Predictions that Derek di Grazia’s cross-country course at the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event was going to be tough came true and in some cases exceeded expectations as some of the biggest names in the sport ‘came a cropper’ at various points on the track. Of the first dozen riders in the 5*, fully one-third parted ways with their horse, while overall the rate of elimination was about 24.5%. Top riders who had to walk home throughout the division included William Fox-Pitt (Oratorio), Boyd Martin (Long Island T), Hannah Sue Burnett (Harbour Pilot) and Alison Springer (Business Ben) – and Canada’s own Karl Slezak. Luckily there did not seem to be any serious injuries, although Boyd Martin did withdraw his ride in the afternoon’s 4*.
Add to this a deluge which began about halfway through the morning and it was a very challenging day for horses and riders, many of whom had not seen a five-star in well over a year. One advantage to the cool, wet weather, however, was that the horses that did make it to the finish looked fresh and full of run.
The leader after dressage in the CCI5*-L, Marilyn Little and RF Scandalous, had 28.8 time penalties which significantly dropped them in the standings to 31st place. Time penalties were the order of the day ‒ only two riders in the 5* made it within the time allowed out of roughly 66% of the field that had no jumping penalties.
This meant quite a shuffle at the top of the leaderboard, now led by Oliver Townend (GBR) and the grey Irish Sport Horse gelding Ballaghmor Class, who logged just 0.8 time penalties to finish with a score of 27.3. Close behind in a joint tie for second are Tim Price (NZL) with Xavier Faer and Boyd Martin (USA) with On Cue, both with 28.2pp.
“For me this was the toughest cross-country course for a long, long time at the Five Star level. It’s right up there with the very toughest in the world,” Townend said. “Both horses had a tough enough time out there. I’m still very emotional about how amazing they both are. They’ve both literally given me their heart and soul today.”
Canada’s first rider on course in the CCI5*-L, Karl Slezak with Fernhill Wishes, had an unfortunate fall at Fence #17c and were eliminated. Hawley Bennett-Awad chose to withdrew Jollybo prior to cross-country, leaving just two to cheer on.
Colleen Loach and Qorry Blue d’Argouges had a super round with no jumping penalties and 14.8 time penalties to finish the day with a score of 49.6 in 30th place. “Qorry did an amazing cross-country course,” said a happy Loach. “He’s not the best galloper ‒ he’s a bit heavy on his feet ‒ but he just goes steady at the same pace all the way around.
“The beginning was riding tougher than I expected so we really had to dig in. I actually had to test him with the whip a couple of times, which normally I don’t have to, just to get him ahead of my leg. Every question I asked, he just answered and if I was a bit off my line, he corrected it. He’s so amazing.”
The last rider for Canada in the CCI5*-L, Lisa Marie Fergusson and Honor Me, just ate up the course, coming home with no jumping and 23.2 time penalties to finish the day on 64.3pp in 40th place. “It rode fabulous,” said Fergusson, who was not bothered by the rain at all (“I’m from BC!”). “But I’m very lucky to be sitting on the horse I’m sitting on because he makes it all feel easy.”
“When you walk the course with Phillip Dutton and he gives you a plan ‒ and he’s never wrong ‒ you do what he says and you end up getting around.”
See the CCI5*-L leaderboard here.