There is a three-way tie at the top of the leaderboard after day one of dressage in the inaugural CCI4*-S at the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event presented by MARS Equestrian. Twenty pairs took their turn in the Rolex arena this morning in front of judges Mark Weissbecker and Helen Brettell, with Tamra Smith and Danito securing the early lead on their score of a 28.1. Shortly after, Doug Payne and Starr Witness matched Smith’s score, and nearing the end of the division, Elisabeth Halliday-Sharp and Cooley Moonshine also said checkmate, as they claimed the same score of a 28.1.
Smith is the EquiRatings projected winner in the CCI4*-L with Danito, Ruth Bley’s 12-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Dancier x Wie Musik), but she left the arena feeling like she could have done better. “I’m disappointed because I expected to always produce a very good test and that’s probably one of his lesser tests,” she explained. “He’s been a little bit extra this week – I mean, it snowed yesterday! But he’s still a professional, he still goes in and does all the movements. I had some bobbles. He feels really fresh with the cold air, but he’s such a good mover and everything.”
Payne on the other hand will take the score of 28.1, saying that Starr Witness (Chello III x Carmen) “was absolutely great, and she put in one of her best tests to date.” Payne, who calls Laurie H. Mc Ree, Catherine Winter, and his own 10-year-old KWPN mare “Ginja,” said that she “is still pretty new to the whole situation. She did get the opportunity to go to the Pan American Games in 2019, but that was probably two years after she started eventing, so I still feel like we’re just getting there – where she’s just really aware of what’s happening, so sometimes that’s a challenge because she can be a bit green about things. But she’s a super genuine horse, crazy talented, obviously athletically, and in the barn, personality, she’s just always looking for another biscuit, she’s hungry as anything – big momma needs to eat,” he laughed.
This is the first time Starr Witness has been in the Rolex arena, but Payne has been practicing at jumper shows at the Tryon International Equestrian Center in their large arenas, which he feels is a big advantage.
Last to match the score of a 28.1 was Halliday-Sharp and The Monster Partnership’s 9-year-old Irish Sport Horse (Cobra x Kilpatrick Duchess) Cooley Moonshine. “This is a huge amount of atmosphere for a young horse, and he can be a little bit hot, he’s a very blood horse, but he tries really hard. I was thrilled with his trot work, he got a little tense in the walk and the canter, and that’s a work in progress, but he tried really hard for me and he’s going to be a proper superstar I think.” Halliday-Sharp has had the horse since he was 5 years old, so she knows him well, and is looking forward to the challenge on Saturday across Derek di Grazia’s CCI4*-S cross-country test.
Leslie Law and QC First Class, Beatrice Rey-Herme’s 10-year-old Oldenburg gelding (Fuerstenball OLD x Laguna) were the only other pair to break into the 20s with a 28.5.
Luke 140, the syndicate-owned 10-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Landos x Omega VI) ridden by Boyd Martin round out the top five with a 31.1.
The CCI4*-S division will reconvene on Friday at 7:45 a.m. with 25 horses left to go, but this afternoon, all eyes will be watching the CCI5*-L division, kicking off at 12:23 p.m. with New Zealand rider Jonelle Price and The Grape Syndicate’s Grappa Nera.
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The 18th annual Jersey Fresh International (JFI) gets underway this afternoon at the Horse Park of New Jersey in Allentown, N.J. The CCI4*-L is the final selection trial for the Olympic Games in Tokyo later this summer so all eyes will be on the stacked field.
This year’s Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event CCI5*-L was on April 21-25 and was the first five-star event to take place in the U.S. since 2019. The entry list had the best riders in the world, previous Kentucky champions, Olympic hopefuls, and horses who have been eventing in the U.S. since they were 4 years old.
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