Two-time Olympian and five-time Pan Am Games medalist Jessica Phoenix has become the only Canadian eventer to successfully start in over 100 CCI 4* S events – making her one of just 17 eventers in the world to achieve this historic benchmark.
Phoenix did so while atop Pavarotti, her 19-year-old Westphalian gelding, while competing this past weekend at the inaugural CCI4*- S at Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event. It was a special moment for Phoenix together with Pavarotti, with whom she has won five Pan Am medals over three consecutive Games, including individual gold and team silver in Guadalajara, Mexico (2011); individual silver and team bronze in Toronto (2015); and team bronze in Lima, Peru (2019).
Said Phoenix of this achievement, “It was a total surprise to learn of this milestone! It’s a huge honour to be recognized among the top riders in the sport who have achieved this record – of course, it wouldn’t be possible without the incredible horses I’m able to ride and the owners that support me.”
A grueling course designed by Derek di Grazia had just a 52% completion rate after cross-country. With three mounts, Phoenix jumped foot-perfect on Pavarotti, as well as Bogue Sound and Wabbit – – both off-the-track thoroughbreds – accruing only time faults on the wet terrain. She placed 8th on Bogue Sound, 10th on Wabbit and 11th on Pavarotti.
“Wabbit was my most inexperienced horse there and after walking the cross-country course we knew it was going to be a very tough challenge,” says Phoenix. “It asked every question it could possibly ask. To have Wabbit go out as trailblazer in terrible weather and make the course look like a gymnastics exercise was thrilling.
“Bogue Sound is born to do cross-country. He was phenomenal all the way around and he’s a Kentucky thoroughbred, so he has always loved competing at the Kentucky Horse Park. As the weather grew worse and the footing deteriorated, I was thankful that Pavarotti was my last ride of the day because it felt like a 5* through and through. He is so reliable and an absolute professional on the course.”
With the ongoing pandemic, Phoenix chose to stay in Canada for the winter season and trained indoors at her family farm near Cannington, ON. Said Jessica, “To prepare the horses at home in Canada instead of my usual training in Florida, and to have Kentucky as my first event of the season was a huge ask. To have all three of them finish in the Top 11 was amazing.
“As one of the last runs leading up to the Tokyo Olympics, I’m happy with where my horses are at in their training and they are being set up to peak for Tokyo.” She thanked her team at home, including partners, owners and sponsors. “I have incredible sponsors who not only stuck by me during these challenging times, but they also stepped up. We’re so grateful for all of our sponsors, owners and staff. It’s been a challenging year and everyone rose to the occasion and kept pressing forward!”
~ with files from Veronica Low/Roar Group