Oliver Townend has done it again. The world ranked number one rider verified his worth by claiming victory for the second year in a row at the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event in Lexington, Ky. After jumping around Derek di Grazia’s cross-country course clear with 1.2 time faults, Townend held an overnight lead above Boyd Martin by just 2.6 points, leaving no room to take any rails down on Angela Hislop’s Cooley Master Class.
The riders tackled Richard Jeffery’s show jumping course this afternoon jumping in reverse order of standings, allowing for a nail-biting competition once the top ten competitors entered the Rolex Arena.
When Martin entered the stadium with Christine Turner’s 12-year-old Trakehner, Tsetserleg, the tension in the crowd could have been cut with a knife. It’s been over a decade since an American rider claimed victory at the Kentucky Three-Day Event, and the home crowd thought Tsetserleg may be the one to bring it home. As the entire stadium held their breath, Martin piloted Tsetserleg (Windfall x Thabana) to a foot perfect double clear show jumping round to remain on his dressage score of a 27.9. The stadium erupted with cheers, whistles, and hollers as Martin had done everything he could for a shot at victory.
“He’s been difficult in the combinations – he can usually jump really big over the first part and get too close in the second, so I had to come in really slow and short to combination 4ab and once I did that, I knew I had a chance for a clear round,” explained Martin. “I’m thrilled with [Tsetserleg] today. Honestly, he doesn’t give you the most confidence in the warm-up, as he’s jumping all over the shop and twisting, and I heard these two giggling at me in the warm-up,” Martin said as he pointed to Tim Price and Townend. “But, overall I couldn’t be more satisfied and happy.”
Martin had finished the event on his dressage score to put all the pressure on Townend who trotted down to the stadium next. The crowd went silent as Townend and the 14-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding, Cooley Master Class (Ramiro B x The Swallow) began jumping around seamlessly. The defending champions put in a foot-perfect round, and as they cleared the last jump, the stadium once again erupted in cheers, honoring the achievement of the rider from Great Britain.
In the 41-year history, up until today only three riders, Michael Jung, Kim Severson, and Bruce Davidson have been able to successfully defend a Championship at the Kentucky Three-Day Event. Now, Townend has done it and credits his entire team for his success, stating “it’s been a huge team effort from everybody at home. The horse is pure class, and it was just my job to press the buttons at the right point in time, and he delivered again. I couldn’t be more proud of the horse and for the whole team.”
“It’s a lot nicer going into the arena sitting in third place and letting the rest of them be under pressure,” Townend referred to his ride last year when he won after the top two leaders took rails down. “It was the most pressured round I’ve ever ridden today, and these two lads must have done some job in the arena,” Townend said of Price and Martin who both jumped double clear before him. “I saw Boyd’s horse in the warm-up, so he must have done some real work in the stadium, to say the least,” he laughed. “I heard the crowd go nuts and I thought ‘my god he must have done some job.’ But Cooley is a very, very cool horse and I’m glad I didn’t muck it up for him.”
With Townend claiming victory on a double clear show jumping round and Martin claiming second place along with the USEF National CCI5* Eventing Championship as the highest placed American rider, third place was claimed by New Zealand rider Price, who also jumped double clear, finishing on his dressage score of 30.9. All three top riders were sitting the same position overnight, and had to work hard to keep their standings.
“My guy’s a bit of a kinder surprise. You’re never quite sure what you’re going to get until you get out there,” Price stated of his, Trisha Rickards and Nigella Hall’s 13-year-old British Sport Horse gelding, Xavier Faer (Catherston Liberator x Faerie Dazzler). “He’s spooky, and he takes a real special liking to – or disliking to liverpools. The whole middle of the arena was a whole ocean of water trays or liverpools, so that was something we had to overcome, but he jumped beautifully. He’s just a lovely big horse and I enjoy riding him – he’s an exciting horse as he gets more established at this level.”
Fourth place was claimed by Great Britain’s Piggy French and Jayne McGivern’s Irish Sport Horse gelding, Quarrycrest Echo (Clover Echo x Royal China). The pair sat in second place after dressage on a 27.1 but accumulated 6.4 penalties on cross-country, which knocked them down the standings a few places. They jumped double clear in the stadium today, finishing on a 33.5.
Doug Payne rounded out the top five and claimed the USEF National CCI5* Eventing Championship Reserve as the second highest placed American rider at the Kentucky Three-Day Event. Payne jumped double clear today aboard his, Jessica Payne’s and Debi Crowley’s 15-year-old Trakehner gelding, Vandiver (Windfall x Visions of Grandeur), finishing on a score of 35.9.
Jeffery designed a tricky show jumping course that 31 riders tackled today. Of those, only nine achieved double clear rounds and one jumped clear with time penalties. Nine pairs took down one rail each, five pairs had two rails each, four pairs had three rails, and two pairs had four or more rails down. This shows that it was quite an achievement for the top five pairs to have jumped double clear in the Rolex Arena.
As for what’s next for the two-time Champion, Cooley Master Class, Townend said “let’s hope he makes it back here next year and try to defend his title again. But look, he owes us absolutely nothing. He’s going to be our pet – he’s been our pet since he was 4 years old. He’s going to be a pet in the yard for the rest of his life.”
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