The Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington is soon to be flooded with eventing enthusiasts from across the world eager to soak in all that is the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event, presented by MARS Equestrian. While the feature CCI5*-L division is the highlight of the competition, spectators also get a real treat with the added bonus of the CCI4*-S division—first run in 2021 and often referred to by riders as “mini-Kentucky”—and the Kentucky CSI3* Invitational Grand Prix.
This event, which officially gets underway on Thursday, April 27, and runs through Sunday, April 30, has been a staple on the U.S. and international eventing calendars for more than 40 years—both as a destination event for spectators and a dream-come-true event for aspiring eventing professionals. This year is ramping up to be just as special as ever, and we’ve rounded up all the reasons why in this special edition of the USEA’s Fast Facts.
The CCI5*-L Field:
As of the beginning of the week of competition, there are 39 horse and rider pairs set to compete in Kentucky representing five different countries: the U.S., Canada, France, Germany, and Great Britain.
The Kentucky five-star saw 45 starters in 2022. The largest start list in the last decade was in 2015 when Michael Jung and FischerRocana FST bested a group of 74 horses.
U.S. riders make up 74% of the five-star field this year, each hoping to become the first U.S. winner since Phillip Dutton and Connaught in 2008.
Last year’s USEF National Five-Star Champion pair, Doug Payne and Qauntum Leap, are slated to return. Will this duo top their 2022 third-place finish? Or, will former two-time consecutive national champion Boyd Martin, who won the title with On Cue in 2021 and with Tsetserleg TSF in 2019, jump back into the running? With such a large U.S. contingent, the odds of a new champion stepping into the mix are high, meaning these U.S. horse and rider pairs have to put their best foot forward from day one to earn the illustrious title.
Only one previous Kentucky-winning rider makes up this year’s field: Phillip Dutton, who will be competing this year with The Z Partnership’s 15-year-old Zangersheide gelding Z.
The field of female competitors reign supreme this year with five more entries than the male field. Kentucky hasn’t seen a female rider top the podium since 2011 when Mary King won with Kings Temptress.
The Holsteiner is the most popular breed among the five-star entries with 7, followed by Irish Sport Horse with 6 and Thoroughbred with 5.
Of the five Thoroughbreds, three started their equine sports careers as racehorses. When Sorocaima did his first five-star in Kentucky in 2022 with Buck Davidson after 43 starts on the track, he became the OTTB with the most racing starts to complete the prestigious event since Irish Rhythm and Rachel McDonough in 2014. Sorocaima won four times, was in the top-three 14 times, and earned $82,396 during his racing career. Palm Crescent, to be ridden by Meagan O’Donoghue, won once in 12 starts and earned $9,462. Wabbit raced under the name of Molinaro Kissing in Canada before eventing with Canadian Olympian Jessica Phoenix and earned $2,217 while finishing outside of the top-three in all five of his races.
Excitingly, 10 of this year’s Kentucky five-star entries are graduates of the USEA Young Event Horse Program: Chin Tonic; Covert Rights; Early Review CBF; Ferrie’s Cello; Mai Baum; Miks Master C; Off The Record; Quantum Leap; Tsetserleg TSF; and Twilightslastgleam.
The U.S. riders competing represent five different USEA Areas: I (Massachusetts, New York); II (Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia); III (Florida); VI (California); VIII (Kentucky)
The same number of mares are set to compete this year as there were in 2022—six. The other 33 entries are geldings.
Two U.S. riders have made their way to the Bluegrass to make their five-star debuts. They are: Andrew McConnon with Ferrie’s Cello and Sydney Solomon with Early Review CBF.
International riders competing in Kentucky for the first time are: Sandra Auffarth with Viamant Du Matz; Kirsty Chabert with Classic VI; Alina Dibowski with Barbados 26; David Doel with Galileo Nieuwmoed; and Tom McEwen with JL Dublin. For Dibowski and Barbados 26, this will be both of their first five-stars. It will be the first five-star for Viamant Du Matz.
In addition to the five-star debut by international entrant Viamant Du Matz, six U.S. horses will be competing in their first CCI5*-L: Chin Tonic; Contessa; Early Review CBF; Ferrie’s Cello; Miks Master C; and Nemesis.
Three riders are previous Eventing World Champions: Zara Tindall (née Phillips) from 2006, Sandra Auffarth from 2014; and Yasmin Ingham from 2022. Ingham rides her World Championship horse, Banzai Du Loir, in Kentucky. The pair was runner-up here last year.
The youngest horse in this year’s five-star lineup is James Alliston’s 9-year-old Canadian Warmblood gelding Nemesis, whom Alliston purchased sight unseen as a yearling and has produced himself. Read more here.
On the other end of the spectrum, the oldest horse competing this year is Hawley Awad’s 19-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare Jollybo. This will mark the pair’s sixth trip to the Kentucky Three-Day Event together.
Covert Rights and Colleen Rutledge first competed together at Kentucky back in 2015.
Philip Surl (GBR) is the CCI5*-L technical delegate with Wayne Quarles (USA) assisting. Quarles will also be assisting in the CCI4*-S, led by technical delegate Mary Duenow (USA).
Christina Klingspor (SWE) is the president of the ground jury of the CCI5*-L and will be assisted by Peter Shaw (AUS) and Angela Tucker (GBR). In the CCI4*-S, the president of the ground jury will be Robert Stevenson (USA) assisted by Helen Brettel (CAN).
Derek di Grazia (USA) has been the cross-country course designer since 2011.
Steve Stephens (USA) has been the show jumping course designer since 2021.
$375,000 in prize money is up for grabs in the CCI5*-L.
How To Watch:
The USEF Network will be offering wall-to-wall coverage through the partnership between US Equestrian (USEF) and ClipMyHorse.TV. Coverage will be available free to USEF members. USEF is offering specials for new members to sign up, including a free USEF Fan Membership to watch the competition from Kentucky live or 50 percent off a USEF Subscriber Membership with the promo code LRK3DE23 to watch live and on-demand. Through either of these or a USEF Competing Membership, members will then create an account with ClipMyHorse.TV to access the coverage. More information is available here. NBC, which first broadcast the Kentucky Three-Day Event in 2004, will again televise the event in the United States.
The Competition Schedule:
Wednesday, April 26
1:00 p.m. - Cross-country course open to public
2:00 p.m. - First Horse Inspection; CCI5*-L only, sponsored by Hagyard Pharmacy - High Hope Inspection Lane
Thursday, April 27
7:45 a.m. CCI4*-S Dressage Test Ride - Rolex Stadium
The 2023 USEA Annual Meeting & Convention came to a close on Sunday with the final USEA Board of Governors meeting. After the call to order, USEA Senior Director of Membership Services/Meeting Planner Jennifer Hardwick gave a brief overview of the annual meeting. There were 321 attendees and 220 who came to the awards dinner. Next year’s Annual Meeting & Convention will be held in Seattle, Washington, from Dec. 10-15 at the Westin Seattle.
Because every horse is different, caring for some senior equines is easy while caring for others can be a challenge. When does a horse become senior, how does the body change, which health conditions become more prevalent, and what can owners do to compensate for their horse’s aging body?
United States Eventing Association (USEA) members from all over the country gathered on Saturday night for the 2023 USEA Annual Meeting & Convention Year End Awards Ceremony. The evening’s ceremony was led by Master of Ceremonies Jim Wolf and recognized riders, horses, and game-changers in the sport of eventing with multiple awards and grants.
Hosting the Annual Meeting of Members each December has been a requirement set forth by the United States Eventing Association (USEA) by-laws (then the United States Combined Training Association) since 1959. This year, USEA members are gathering in St. Louis, Missouri, for the USEA Annual Meeting & Convention from Dec. 7 - Dec. 10 for four jam-packed days of educational seminars and open forums full of conversation surrounding our sport. Lunch on Friday, however, served as an opportunity for attendees to gather together for the USEA Meeting of Members once again.
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