Tamie Smith and Mai Baum led heading into the final day of competition at the 2023 Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event Presented by MARS Equestrian™. With the pressure on, the pair maintained their composure and jumped a clear round to earn the win in impressive fashion. Smith and Mai Baum ended a 15-year drought by being the first U.S. combination to win at Kentucky since 2008. In addition to the overall title, the duo won the Land Rover/USEF CCI5*-L Eventing National Championship presented by MARS Equestrian™ and the Roger Haller Trophy as the top U.S. combination.
Smith (Murrieta, Calif.) and Mai Baum started off the competition with a lovely dressage test to score 24.2 and sit third after the first phase. The pair had a textbook round over Derek di Grazia’s cross-country course, going double-clear over the challenging track. Their performance moved them into a 3.6-point lead heading into the show jumping phase. Smith and Alexandra Ahearn, Ellen Ahearn, and Eric Markell’s 2006 German Sport Horse gelding delivered a flawless round over Steve Stephen’s track to clinch the win with a final score of 24.2.
The result hadn’t fully sunk in yet for Smith as the outcome seemed surreal. “I’m pretty numb. It is almost like an out of body experience,” said Smith. “This sport as everybody knows, you take a beating. The resilient ones just keep coming back for more and you hope that one day it pays off, and today it did. I’m honored and I’m elated and I’m excited. And I’m a bit speechless honestly.”
The top placing was a result of Smith and Mai Baum’s longtime partnership together, which began in 2015. When co-owner Alexandra Ahearn headed to college, she pressured Smith to take over the ride on Mai Baum because “America needs this great horse,” as Smith recounted. Smith knew Mai Baum was a special horse and hoped he could win at the highest levels of the sport.
“After I won Fair Hill [in 2015], I wasn’t certain if [winning at a five-star] would ever happen, but I just wanted him to have his moment in the sun, and today he did,” said Smith. “He has missed out a few times, even though he has been very competitive on the world stage. I feel like it eluded him, and I’m just so happy for him because I think he is unbelievable.”
Smith received many congratulations from her fellow U.S. athletes following her win. With the amount of time that has passed since a U.S. winner, the result was special for the U.S. eventing community. “I mean think all of us have been rooting for an American to win the Land Rover Kentucky five-star for a very long time, and Phillip [Dutton] won it here in 2008,” said Smith. “You have a lot of heartbreak in this sport, but I think you do in anything that is great. I think everybody felt the same emotion that I’m feeling right now—just elated.”
While Tom McEwen (GBR) and JL Dublin were second on a score of 27.8, Liz Halliday-Sharp and Miks Master C finished third on a score of 28.5 in the horse’s CCI5*-L debut. Halliday-Sharp (Lexington, Ky.) and Ocala Horse Properties, LLC and Deborah Palmer’s 2012 Swedish Warmblood gelding had a smooth dressage test to earn a score of 26.9. The pair had a stellar cross-country round with 1.6 time penalties. Halliday-Sharp and Miks Master C closed out the competition with a double-clear show jumping round. As the second-highest U.S. combination, they earned the reserve title in Land Rover/USEF CCI5*-L Eventing National Championship presented by MARS Equestrian.
“He is the most amazing horse. For him to come in here and do his first five-star and to finish as he did—so strong and fresh,” said Halliday-Sharp. “He is such a kind, generous horse. He gave everything this weekend, and I couldn’t ask for more.”