Davidson (USA), Doctor Peaches
1988     Bruce Davidson (USA), Doctor Peaches
1987     Kerry Millikin (USA), The Pirate

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