It has been 12 years since an American has won the Kentucky Three-Day Event CCI5*-L, and the last pair to do so was Phillip Dutton riding Connaught in 2008. “That win was one of the highlights of my career,” said veteran five-star eventer Phillip Dutton. Riding a special horse named Connaught (also known as Simon), Dutton shared the memories of his winning weekend.
Simon (Ballysimon x Bromehill Rouge) was a 1993 Irish Sport Horse gelding, produced by Carol Gee and Paul Donovan, was owned by Bruce Duchossois, and first came into Dutton’s life with the help from Julie Richards. Dutton shared, “Simon was bought and imported to the U.S. by Julie Richards. He wasn’t quite the right horse for her, and once Julie had decided that, she was convinced that I would be the ideal rider for him.”
Dutton and Simon had a very successful career together that started in 2004 and lasted until 2010. They competed in the 2006 Aachen World Equestrian Games, the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and competed in the Kentucky Three-Day Event five different times. Each year they completed the event, they finished within the top 10 and jumped clear in show jumping. After 2010, Simon enjoyed years of retirement until he was humanely euthanized due to complications of old age in 2014 at the age of 24.
“In 2008, Julie was proven right and I’m extremely grateful to her for her persistence in getting me to find a way to buy him. I do still have some very great and vivid memories of that weekend to this day. We placed well the previous year at the Kentucky Three-Day Event, so I thought we had a good chance in 2008,” said Dutton.
Leading up to Kentucky, there were still challenges in preparing Simon for the five-star event. “Galloping for over four miles on the cross-country was always the biggest struggle for Simon. He didn’t have a very strong, robust constitution, and under heavy work and travel Simon would lose a lot of weight. This made Simon hard to prepare for a major event - to gallop enough to be fit, but not have him too skinny. That year, under some guidance from Capt. Mark Phillips on his conditioning and Emma Ford’s expertise in horse management, we got it just right.”
“Our dressage was on Friday, and on Thursday, Simon wasn’t working well. I remember Evie saying to me, ‘I think you’re trying too hard!’ From then on, I backed off the way I rode/worked him and because of this we were rewarded with a competitive score.” Dutton and Simon earned a score of 41.7 which put them third after dressage, sitting closely behind Heidi White on Northern Spy and Becky Holder on Courageous Comet.
“On Saturday, cross-country day, I went as fast as I possibly could and from what I remember we were within a second or two of the optimum time, which put us into second.” Moving up from third to second, Dutton and Simon only added 0.4 time penalties to his dressage score after cross-country.
On Sunday, Dutton and Simon were only one of two pairs to jump double clear in the Rolex Stadium, and this clear round is what secured their win. “Simon was an incredible show jumper, in fact, I don’t believe he ever had a fence down in the Kentucky arena in all the times we were there.”
“I still remember after winning, the emotion of being around Bruce Duchossois, Evie, and Emma, and hearing the U.S. National Anthem being played. That win was one of the highlights in my career, so far! The Kentucky Three-Day Event CCI5*-L has stamped itself as one of the best, most influential three-day events in the world. It’s a tribute to all those involved, and the U.S. eventing enthusiasts who turn up every year to be a part of it. See you in 2021!”
Watch highlights from Phillip Dutton and Connaught's win at the 2008 Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event courtesy of USEF Network!
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