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Rolex KY 3-Day Event


By Peggy Hart With Contributions from Kat Green

Andrew Nicholson of New Zealand expertly guided Quimbo around the show jumping course to win the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, presented by Land Rover, for the first time on a score of 41.0. Nicholson took home the coveted Rolex watch that goes to the winner, along with the $80,000 winner’s share of the $250,000 purse. He also earned $30,000 for third place.

William Fox-Pitt of Great Britain finished second on Seacookie TSF (46.2), and Nicholson also claimed third place on Calico Joe (52.8) at the Kentucky Horse Park.

Buck Davidson claimed fourth on Ballynoe Castle RM (53.2) and won the Rolex USEF Four-Star Championship.

Americans Lynn Synansky, on Donner (54.8), and Will Faudree, on Pawlow (57.8), finished fifth and sixth.

Victory also put Nicholson in position to win the $350,000 Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing, which goes to the rider who can win the four-star three-day events at Rolex Kentucky, Badminton (England) and Burghley (England) in succession. Nicholson won Burghley in September 2012 on Avebury, one of three horses he has entered to aim for the Grand Slam
next weekend at Badminton.

 “Because of the Rolex Grand Slam, this win is even more important than normally winning a four-star. Now I have a chance to win it—if William lets me,” said Nicholson.

Nicholson began the final leg of his quest for the winner’s Rolex watch by guiding Calico Joe to a 12-fault round, for lowering three jumps. Then Fox-Pitt, the 2010 and 2012 winner, smoothly rode Seacookie to a perfect score, increasing the pressure on Nicholson.

Next, Davidson and Ballynoe Castle RM lowered two fences late in the course, for 8 faults, to drop behind Fox-Pitt and to give Nicholson a cushion of two rails on Quimbo. But he didn’t need it, as the dark bay gelding soared over the jumps while finishing three seconds slow, for 3 time faults. 

Only four of the 29 horses who started over Richard Jeffery’s course finished with faultless rounds. In addition to Fox-Pitt, they were Symansky and Donner, Hawley Bennett-Awad on Gin ‘N Juice (seventh place), and Peter Barry and Kilrodan Abbot (17th place). Bennett-Awad and Barry each represent Canada.

 “Quimbo is a very, very smart horse and an unbelievable show jumper. That’s what he’s bred to be,” said Nicholson.  Quimbo is a Spanish-bred gelding, 10. “His breeding isn’t standard for an event horse. It’s good show jumping blood, but it’s not the out-and-out galloping sort of blood,” said Nicholson. “I’ve learned this weekend that he’s got enough stamina to do the four-star jumping efforts and the gallop.”

Dressage: The dressage test offered some interesting challenges such as a 5-loop serpentine with each loop going from side to side of the 20 meter wide arena.  First loop canter on left lead, 2nd loop counter canter, 3rd. loop canter on left lead, 4th loop change of lead from left lead to right lead with a flying lead change at the center line followed by the 5th loop with a flying lead change back to the left at the center line. Fox-Pitt’s ride, which put him in first place for Saturday’s cross-country, was so smooth you almost missed the changes.  American Boyd Martin’s ride was controlled yet relaxed and well executed.  At the end of dressage it was William Fox-Pitt on Chilly Morning with a score of 33.3, Andrew Nicholson on Quimbo with a score of 38.0, Andrew Nicholson on Calico Joe with 40.8 and Alissandro Knowles, USA, on Last Call 43.3.  Mary King, UK, was in 5th tied with Marilyn Little, USA.

Cross Country: Nicholson’s Cross Country performance on Quimbo was the stuff of dreams at the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event (USA), third leg of the HSBC FEI Classics. “That was probably my most exciting ride ever,” said an elated Nicholson. “Quimbo is an unbelievable horse. For the first time at this level, that was just an amazing performance. When I got to eight minutes, I said ‘Let’s get serious’ and he amazed me as he went faster and faster at the end.”

Peggy Hart wrote: “Predicted rain meant that the estimated number of attendees at the cross country day was only 26,872.  Early arrivers found the Head of the Lake water obstacle miraculously available, and they quickly took up watch to see the first of the riders jump through it. William Fox-Pitt on Seacookie TSF made the whole complex look easy.

“The rain held off all morning, as we crew moved to the Sunken Road to watch the horses come through.  Hart was accompanied by a young lady, Lily Wells and her mother, Jennifer, and Marge Nickels – all new to Eventing.  It is a delight to introduce new comers to this sport and to watch their faces as they see these horses and riders clear the massive jumps at this 4-star Event.  The tables with their huge spreads, large trees, narrow corners barely wide enough for the horse to fit through, and jumps into and out of a deep hollow that have brought grief to many a riders’ dreams were all exciting for these newbies to see and experience.

“Following the lunch break we went to watch the horses start the 6500 meter cross country course, ridden at 570 meters per minute with an optimum time of 11 minutes 25 seconds.  In that short time glory offered itself to Andrew Nicholson (NZL), who rode impeccably and at the end of the day was in first and second place.”  Dressage leader William Fox-Pitt (GBR) and Chilli Morning bowed out after the stallion, which had been jumping carefully, took a good look at the rails into the first water complex and stopped. But Fox-Pitt proved an exemplary pathfinder on Seacookie TSF and moved up six places to fourth.

“Other surprising riders who retired were Mary King, 2013 British Olympic Silver Medalists, on Fernhill Urco and Boyd Martin, 2013 USA Olympic Team, on Trading Aces.  Becky Holder on Can’t Fire Me took a header in the Goose Pound water, jump number 24 on the course of 28; a heart rending end to a ride that was only 4 jumps from the finish. Emily Renfro, who won team gold in the eventing competition at the North American Junior and Young Rider Championships in Lexington in 2011, on her horse Walk the Line completed her first 4-star with a clear round and was in 28th place after cross country,” Hart wrote. “Future eventing riders are in the wings!”

Sunday’s total attendance was 19,989. The four-day total attendance was 65,882. The Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, presented by Land Rover, is the Western Hemisphere’s only Four-Star Three-Day Event, and is part of the HSBC FEI ClassicsTM, featuring the world’s best horses and riders vying for their share of $250,000 in prize money and a shot at the $350,000 Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing, which is awarded to any rider who wins theRolex Kentucky, Mitsubishi Motors Badminton and Land Rover Burghley Four-Star Events in succession.

Stadium Jumping: Rain and storms threatened the third day of the KY Horse Park 3-Day Event and, under a gray sky, the competitors completed the final leg of the “Rolex.”  The course was big with the mandatory double and triple jumps. It was set in the sold-out stadium and covered the entire arena from end to end - meaning that horses tired from the cross country the day before would be tested to the maximum. 

 Bruce (Buck) Davidson Jr. would compete his three horses, hoping to repeat his father’s win of 35 years ago at the World Equestrian Games held at the “new” facility - the KY Horse Park, now the largest equestrian facility in the world. 
Andrew Nicholson of New Zealand, standing in first and second place, was not to be denied and rode picture perfect rounds on both his horses. Quimbo came in first and Mar De Amor second, to make a clean sweep of the top ribbons.

William Fox-Pitt, GBR, Olympic Team Silver Medalists, on his Seacookie TSF would be third. 

But the United States was not without its ribbons.  Emily Renfroe on Walk the Line, the Junior/Young rider who had just completed her first 4-star event, is snapping at the coat tails of the seasoned veterans, as is Lynn Symansky on Donner, who finished in fifth.  Her parents sat two rows down in front of us.  Her father was heard to say, “She won’t let me anywhere near her when she is competing.”  It was great to be that close to her extended family as this young rider starts her drive toward the blues. 

The 2013 Rolex was completed and as we left Lexington the sky which had held back the rains for days, let loose and the rains came!  But next year we will be back!

Full results and further information on the 2013 Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event Presented by Land Rover is available at the Rolex Kentucky website at

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