Great anticipation surrounds the return of the HSBC FEI Classics™ 2012 season, with record entries for the third leg, the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event presented by Bridgestone this week.
With CCI4* competitions having taken place in France and, for the first time Australia, the HSBC FEI Classics™ has become truly global, prompting the first and third-placed riders in the current standings to fly to Kentucky in the hope of maintaining their momentum in this series, which carries the most valuable single prize in Eventing.
William Fox-Pitt (GBR), winner of Pau last year and current leader in the HSBC FEI Classics™ from Adelaide winner Stuart Tinney (AUS), is a perennial visitor to Kentucky – he won it two years ago on Cool Mountain. This time the three-time Olympian, who will be wearing the HSBC Rider Rankings armband as points leader, brings an exciting new talent in Parklane Hawk, the Australian-bred Thoroughbred that gave him a record sixth Burghley victory in 2011.
Andrew Nicholson (NZL), presently in third place in the HSBC FEI Classics™, made it into the top five cash prizes for the first time last year, in third place.
He has entered three horses for Kentucky: the elegant Shady Grey, runner-up in Pau last year, and youngsters Qwanza and Calico Joe which he suggests could be his Olympic reserve horses.
Kentucky represents a significant Olympic trial for American riders, who are out in force, headed by Phillip Dutton (Fernhill Eagle and Mighty Nice) and Boyd Martin (Ying-Yang-Yo, Otis Barbotiere and Remington XXV).
There will also be keen interest surrounding senior US rider Karen O’Connor’s CCI4* debut with her new horse, Mr Medicott, previously an Olympic gold medalist and European bronze medalist with Germany’s Frank Ostholt.
Australia has two former Kentucky winners entered: Clayton Fredericks, who has his 2007 winner Ben Along Time back in action, and Andrew Hoy (2006), who is hoping a good result on Rutherglen will move him back into Olympic reckoning.
British riders Oliver Townend (Pepper Anne and Sonas Rovatio) and Lucy Wiegersma (Grantevka Prince) will no doubt be interested to meet their California-based compatriot James Allison, who has been attracting the selectors’ interest with a sensational string of international successes on US soil. The 26-year-old, who runs Gracelands Equestrian Centre outside San Francisco, has entered Parker and Jumbo’s Jake.
“The line-up of riders and horses entered in this year’s event is truly amazing,” says Christina Gray, Director of Competition. “Adding to the record field of US entries, we also have a record number of entries from overseas including some of our sport’s legendary names. Anyone who follows Eventing will want to be on hand this year for what promises to be the most exciting Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event ever!”
Cross Country Course Designer Derek di Grazia says his team has been working hard on the course. “I hate to jinx it, but we’ve had an early spring, so we’ve already mowed the course five times. We’ve put a lot of effort into the footing,” he said.