#RK3DE: Five-strong Kiwi attack on Kentucky Three-Day-Event

Blyth Tait and Xanthus III in one of the advanced classes.
Blyth Tait and Xanthus III. © Mike Bain

New Zealand has five riders at this weekend’s Rolex Kentucky Three-Day-Event, the only CCI4* in North America.

The Kiwis are led by the only former winner among them, Blyth Tait, who won on Welton Envy in 2000, and last year’s second placegetter Tim Price, who was runner-up on Wesko to Michael Jung.

Tait has also twice won the Carimati Cup as the top placed foreign rider, and this time takes Xanthus III, his 14-year-old bay gelding who was second at the CICO3* special Olympic qualifier at Boekelo in 2015.

Price was looking to go one better than his runner-up spot on Wesko to Jung and Fischerrocana FST in 2015, but injury has sidelined his top horse. Price will start 10-year-old Bango who he believes has plenty of talent having placed fourth at the CCI4* in Luhmuhlen last year in his first 4* start.

Tim Price (NZL) and Bango
Tim Price and the Irish-bred Bango. © Steph Freeman

“Bango is a serious contender for the big events,” Price said. “Every year he comes of age a little more and I have always deemed him to be a successful 4* horse. He hasn’t been winning everything all the way up through the grades, but he is a top-quality horse and it is just a matter of time before he starts being completely established at this level.”

The horse came to him as a three-year-old for starting and he didn’t let him go. Now he is looking forward to challenging Jung on him.

“It is great fun to be competing against him,” Price said. “It is exciting and I gained a lot of confidence last year with Wesko at Kentucky and Ringwood Sky Boy at Burghley giving Michael a run for his money. Even though he is an incredible performer, he is beatable and anything can happen.”

Mark Todd and NZB Campino took out the George Mernagh Memorial CIC3* at Tattersalls at the weekend.
Mark Todd and NZB Campino.

It is the first time Todd’s NZB Campino has started at Kentucky, but, the team bronze medal-winning horse from the London Olympics has 4* starts under his belt from Badminton, Pau and Luhmuhlen. Todd first tackled the Kentucky Three-Day-Event in 1978, whereas Jonathan Paget first went around the course there at the 2010 World Equestrian Games, when he finished seventh overall. He’s also been to the RK3DE twice before, with sixth his best result to date.

Paget is looking forward to getting Clifton Signature out on the course. “I have always enjoyed myself there. I am excited to see how my young horse will go there. I would like to have him ready for the Olympics and this will be a good test for him.”

Clifton Signature has only one other four-star start to his credit, but Paget believes the 11-year-old chestnut is a good horse.

“It takes a long time to get horses in a position to win these competitions but I believe he has the making to do it. It just has to come together on the day over all three phases.”

Jonathan Paget (NZL) and Clifton Signature
Jonathan Paget and Clifton Signature . © Mike Bain

US-based Joe Meyer will start aboard Clip Clop, who his co-owner Madison Foote describe as “a rowdy little Irish pony”.

“Clip Clop is in great shape,” Meyer said. “He is coming along really well. He has had good runs but it is a big step up for him to 4*. I am confident in his abilities cross-country – he has done all the fitness work. I don’t think I have ever seen him look so good.”

It is Meyer’s second Kentucky start and Clip Clop’s first.

New Zealand has a strong history at the event. Andrew Nicholson and Quimbo won it in 2013, Blyth Tait aboard Welton Envoy in 2000 and Nick Larkin on Red in 1998. Nicholson, Tait and Larkin have each won the Carimati Cup as the highest placed foreign rider, while Heelan Tompkins and Masterpeace won the young rider trophy in 1998.

Equestrian Sports New Zealand high performance eventing leader Erik Duvander is looking forward to a good showing this year.

“It is a good test for those who are competing on surfaces similar to the Olympics and a stadium for dressage and showjumping, so more of a championship feel,” Duvander said.

“We will learn about flying those horses across the Atlantic in preparation for Rio and that cross-country is a proper 4* course by a designer who builds in a horse-friendly style. It is a great place for horses to develop and learn at that level.”

There is also a Kiwi connection on the ground jury at Kentucky in two-time Olympian Andrew Bennie, who is now based in Britain. Bennie is also on the ground jury for Badminton in May the Rio Olympic Games later this year.



This article has been written by a contributor to Horsetalk.co.nz.

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