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Oliver Townend Wins Third Consecutive Title at Kentucky Three-Day Event
Lexington, Kentucky– April 25, 2021 – Before now, in the 43-year history of the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event Presented by MARS Equestrian™(LRK3DE), only Michael Jung had won three times in a row. On Sunday, world #1 Oliver Townend (GBR) made his mark when the two-time defending champion jumped clear under pressure to add to his record a third consecutive CCI5*-L victory at the Kentucky Horse Park and sixth career Five Star win. It was also the second Five Star victory for Ballaghmor Class, owned by Karyn Shuter, Angela Hislop and Val Ryan.
The scores were incredibly close before show jumping, with the top eight all within a rail of the lead. Townend’s day had an unhappy start, when eighth place Cooley Master Class was spun from the final horse inspection. By the time Townend entered the Rolex Arena for his show jumping round aboard Ballaghmor Class, he was faced with needing a fault-free round to win. A successful effort and finishing score of 27.3 earned Townend a $50,000 pay day and one-year lease on a 2021 Land Rover Discovery.
“I had a plan and just went in and did it,” Townend said. “Ballaghmor Class was jumping exceptionally, which makes my job very, very easy. My biggest concern is that I find it easy to have time penalties with him. He’s a big jumper and actually quite slow in the way he does things. It’s very easy to get stuck in gear. My biggest thing was to have a good strong pace, don’t be caught on time, and just try and get him in the position to clear the fences.”
Typically, the Rolex Arena is packed with fans on the final day of competition. Spectators were absent this year, but Townend felt there was still an atmosphere to contend with.
“The stadium itself is the most special stadium in the world for eventing. When you go in that stadium, whether it’s full to the brim or it’s completely empty, for me there is still a very strong aura because this place is so special to us,” Townend said. “Going down that chute when there are thousands of people watching or no one watching, when the pressure is on, it will feel very much like the place we want to be. Of course we love a big crowd, we love to perform in front of the crowd, and we miss the crowd, but at the same time it took nothing away from the competition.”
Boyd Martin (USA) was sitting second after cross-country with his and the Turner family’s On Cue and needed a clear round to hold his placing. A rail at the first element of a double combination off a tight turn dashed his hopes of putting the pressure on Townend for the win, but with a fourth place finish on a final score of 31.8, Martin won the Land Rover/USEF CCI5*-L Eventing National Championship Presented by MARS Equestrian™ for the second time in a row. In 2019 he won the National Championship with Tsetserleg TSF. This year he piloted the 15-year-old mare On Cue to a National Champion title in her Five Star debut.
“I’m absolutely thrilled with On Cue. When you bring a horse to this level for the first time you don’t know quite what to expect,” Martin said. “She’s unbelievable, though. She gave everything she had this weekend and exceeded my expectations. I thought it would be my other horse Tsetserleg that would have done better, but she really stepped up and tried her absolute guts out. I would have loved to jump clear today, but having one pole down with this company is still respectable.”
The New Zealand power couple Tim and Jonelle Price placed second and third, respectively. They were also the only individuals in the competition to finish on their dressage scores with two out of five horses entered between them.
Tim and Xavier Faer moved up from 11th after dressage to finish second on 28.2 with no jumping or time penalties to add all week.
“I thought it was a very difficult show jumping course. It had all sorts of elements. The time wasn’t just a ‘gimme.’ You had to work for the clock,” Tim said. “I thought there was an opportunity in there to jump a clear round, but I thought it was going to be difficult to manage today. I didn’t manage it on [Bango] … I managed to get it done with [Xavier Faer]. It’s not the same as being in the lead, so you can focus on your job and see where that leaves you.”
Jonelle had three horses in the competition and finished with two in the top ten. She placed third on Grovine de Reve with 30.7, adding just 0.4 time penalties in show jumping. She and her longtime partner Classic Moet finished on their dressage score of 35.2 for seventh place.
Alyssa Phillips and Oskar Win the Kentucky CCI4*-S
The last time Alyssa Phillips won at the Kentucky Horse Park, she won the 2011 FEI North American Junior/Young Rider Championship at age 14. On Sunday April 25, 2021, Phillips won at Kentucky again, this time taking home the Kentucky CCI4*-S title riding her and Julie Phillips’ Holsteiner gelding Oskar. Phillips and Oskar were tied for 15th after dressage on a score of 32.3. They added 5.6 time penalties but no jumping penalties on a testing cross-country track Saturday.
Their cross-country performance put them second going into Sunday’s final phase on a score of 37.9. They produced one of only five fault-free show jumping rounds to put the pressure on the leader, who ultimately pulled a rail, giving Phillips her first Four Star win. Tamie Smith and Ruth Bley’s EnVogue were leading the way after the first two phases, but an unlucky rail plus 1.2 time penalties saw them finish second on 40.2.
Earlier at the LRK3DE
Compiled By Nancy Brannon
The 2021 Kentucky Three-Day Event (LRK3DE) almost didn’t happen. On February 2, 2021 a press release stated that the LRK3DE had been cancelled because of “so many uncertainties still remaining regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. Given the importance of the health and well-being of spectators and competitors, we feel the only option this time is to cancel the Five Star Event and hopefully proceed with other events that fans can enjoy via livestream and other outlets,” said Mike Cooper, president of Equestrian Events, Inc.
Then on February 10, 2021 an updated press release stated: “An unprecedented outpouring of public support and a grassroots fundraising effort have led to a reversal of the announced cancellation of the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event CCI Five Star presented by MARS Equestrian™ (LRK3DE). A new partnership between Equestrian Events, Inc. (EEI), producer of the world-class event, and the Kentucky Horse Park Foundation combined with the support of US Equestrian and longstanding sponsors Land Rover, Mars Equestrian, and Rolex will ensure that the CCI5*-L three-day event will be held, without spectators, alongside a new CCI4*-S, April 22-25 at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, KY.
“The uncertainties surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic placed us in the financially impossible position of having to run the Five Star event without spectators, a situation that left us no choice but to cancel the Five Star for 2021 in order to preserve it for many years to come,” said Mike Cooper, President of EEI. “We are humbled and honored by the response of the eventing community as they’ve stepped up in a mind-blowing way enabling us to go forward.”
A fundraising campaign was started by athletes and fueled by the grassroots effort of the broader eventing community, generating more than $550,000 in donations to run the event.
On the first day of inspections, April 21, 2021, “The Kentucky Horse Park woke up to a blanket of snow Wednesday morning, setting a unique scene for the start of The Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event Presented by MARS Equestrian™(LRK3DE) in Lexington, KY.
“In the afternoon, CCI5*-L competitors presented their horses to the ground jury for the first time during the first horse inspection. The sun had emerged and the snow disappeared, making for a beautiful setting on the jog strip. A total of 63 horses presented and all passed the inspection without any being sent to the holding box.”
On Thursday, April 22, after the first day of dressage, there was a three-way tie for first place: “Tamie Smith (USA) and Danito, Doug Payne (USA) and Starr Witness, and Liz Halliday-Sharp (USA) and Cooley Moonshine all received a score of 28.1 from judges Helen Brettell (GBR) and Mark Weissbecker (USA).”
But their lead was short-lived when “Marilyn Little (USA) and RF Scandalous delivered a stunning performance Thursday, earning a 21.7 to lead the CCI5*-L” – posting a historic score at the LRK3DE. This historic score was followed by Tamie Smith(USA) and Mai Baum who turned in a score of 21.8, placing Smith and the 15-year-old German Sport Horse in second just 0.1 points behind Little and RF Scandalous heading into Saturday’s cross-country.
On Saturday April 24, 2021, “the leaderboard looked very different after an exciting day of cross-country. Oliver Townend (GBR) turned in two clear rounds and sat in first with Ballaghmor Class and eighth with Cooley Master Class. Both horses lost a shoe on course, and persistent rain made the footing slick.
“By the time Townend left the startbox with Ballaghmor Class, it had been raining heavily for some time. The horse lost a shoe at fence seven, so Townend said he tried to protect his mount around the slippery turns. Still, they crossed the finish only two seconds over the optimum time to take the lead on 27.3.”
Then the tables turned again on show jumping day. On April 25, 2021 two-time defending champion Cooley Master Class, ridden by Oliver Townend (GBR), was not accepted at the final horse inspection Sunday morning. “He’s picked up a cut that he’s sore on, but I’ve hopped on him and given him a little ride this morning,” Townend said. “He’s sound to ride and very fresh. I’ve no doubt he would jump very well, but unfortunately he didn’t present well. Obviously the welfare of the horse is paramount in our sport.” Townend's second ride and the overnight leader, Ballaghmor Class, was accepted.
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