Eventing Nation: Rolex – A weekend of expected and unexpected results

Andrew Nicholson and Quimbo are your 2013 Rolex Three-day Event champions! John reflects on the weekend that was.

Top: Andrew Nicholson and Quimbo. Photo by Samantha Clark.

From John:

No one should be surprised that Andrew Nicholson and William Fox-Pitt finished in the top three places at Rolex.  With the exception of WEG and Olympic champion Michael Jung, these two are on top of the eventing world right now.  Andrew and William will ride against each other for the Rolex Grand Slam of eventing and its $35o,000 in prize money next weekend at Badminton.  Andrew, William, and Michael will collide next weekend in a showdown that threatens to swallow Badminton up in a black hole of awesomeness.

Rolex 2013’s top three riders met in the Sunday afternoon press conference to discuss their weekend:

–Andrew Nicholson was full of praise for Quimbo at the horse’s first four-star, calling him an “unbelievable show jumper.”  He said that Quimbo feels impressive in the warm-up and then steps up even more in the arena.  Andrew said that he learned this weekend that Quimbo, a warmblood who was bred to be a show-jumper, has the stamina to do the 4* jumping and distance.  So Andrew has a young horse, expertly bred for show jumping, who can already score under 40 in the dressage and easily make the time around a 4*.  Look out world.  Quimbo surprised Andrew by making up time in the last several minutes of the cross-country course. In contrast to Quimbo, Andrew was very critical of Calico Joe’s talent as a show jumper, joking (?) that he’s been stuck with the horse since he was young.  Andrew also recognized that the horse has two top-five performances in his last three four-stars.  He said “I was very pleased with him, and to be honest I was very proud.”


–William discussed his and Andrew’s Rolex Grand Slam chances by saying “probably neither of us, Michael Jung here we go.”  As for what’s next for Seacookie, he gets home Thursday and then will have a nice long break.  William said that the 14-year-old gelding doesn’t have a set plan for the autumn. When asked about his finger, which he broke in the show jumping, William said that he hopes it won’t hamper him at Badminton and seemed to play it down.

–Buck was asked what it meant to him to have his Dad watching.  He responded by saying, “Kentucky has been a great place for the Davidsons.”  Buck also noted that his Mom was also in attendance this weekend.  Buck described his feelings on the weekend by saying his “of course I’m bummed to have two down.”  On coming in 4th, Buck said “if I’ve gotta lose, these are two good guys to lose to.”  Buck said that he was “pretty sure” either William or Andrew will win at Badminton next week.

A few additional notes on the weekend:

–Andrew finishing two horses in the top-three should be regarded as unprecedented if not for the fact that Mary set a better precedent by finishing two horses in the top-two in 2011.  Finishing a four-star is hard enough, let alone placing in the top 3 with one horse.   Andrew is simply a master at his craft and showed off his amazing skill this weekend.

–William Fox-Pitt finished in the top four of Rolex for the fourth straight year, including two winning years.  Although I bet William looks at this weekend as something of a defeat, he’s establishing himself as the consistent master of Kentucky.

–Buck was the only U.S. rider to finish the weekend on more than one horse, finishing on all three of the starters.  Andrew and James Alliston were the only two other riders to finish on more than one horse.

–In some heartwarming news, the USA’s losing streak at Rolex extends to five years, with only one victory in the past eight years.  There’s no way I will consider our high performance program in top shape until we start winning Rolex consistently.

–What more can be said about Lynn Symansky and Donner?  Lynn came into this weekend with a bad back and a badly injured pinkie finger and she left in 5th place with a double-clear jumping performance in Donner’s first four-star.  The only other pair to finish without a cross country or show jumping penalty on the weekend was some guy named William Fox-Pitt.  Veterans Buck Davidson and Ballynoecastle RM were the only U.S. pair to finish above them.  Lynn had the quintessential emergent performance at Rolex and, premature or not, this young pair is instantly in the conversation for making the WEG team next year.  Lynn also led the way for girl power at Rolex.  Donner won Best Conditioned Horse and also Best Turned Out at the two horse inspections.

–Kristi Nunnink and R-Star have had two straight great four-star finishes including Burghley last year.  R-Star is an absolutely fabulous mare — I might say the best of any U.S. mare right now along with perhaps RF Demeter — and I couldn’t be happier to see the West Coast so well represented this year.  We’ve already written quite a lot about Hawley and Ginny’s brilliance, but they represented both the West Coast and Canada to perfection and won the hearts of the Lexington crowd this weekend.

–Will Faudree and Pawlow were the third-best U.S. pair this weekend, finishing in 6th.  It was “Ernie’s” best four-star performance of his career and sets this pair up nicely for the WEG hunt.  Will is no stranger to managing talented horses successfully in the second half of their careers.

–If you are Twitter inclined, follow #nicholsonontwitter for some fun.

–Canada finished four pairs in the top 20.  Five of their six starters finished the weekend, with Exponential withdrawing before the cross-country.  Only New Zealand (3/3) and Australia (1/1) can boast better percentages for finishing the weekend.

–This is the first time in a long time (at least three years) that Phillip Dutton and Boyd Martin, USA’s stalwart riders over the past few years, have both finished outside of the top 10.  I don’t make much of this because Phillip and Boyd started the weekend with just three horses between them.  I think it’s safe to say that Mighty Nice and Trading Aces still very much look like team horses of the future for the USA despite retiring here this weekend.  Trading Aces especially looked terrific in everything except his fitness.  Phillip has to be pleased with moving up 23 places on Fernhill Eagle this weekend.  We wish Boyd the best in his ankle surgery this upcoming week.

–In all, eight of the 12 pairs making their four-star debuts completed at Rolex. Meghan O’Donoghue and Pirate were the highest-placed pair making a first appearance at Rolex, finishing the weekend in 12th place. They started the weekend sitting in 25th after dressage, and moved up to 14th after coming home clear on cross country with four time penalties. While they pulled a rail today in show jumping and picked up three time penalties, the crowd showed them a lot of love, and Meghan has to be ecstatic with her performance here this weekend.

–A big shoutout to the other four-star first-timers who completed: Austin O’Connor and Ringwood Mississippi (13th), Shandiss McDonald and Rockfield Grant Juan (16th), Kendal Lehari and Daily Edition (19th), Daniel Clasing and Houston (21st), Caitlin Silliman and Catch A Star (24th), Emily Renfroe and Walk The Line (27th), and Michelline Jordan and Irish Diamonds (29th).

Peter and Henny rocked it this weekend in front of an adoring crowd, moving up 18 places by adding just 5.6 jumping penalties to their dressage score.  Check out Henny’s helmet cam video from cross-country here.

–It was great to see Katie Ruppel and Sir Donovan finish Rolex successfully after a forgettable previous two years.  They added just 9.6 penalties to their dressage score on a great weekend of jumping.

–Last, but very much not least, we extend a huge EN thanks to all of the volunteers who made this weekend possible.  Rolex is a tremendous operation that could never happen without the many men and women who dedicate their time to helping out at the Kentucky Horse Park.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!



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