As the XC came to an end at Rolex Kentucky today the leaderboard has seen a fair amount of change although near perfect going thanks to yesterday’s rain and generally mild weather led to an astonishing 35% (19 combinations) of the 55 XC starters going clear inside the time. This statistic though shouldn’t take away from the difficulty of the course as a further 29% (16 combinations) did not complete the course and several established combinations struggled with the questions they faced.
William Fox-Pitt though has jumped to the top of the leaderboard, despite a rather sticky moment at the second water with Bay My Hero, and will start tomorrow’s showjumping on his dressage score of 44. William’s lead was at the the expense of Dressage leader Alison Springer who suffered an honestly gutting run out at the angled hedge at the Normandy Bank. Arthur who had looked fantastic up to that point dropped behind the leg slightly losing ground after the bounce up and Alison chose to hold for a 4th stride where most had gone on 3 and met the fence too deep and un-jumpable from that position resulting in 20 penalties. Such a shame as the combination went on to jump the alternative and finish the course also picking up 11.2 time penalties dropping them down to 27th.
William sits in 16th on his second ride Seacookie who running early in the field looked at times hard work but William used all his expertises to guide him round for a clear with 7.6 time penalties.
The top 10 is totally dominated by the Americans with the only other non American rider other than William being Andrew Nicholson on Avebury. Andrew did not have an easy round though with the experienced grey and lived up to his ‘Mr Stickability’ name at the first water where Avebury looked to momentarily hesitate at the second part within the water getting very close to the base before jumping. As the round went on he improved massively and finished looking back at his best inside the time in 7th. Equal on score to Andrew is Buck Davidson on Ballynoe Castle RM and Sinead Halpin on Manoir De Carneville but Buck occupies 6th and Sinead 8th by virtue of their closeness to the optimum time. Buck having the advantage of being last of the three across country made a concious point to slow down before the finish to cross as close as possible to the optimum time.
Lauren Kieffer on Veronica is currently William’s closest threat sitting just 2.7 penalties behind on 46.7 with Phillip Dutton on Mr Medicott a futher 2.8 behind. It will be interesting to see if Mr Medicott is presented for tomorrow’s trot up after looking notably sore finishing following a hard knock at the last water. The remainder of the top 10 consists of Marilyn Little in 4th on 51.3 (RF Demeter), Michael Pollard in 5th on 51.5 (Mensa G), Phillip Dutton in 9th on 52.5 (Trading Aces) and Marilyn Little again in 10th also on 52.5 (RF Smoke on the water).
The other British riders also faired well with Sarah Bullimore guiding Reve Du Rouet who initially looked a bit green to a great clear but picking up 8 time penalties to sit in 18th on 60.7. James Alliston added nothing to his dressage score of 69.2 and climbed 30 places from 55th after dressage to 25th. Alice Dunsdon on Fernhill Present picked up an unfortunate 20 penalties and 15.4 time penalties and sits 35th of the 38 who finished the XC but look promising for the future.
5 riders chose to withdraw horses before the XC the most notable of them being Mark Todd who withdrew Oloa after a disappointing dressage yesterday where the horse struggled with the atmosphere finishing with a score of 61.5 in comparison to his normal sub 50 4* scores. Mark has chosen to save the 13yo gelding and instead plans to reroute him to Luhmuhlen 4*.
Story of the day though must be Rachel McDonough and Irish Rhythm, the horse was bought to do Prelim (the US equivalent of Novice) and today went clear inside the time at 4* proof that a horse shouldn’t be under estimated and with correct training an average horse can prove to be exceptional.
Unfortunately due to technical issues our reporter on the ground Darla is currently unable to share her fantastic photos but be sure to check back soon when she will be able to share them with you.