The 2023 Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event in Lexington, Kentucky, on April 27-30 truly lived up to its tagline as the #bestweekendallyear, creating a slew of unforgettable moments on the final day of competition. Tamie Smith and Mai Baum became the first Americans to win at Kentucky in 15 years, since Phillip Dutton and Connaught won in 2008, and Smith became the first U.S. female to win in 18 years, following Kim Severson with Winsome Adante in 2005. Another incredible feat was accomplished by Mai Baum, who became the first ever USEA Young Event Horse (YEH) graduate to win at the five-star level. Alongside Mai Baum in the top-three was U.S.-bred YEH graduate Miks Master C, who jumped from fifth place to third position with Liz Halliday-Sharp in the irons.
The YEH program is popular amongst many competitors as a pathway to introduce young horses to the sport of eventing. This well-established program was founded in 2004, and the program’s goal is to identify 4- and 5-year-old horses that possess the talent and disposition that, with proper training, can excel in the four-star and five-star levels of eventing.
Nine of the eleven YEH Graduates that were entered to compete in the event were accepted during the first horse inspection, and of those nine, six combinations successfully completed the five-star. The 17-year-old German Sport Horse gelding Mai Baum (Lordano x Ramira), who's owned by Alex Ahearn, Ellen Ahearn, and Eric Markell and bred by Gunter Gerling, may have been the top placed YEH graduate, adorned with a champion cooler and ribbons on the final day of competition, but all six program graduates returned fantastic results to finish in the top-20.
Mai Baum’s career started with Michele Pestl in the tack, and the pair contested two YEH qualifying events in 2010 and 2011. Both years, Mai Baum competed at The Event at Rebecca Farm (Kalispell, Montana) YEH Qualifier and collected a fourth-place finish in the YEH 4-year-old division in 2010, then a fifth-place finish in the YEH 5-year-old division in 2011. Since Smith took over the reins from owner Alex Ahearn in 2015, the pair has achieved a number of accolades, including winning the Dutta Corp. Fair Hill International CCI4*-L (Elkton, Maryland) in 2015, as well as top-10 finishes in the Badminton Horse Trials CCI5*-L and the FEI World Eventing Championships in Pratoni del Vivaro in 2022.
In their third five-star outing together, Smith and Mai Baum made a statement from day one, sitting in third place on a 24.2 after dressage and jumping into top-position after clocking one of only six double-clear cross-country results on Saturday. The pair sealed their victory on Sunday after producing another double-clear round in show jumping, finishing out the weekend on their dressage score.
"I'm a bit speechless, honestly," said Smith. "He's 17-years-old, he's heathy, he's strong, and he doesn't really owe me anything after something like this. He's a champion; you can't deny that by looking at him. He's super special, and I remember seeing Alex [Ahearn] ride him for the first time when her and her trainer came to our place to do a jump school, and I was like 'What is that?' Then, kind of out the blue, she came to be a working student for me. I'll never forget the day that she called me and said, 'I want to go to college, and you need a great horse,' and she actually said, 'America needs this great horse.'"
After such a spectacular result, there is no doubt that this pair will have their eyes set on Paris in 2024.
Finishing on the podium with fellow YEH graduate Mai Baum was the 11-year-old Swedish Warmblood gelding, Miks Master C (Mighty Magic x Qui Luma CBF), who is owned by Ocala Horse Properties, LLC and was ridden to the third-place finish by Liz Halliday-Sharp. Miks Master C, known as “Mikki” in the barn, was bred in the U.S. by Laurie Cameron of Stockton, New Jersey, and competed in The Dutta Corp. USEA YEH East Coast Championships in 2016 and 2017.
As a 4-year-old, Mikki finished in 11th place with Phillip Dutton in the irons, and then he returned the following year with Waylon Roberts to finish 18th in the YEH 5-year-old East Coast Championship. In 2019, Mikki was a leading contender for the USEA's Holekamp/Turner Grant with Maya Black. Since taking over the ride in 2022, Halliday-Sharp and Mikki have already logged three international wins together, including the CCI4*-S at The Event at Rebecca Farm and Mars Bromont CCI (Quebec, Canada) last year.
The 2023 LRK3DE was Miks Master C and Halliday-Sharp’s first five-star together, and their results speak for themselves. The pair received a 26.9 in dressage, which left them in fifth place heading into Saturday, and after jumping clear on cross-country and collecting just 1.6-time penalties, they leaped into third place. A double-clear in show jumping solidified their podium finish and gave Mikki his first five-star completion.
“He’s an amazing horse and such a fighter,” said Halliday-Sharp. “We haven’t even been together a year yet, so we’re still learning some things, but I mean his potential as an absolute world-class horse is undoubtable. I just believe in him, and I think the world of him. His breeder is here, Laurie Cameron. She had two horses in the five-star [Sydney Solomon rode Early Review CBF], and I was really excited to see her and give her a big hug when we were finished.”
There is no question that this pair will be one to watch in the coming years as they progress together.
Off the Record (VDL Arkansas x Drumagoland Bay), the 14-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding owned by the Off the Record Syndicate and ridden by Will Coleman, closed out his weekend with a seventh place, besting their 12th place result at Kentucky last year. Coincidentally, the pair also finished in seventh place at the FEI World Eventing Championships in Pratoni where they were the highest-placed U.S. combination and helped the team secure the silver medal.
In 2014, Off the Record, also known as “Timmy,” and Coleman recorded two second place finishes at YEH 5-year-old qualifying events and came in ninth place at The Dutta Corp. USEA YEH East Coast 5-Year-Old Championship on a score of 76.74.
After dressage at the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event, Timmy and Coleman sat in 13th place on a score of 31.2 but quickly bounded up the leaderboard after a double-clear effort on cross-country to be in fifth place going into the final phase. An unfortunate rail and 0.4-time penalties over Steve Stephens' track would drop them to seventh in the final standings.
The 12-year-old Holsteiner gelding Quantum Leap (Quite Capitol x Report to Sloopy), bred domestically by Elizabeth Callahan and owned and ridden by Doug Payne, is the next YEH Graduate in the standings, logging another top-10 finish in Kentucky this year. The now 12-year-old gelding finished in seventh place in The Dutta Corp. USEA YEH East Coast 5-Year-Old Championship in 2016 and went on to represent the U.S. at the FEI WBFSH Eventing World Breeding Championship for Young Horses 7-year-old class at La Mondial du Lion in Le Lion d’Angers, France, as the 2018 Holekamp/Turner grant recipient. Last year, the pair finished in third place at LRK3DE and were crowned the 2022 USEF CCI5*-L Eventing National Champions as the highest-placed American pair in the competition.
Improving on their dressage score by over 3 points from last year’s event, Quantum Leap and Payne were in 16th place going into the jumping phases. After adding just 3.6-time penalties on cross-country to their dressage score, the pair completed their weekend in ninth place on a 37.3.
Chin Tonic, an 11-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Chin Champ x Wildera), was Coleman’s second mount to finish in the top-12 at this year’s Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event. Owned by Hyperion Stud and campaigned by Coleman for the entirety of his career, “Chin” came in fifth place with a score of 78.08 in The Dutta Corp. USEA YEH East Coast 5-Year-Old Championship in 2017. The pair has achieved a number of accolades over their years together, like their top 15 placings at iconic international events like Luhmühlen and Aachen in 2022. This event marked the horse’s first five-star appearance.
Notorious for breaking records in the dressage phase, Chin started the event on a very respectable 25.0, in his debut at the level. While Chin and Coleman went on to finish the weekend without any jumping penalties, the time in both phases proved to be hard to meet, and the pair went on to add 14 time penalties on cross-country and 0.8 time penalties in show jumping to claim 11th place overall.
Nina Gardner’s 12-year-old homebred Thoroughbred gelding Twilightslastgleam (National Anthem x Royal Child), rounded out the list of YEH graduates who completed the 2023 5-star event by finishing within the top-20. With Jennie Saville, née Brannigan, in the irons, “Comic” was crowned reserve champion of the 2014 USEA YEH East Coast 4-year-old Championship and returned in 2015 to finish in seventh place at the 5-year-old Championship. After continuing his success with Saville, Comic was also a frontrunner for the 2017 Holekamp/Turner YEH Le Lion d’Angers Grant. Most recently, Comic and Saville won the Mars Bromont CCI4*-L in 2022 and completed their first five-star at the Maryland 5 Star (Elkton, Maryland) last fall where they finished in 16th place.
Comic and Saville steadily climbed the leaderboard throughout the weekend, starting in 27th place on a dressage score of 36.3 and finishing in 17th place on a score of 62.1. The pair activated a frangible pin at fence 6, the Park Question, and added 11.2 time penalties to their score on cross-country. Their weekend was completed without any jumping penalties and just 3.6-time penalties in the final phase.
Three other YEH graduates contested Kentucky: Early Review CBF (Earl x Lois Lane), a 14-year-old Hanoverian gelding owned and bred by Laurie Cameron and ridden by five-star first-timer, Sydney Solomon, was eliminated on cross-country after Solomon popped out of the saddle but was uninjured. Tsetserleg TSF (Windfall x Thabana), the 16-year-old Trakehner gelding owned by Christine Turner, bred by New Springs Farm (Timothy Holekamp) and ridden by Boyd Martin, and Covert Rights (BFF incognito x Let’s Get it Right), the 17-year-old Thoroughbred gelding owned, bred and ridden by Colleen Rutledge, both elected to retire on cross-country.
About the USEA Young Event Horse (YEH) Program
The Young Event Horse (YEH) Program was first established in 2004 as an eventing talent search. Much like similar programs in Europe, the YEH program was designed to identify young horses aged four- and five-years-old, that possess the talent and disposition to, with proper training, excel at the uppermost levels of the sport. The ultimate goal of the program is to distinguish horses with the potential to compete at the four- and five-star levels, but many fine horses that excel at the lower levels are also showcased by the program.
The YEH program provides an opportunity for breeders and owners to exhibit the potential of their young horses while encouraging the breeding and development of top event horses for the future. The program rewards horses who are educated and prepared in a correct and progressive manner. At qualifying events, youngsters complete a dressage test and a jumping/galloping/general impression phase. At Championships, young horses are also evaluated on their conformation in addition to the dressage test and jumping/galloping/general impression phase. Click here to learn more about the Young Event Horse Program.
The USEA would like to thank Bates Saddles, SmartPak, Standlee, Parker Equine Insurance, Capital Square, Kerrits, and The Jockey Club for sponsoring the Young Event Horse Program. Additionally, the USEA would like to thank The Dutta Corp., Title Sponsor of the Young Event Horse Championships.
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