New Zealand’s Tim Price and Germany’s Michael Jung are joint leaders of the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event after the dressage, as competitors look toward Saturday’s cross country.
Jung was leading after the first day of dressage with his mount Fischerrocana FST, after the combination posted a score of 39.3.
The second day of dressage saw Jung, 32, ride La Biosthetique Sam FBW, a horse he described beforehand as nervous and more difficult to ride than his other mount. However, the horse stepped up for a scoreboard-topping tally of 36.3.
That was matched by Kiwi Tim Price on Wesko, meaning the two share the lead going into the cross-country – a hilly course designed by Derek di Grazia.
Britain’s William Fox-Pitt lies third, on 38.5, and Jung holds on to fourth spot from his first-day performance on Fischerrocana FST.
The next five placings are filled by US riders – Colleen Rutledge (42.3), Mackenna Shea (43.7), Laine Ashker (44.2), Lauren Kieffer (44.3) and Marilyn Little (44.6).
The Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, held in Lexington, is the year’s first leg of the Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing, which awards $US350,000 to a rider who can win Rolex Kentucky, then cross the Atlantic to win the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials and the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials.
To take the Grand Slam, riders must win them in succession, but not necessarily on the same horse. Only one rider – Pippa Funnell of Britain – has ever won it, completing the treble in 2003.
Rolex Kentucky is one of only six four-star Three-Day Events in the world and the only one in the western hemisphere.
Cross-country course designer Derek di Grazia says he has given the Kentucky track “a new twist”. He adds: “Some of the old favourites will be jumped in a different order and therefore could ride in a different way to before. I hope riders use their brains out there. The big issues will be time management and knowing their horse.”
The first serious question comes at fence 4 on undulating ground, where riders will encounter a big spread followed by five strides to a rail where the ground drops away and then another five strides to a narrow brush fence.
Fence 7 is the first of the three water complexes on the course, with a drop into the water and then a large table on the other side of the pond. The famous Head of the Lake at 13 only involves one passage through water this time, but it features a couple of skinny brushes.
The keyhole combination at fence 16 and a difficult line to the ‘c’ element, a corner, at the Land Rover Hollow (fence 18) will both have riders thinking hard. And there will be no relaxing for riders on the home stretch. There’s an oxer-corner complex at 24 which has a deceptively tight line and a final water at 26 (which was the fifth fence last year) with a huge carved duck.
Trainer and former Olympian Jimmy Wofford, who won at Kentucky in 1981, gives his verdict on the course: “This is not a course you can skip round. If you want to do well at Rolex 2015 you will have to ride forward.”