Eventing Nation’s Ultimate Rolex Preview

Jenni Autry and Kate Samuels team up to give you the rundown on each and every horse/rider combination who’ll be vying for glory in Kentucky this year. Keep it locked on Eventing Nation all week for all the news you need to know from North America’s biggest three-day event. Let the madness begin!

Top: William Fox-Pitt and Seacookie TSF at Pau. Photo by Jenni Autry.

[Rolex Entry List]

Buck Davidson and Petite Flower: I’ve been hoping this lovely mare would make it to Rolex all season, and Buck gave us a nice Easter present on Sunday when he confirmed she made the cut. A homebred of Bruce Sr.’s owned by Sherrie and Caroline Martin, Flower is definitely a meaningful entry for the BDJ team. She’s super game on cross country, and while she’s had stops this year, she definitely has the talent for this level. It will be up to Buck to give her the good introduction she needs to Derek di Grazia’s course in her first go at a four-star.

Selena O’Hanlon and Foxwood High: Selena’s love for her horses is contagious, and she’s very excited about this one in his four-star debut. Woody had a great final prep at The Fork CIC3* where he went clear in both jumping phases and added just time to his dressage score in an easy run around Tremaine Cooper’s course. His dressage is still coming along, but that won’t prevent them from having a respectable performance here this weekend. While Woody’s still young at 11 years old, he’s brave and bold, and I expect they’ll have a good trip around cross country with Team Canada cheering them on.

William Fox-Pitt and Seacookie TSF: If a European wins Rolex this year, there’s a very good chance it’s going to be William and Seacookie. The runner-up at last year’s event, the horse only continued to get better throughout the 2013 season, putting in an impressive performance at Pau last fall to win the event on a final score of 45.5. Like all of William’s top mounts, the horse is all business when it comes to his job, and he’s incredibly good across all three phases. His weak phase is the show jumping, so the pressure will be on should William and Seacookie be at the top of the leaderboard like I expect them to be heading in to the final day.

Wil Faudree and Pawlow: Everyone loves a good comeback story, and Ernie has persevered over the last six months to get back to another Rolex. The horse had his second colic surgery last October, which meant missing Fair Hill and easing back into things this spring. They won the Pine Top CIC2* in February and were poised to win the CIC3* at The Fork until a silly runout at the big corner coming out of the second water complex ended that quest. Will has said the horse feels fantastic, and while it’s been an uphill battle, they’re poised to have a good go at replicating the top-10 finish they enjoyed at this event last year.

Will Faudree and Pawlow. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Will Faudree and Pawlow at The Fork. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Phillip Dutton and Mighty Nice: After injuring himself at this event last year, Happy had a long break before coming back out at Pine Top this February. Phillip is very particular about where his horses run cross country, so we’ve only seen Happy complete all three phases twice this year at Carolina International and The Fork. While he was a bit wild earlier this season, he’s settled nicely now and is prepped for a good crack at Derek’s course. Happy will take a backseat to Mr. Medicott this weekend in terms of who everyone is talking about, but remember this horse was 10th at this event in 2012. Expect him to be right up there when the dust settles on Sunday.

Allison Springer and Copycat Chloe: A personal favorite of mine, Allison and Chloe’s new partnership was coming along very nicely last year until things got a bit derailed at Galway Downs. A tense ride, she’s seemed to become more and more wound up in the dressage with each event this season. Luckily, handling spooky, tense horses just happens to be Allison’s forte, so I have faith we’ll see a very different Chloe canter down centerline on Thursday, as I’m sure Allison has been working very hard to smooth out the kinks we’ve seen early in the season. I’d love nothing more than for this pair to blow everyone away this weekend.

Marilyn Little and RF Demeter: This mare just gets better and better with each event, and she’s peaked at just the right time with a win in the Carolina International CIC3* and very nearly winning The Fork CIC3*. She looks fit, focused and in very good condition, and I expect Marilyn and Demi to rise to the occasion on Thursday. The mare can be a bit quirky in the dressage, but Marilyn has really worked hard on forming the partnership and figuring out exactly how to handle her in the little white box. They’re a virtual lock for a top-10 finish this weekend.

Jessica Phoenix and Pavarotti: Jessie is just planning to do dressage with Exponential, so this is the only horse she’ll have in all three phases. Best known as her Pan Am individual gold medal partner, Pavarotti had a good fall campaign in Europe last year, finishing 17th in the Haras du Pin CIC3* and 10th at Blenheim. They’ve had a quiet last month in preparation for Rolex, withdrawing from their Intermediate divisions at both Rocking Horse and The Fork, so they’ll likely have an easy trip around the cross country course on Saturday.

Sinead Halpin and Manoir de Carneville: After getting snubbed during the Olympic selection process in 2012, Sinead is out to show she means business, and this will mean a lot for their chances at the WEG team. Tate hasn’t run a four-star since he almost won Burghley in 2012, but don’t think that means he isn’t ready. He’s fit and totally full of himself — watch for him to make a scene in the first trot up tomorrow — not to mention coming off an excellent spring campaign in which he finished just outside the top 10 in the Carolina International CIC3* and won The Fork CIC3*. If they can replicate the brilliance we’ve seen from them in the past in the little white box, they’re going to be very tough to beat this weekend.

Marilyn and RF Demeter. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Marilyn and RF Demeter at Carolina International. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Jon Holling and Zatopek B: This horse is a freak of nature in every way — freaky good mover in the dressage, freaky bold across the country and freaky careful in the show jumping. And he knows it. He always seems a bit puffed up and proud of himself, and he has a fantastic presence in the dressage, so look for him to really strut his stuff on Thursday as he makes his four-star debut. He does struggle with tension in that phase, and learning to relax is a work in progress, but Jon handles him beautifully. Look for Jon to play up the horse’s big paces and then sit back and enjoy watching him play with the course on Saturday.

Kyle Carter and Madison Park: Slipping a tendon off a hock and tearing a ligament — it’s just not something a horse comes back from very often, much less comes back from to compete at Rolex. But Kitty Cat Kyle Carter never gave up on Parker, and he’s been rewarded by having his WEG partner back competing at the top level of the sport again this year. Kyle and Parker were 12th at Red Hills CIC3* and second in the Poplar Place CIC3* this spring, so they’re right where they need to be to make this final step toward Parker’s comeback. They’re very much in contention for the Canadian WEG team, so this weekend is meaningful on multiple levels.

Sharon White and Rafferty’s Rules: Another great comeback story! Reggie also suffered an injury while competing across the pond, and Sharon has utilized every form of therapy you can imagine to get him back to competing. Her dedication has paid off, and she’s going to be all smiles coming down centerline on Thursday. They can be very competitive in the dressage, so look for them to take a good score into cross country. Sharon hasn’t really put the pedal down on cross country this season, so the horse’s fitness remains a question, but Reggie is prepped to have a very good performance.

Andrew Nicholson and Avebury: Andrew Nicholson’s only mount after withdrawing last year’s Rolex winner Quimbo, Avebury has big shoes to fill this weekend. I’d personally love to see Rolex turn into a rematch between Avebury and Tate for the win, harking back to the exciting finale at Burghley in 2012 where Andrew ultimately prevailed. Avebury has gone double clear on cross country in his last three four-star appearances, and he’s certainly a major threat to win at Rolex this weekend.

Michael Pollard and Mensa G: This is a lovely team that always seems to struggle from a bit of bad luck. They were on track for a good performance at Pau last fall when the horse glanced off one of Pierre Michelet’s tricky skinnies, and they were sitting near the top of the leaderboard at Carolina International before parting ways on cross country. Michael and Mensa always seem to be hovering just on the edge of brilliance, and I’m hoping luck is on their side this weekend. They can throw down a very good dressage test, so look for them to be in a good position heading in to cross country.

Michael Pollard and Mensa G. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Michael Pollard and Mensa G at Pine Top. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Jennie Brannigan and Cambalda: If EN karma really does exist, please oh please let it help Jennie and Ping this weekend. Forced to withdraw right before dressage when Ping broke his lunge line and scraped himself up at Rolex last year, Jennie and Ping are back with unfinished business to attend to. They’re on track across all three phases — and appear to have conquered their demons with corners on cross country — and are coming off a third-place finish in the Carolina International CIC3*. Look for them to play spoiler this weekend.

Erin Sylvester and No Boundaries: Bucky can be unpredictable in the little white box, so Thursday will set the tone for the rest of their weekend. He melted down in dressage at Rolex last year but scored about 20 points better the year before, where they ultimately finished 13th, so it could really go either way. The good news is he’s been very well behaved this season and is coming off a very strong top-1o finish at The Fork CIC3*.

Emily Beshear and Here’s To You: Another pair with potential to play spoiler here this weekend, Emily withdrew Quincy in the final hour at Rolex last year after he sustained a minor injury at The Fork. She’s brought him back slowly, and he looked in good form at The Fork. As with any horse coming back from an injury, fitness is always a concern, but Emily insists Quincy is feeling great, and she pulled him up about halfway through cross country at The Fork as planned because she said he didn’t need the full run. Look for them to put in a very good dressage score.

Meghan O’Donoghue and Pirate: The sweetheart of American eventing, Meghan O’Donogue skyrocketed into the spotlight last year when she finished 12th in her four-star debut at Rolex with her little OTTB Pirate. Everyone loves a Cinderella story, and they continued their good form later in the season with a very respectable performance in their first international event at Blenheim. They’ve had a quiet spring, as this is another horse that doesn’t really need the runs, and they’re in good form to improve on that 12th-place finish from last year.

Doug Payne and Crown Talisman: Doug announced last week he will just be doing the dressage with Tali before withdrawing and heading to Saumur for the horse’s first international competition. It’s really remarkable how far this horse has come in the past year; once tense and unsettled in dressage, he’s emerged as a real threat in the little white box. Doug is definitely smart to confirm that Tali can replicate the same quality of work they’ve been enjoying in a bigger atmosphere like Rolex, and it will be a treat to watch them go on Thursday.

Jennie Brannigan and Cambalda. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Jennie Brannigan and Cambalda at The Fork. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Debbie Rosen and The Alchemyst: Debbie will always have legend status in my book after piloting this horse around Rolex in 2010 just seven weeks after competing her chemotherapy for breast cancer. They enjoyed their best finish at this event in 2009 where they finished 25th. This is their fifth appearance at Rolex, and they’ll be looked to complete North America’s most prominent event for the third time. Go West Coast Eventing!

James Alliston and Parker: Parker had a long break after his 14th-place finish at Rolex last year and has competed just twice since, finishing 10th in an Intermediate division at Twin Rivers in February and winning the Advanced at Galway Downs last month. He’s had a quiet prep for Rolex, but James always does his homework, and I expect to see an improvement on their dressage score of 66.2 from last year with all that time off to focus on flat work.

Rachel McDonough and Irish Rhythm: This is a fun pair, and this horse positively bounces around cross country. They jumped clear around the CIC3* cross country at Carolina International and did the Advanced combined test at The Fork earlier this month in their final prep for Rolex. The dressage is certainly not this horse’s favorite phase, but he eats cross country for breakfast, so be sure to watch them go on Saturday.

Allie Knowles and Last Call: Allie’s Rolex debut last year started with a bang and ended with heartbreak. After a beautiful dressage test that put them in fourth place after the first two days, Allie and Fergie didn’t make it around cross country. But they’ve come back with a vengeance this season, finishing second in the Red Hills CIC3* in their key prep run leading up to this weekend. The mare looks fit and ready to go, and Allie is ready to prove she can get around Derek’s course. Keep your eyes on this pair.

Hawley Bennett-Awad and Gin & Juice: Perennial favorites here on EN, Hawley and Ginny will be tackling an unbelievable eighth four-star this weekend at Rolex. They enjoyed a top-10 finish here last year with a nearly double clear cross-country trip and clear show jumping round, and I expect them to replicate that performance this year. While spitfire Ginny can be a handful on cross country — which led to time penalties for this pair at Pau when she was fighting fit at the end of the season — I don’t think that will be an issue with Rolex falling earlier in the season when she’s just super fit as opposed to freakishly fit.

Allie Knowles and Last Call at The Fork. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Allie Knowles and Last Call at The Fork. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Colleen Rutledge and Shiraz: Rolex spectators might set couches on fire in the streets of Lexington if Colleen and Luke have a good go this weekend. The horse spent much of last fall and winter in dressage boot camp with Mara DePuy, and it paid off with a score of 59.4 at The Fork CIC3*, their best ever score at that level. And while Luke looked a bit feral in show jumping early this season, Colleen countered his antics by taking away his bit, and he looked like an entirely different horse at The Fork. Considering we know the cross country will be a walk in the park, the stars could align this weekend.

Katie Frei and Houdini: Katie and Houdini have struggled this season, failing to complete at both Red Hills and Poplar Place, which is a shame because they looked to be in such good form at this time about a year ago. They pulled it together at The Fork in their Advanced division, having an easy go around cross country to rebuild confidence. Katie is no stranger to Rolex, and she certainly has the skill set to get the horse around this weekend despite a less-than-ideal preparation.

Sarah Bullimore and Reve Du Rouet: This is Blou’s first four-star event, and he definitely has all the tools to deliver a very good weekend. I had the pleasure of seeing him go at Boekelo last year, and he’s a lovely mover on the flat and a stylish jumper in the other two phases. Sarah and Blou were double clear to finish 36th in the big Belton Park CIC3* earlier this year in their key prep run, and they did an Advanced combined test at Weston Park earlier this month. It’s always exciting to have combinations join us from across the pond, so give them a big cheer on Thursday.

Kevin Keane and Fernhill Flutter: Everyone’s favorite vet is one of our Rolex rookies this year, and after watching from the sidelines at Kentucky for many years, I’m thrilled Kevin is getting a chance to go around the course himself. Kevin and Butterfly have been training hard under the watchful eye of Phillip Dutton, and they had a very good showing at both Carolina International and The Fork. Kevin will be looking for an accurate dressage test and a safe trip around Derek’s course in his Rolex debut.

Julie Norman and Consensus: Julie and Thomas are another pair contesting their first Rolex this year, and they’re one of my personal favorites to watch. They just did their first CCI3* at Fair Hill last fall where they jumped clear across the country. While they’re new to the level, the horse is incredibly game on cross country, and he’s definitely the type you want to be sitting on in your first trip around Kentucky. They’re still fitting the puzzle pieces together in the little white box, but look for them to have a good go on Saturday.

Colleen Rutledge and Shiraz at The Fork. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Colleen Rutledge and Shiraz at The Fork. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Sally Cousins and Tsunami: Always a blast to watch, Sue gets away with her distaste for dressage by being a beast on cross-country day. There’s no question they’ll jump clear in their third trip together across the Kentucky bluegrass. Sue has scored a 60 in the dressage in both of her appearances at Rolex, and I know Sally would love to crack the 50s with this sassy mare. Sue doesn’t need extra runs, so she’s had a quiet spring prep, most recently winning the Advanced B division at The Fork. Look for this mare to play with the course on Saturday.

Kate Chadderton and Collection Pass: Another of the OTTBs competing at Rolex — and one of many talented OTTBs in Kate’s barn — little Cole is a total sweetheart and a real trier. While still relatively new to this level, he’s very game cross country and should have a good romp around the cross country come Saturday. Cole ran the Advanced at Carolina International CIC3* and had his final prep run in the Intermediate last weekend at Plantation Field.

Buck Davidson and Ballynoe Castle RM: Last year’s USEF National Champions at this event thanks to their fourth-place finish, Buck and Reggie are back this year looking to improve on that placing. And they’re in a very good position to do it, with the horse looking super following his comeback after the injury that kept them out of Aachen last year. Buck and Reggie were second in the Carolina International CIC3* and fourth in the The Fork CIC3*, so they’ve had an ideal prep for what should be a very good weekend for them.

Lillian Heard and Share Option: Yet another of our Rolex first-timers, Lillian and Whitey are definitely a pair you should keep your eyes on this weekend. They capped Whitey’s comeback season last year with a 10th-place finish in the Fair Hill CCI3*, and they’ve come out very strong again this year, finishing in the top 10 in all three of their runs at the Advanced level this spring. Whitey is very good in the dressage, so they could be right up there with the big names at the end of the day on Friday.

Laine Ashker & Anthony Patch: Laine and Al are one of my all-time favorite pairs to cheer on, and I know that they’ve got three really phenomenal phases in them. Al can lay down a great dressage test (provided that there isn’t anything spooky in the bushes), Laine is one of the most determined cross-country riders out there, and Al is allergic to show jumps. While they were 14th with a clear round in their debut together in 2010, they had a blip on cross country in 2011 and Laine popped off in 2012, so they’re coming back to Kentucky with something to prove. They’ve been very successful at the three-star level, and I truly hope that this is their year to show the world what they can accomplish.

Jan Byyny & Inmidair: Jan and JR are another one of my favorites (it’s so hard to choose!), as they have a wonderful partnership, and nobody works harder than Jan. They did the dressage last year here in Kentucky together, but sadly had to withdraw due to a breathing issue. The good news is that JR scored a 49.2 in his first four-star test, and he’s only gotten better since then. After winning the Fair Hill CCI3* last fall, they’ve been on a roll and have looked incredible everywhere I’ve seen them. This horse is still unproven at this level, but he’s a phenomenally scopey jumper and great on cross country. I’m looking for them to at least hit the top 15, ideally top 10.

Hannah Sue Burnett & Harbour Pilot: Hannah has been around Rolex a few times before, but this will be William’s first visit to Kentucky. They travelled to Pau CCI4* last fall and posted the best American dressage score with a 45.7, but sadly were unable to complete the event when William slipped and Hannah fell off between fences on cross country. That being said, these two have all the makings of a top pair and have been incredibly competitive on U.S. soil in all three phases. They’ve come to make it or break it at Rolex, and I hope they can pull off a great performance.

Ruy Fonseca & Tom Bombadill Too: This will be this pair’s first Rolex, but not their first trip to Kentucky, as they competed for Brazil in the 2010 World Equestrian Games at this very same venue. They are probably one of the more experienced pairs in the crowd, having also been to the 2012 London Olympics as well. Ruy has just recently moved to the U.S. to prepare for his 2014 season, and he’s looking forward to another WEG later this summer in France. I expect a good clean run from them; they’ve got quite enough experience to get the job done.

Bobby Meyerhoff & Dunlavin’s Token: As another of our Rolex Rookies, Bobby and Token were entered last spring for their Rolex debut, but were sadly thwarted the Monday of the event with a bit of soreness. They took it easy last year, but finished in 21st place in the Fair Hill CCI3* with one stop on course. This horse is not the easiest on the flat, but he’s a super jumper. They’ve looked great this spring out on course, and they should be ready for the next challenge here at Rolex.

Phillip Dutton and Mr. Medicott at Pau CCI4*. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Phillip Dutton and Mr. Medicott at Pau CCI4*. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Alice Dunsdon & Fernhill Present: While this might be their Rolex debut, this pair has already run around Pau in 2011 and Burghley in 2012 with a two clean cross country rounds. This 12-year-old gelding isn’t always competitive in the dressage phase, but he has a great cross country recor  and seems to be a good enough show jumper. This should be a good trip around Kentucky for this pair as they make their North American debut.

Phillip Dutton & Mr Medicott: Between them, Phillip and Cave have more CCI4* events than any other pair here. They’ve both been to the Olympics, the World Equestrian Games and almost every other four-star in the world. They were 4th at Pau CCI4* in the fall, and they excel in the three-day format. They’ve been getting along well, and I hope that they can pull together a dressage test that will hit the next level of competitiveness on the international scale because we all know they can jump clean in the next phases! I expect at least a top-10 finish as they look forward to the WEG.

Kaitlin Spurlock & Expedience: One of my favorite Rolex Rookies, Kaitlin and Spedy are a great match. This 17-year-old chestnut Thoroughbred mare eats cross country for breakfast and dinner. She may not enjoy the first phase, but Kaitlin knows full well that at the end of the three day it’s all worth it to be able to jump her around the next two phases. This will be Spedy’s last hurrah, as she heads out to enjoy her glory days after Rolex, and I expect them to both finish with big smiles on their faces.

Lauren Kieffer & Veronica: Veronica has been to Rolex once before with Karen O’Connor in 2012, where they scored a 47.8 before Karen took a tumble in the first water. She’s since then been under the guidance of Lauren, who has piloted her to multiple wins at the three-star level. Lauren hopped around her first Rolex a few years ago with her own Snooze Alarm, and she’ll be thrilled to be back here this year. They both have incredible talent over all three phases, and if they can put them all together this weekend, they’ll be playing spoiler to all the more experienced pairs.

Daniel Clasing & Houston: Dan and Houston hopped around their first Rolex last year a bit under the radar, but with ease nonetheless. A horse that Dan has raised from a foal, they have a great partnership together. They won’t be competitive on the flat, but they’ll be jumping around the cross country cleanly and hoping to improve on their 21st place finish from last year.

Kim Severson and Fernhill Fearless at Fair Hill CCI3*. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Kim Severson and Fernhill Fearless at Fair Hill CCI3*. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Tim Bourke & Luckaun Quality: Tim and Obie are a very cool pair, as they’ve come up the levels together quietly. They were 8th together at their first CCI3* last fall at Fair Hill, and they’re heading to their first four-star together here this weekend, hoping to bring home some glory for team Ireland. Tim has an incredible work ethic, and I expect that his excellent jumping phases will really pull him up through the ranks to a top 20 finish.

Lindsey Oaks & Enchantez: Lindsey and Taylor had a go at Rolex last year and made it about three-quarters of the way around the cross country course before chalking up one too many stops on course and heading home early. They took the rest of 2013 off and have completed two events this spring, recently finishing 27th at The Fork in the CIC3*. While being competitive isn’t their goal this weekend, Lindsey will be happy to finish her first CCI4*.

Jessica Phoenix & Exponential: Yet another pair that needs no introduction, Jessie and Tucker have been around a few CCI4* competitions together, and this horse’s exuberant jumping style always wins the hearts of the fans. They didn’t do more than dressage last year, but they rebounded to win Jersey CCI3* with domination, and they’ve looked great all spring. Jessie plans to just do dressage this year and give Tucker some more exposure to the atmosphere in preparation for the WEG later this year.

Rachel Jurgens & Ziggy: Rachel and Ziggy attempted their first Rolex last spring, but sadly didn’t make it around the cross country. Ziggy is 18 years young, and Rachel has brought this horse from the ground up, getting him right off the track and coming up the levels together. They’ve worked hard for this, and they deserve a good round. While they may not enjoy the dressage phase, they’ll be happy to get around their first CCI4* together and improve upon last year’s performance.

Kim Severson & Fernhill Fearless: Kim knows Rolex like nobody else, and while Sparky may not have been around a CCI4* yet, he has yet to meet a cross country fence that he can’t dominate. Kim gave up her spot on the USEF Selection Committee because she believes that she finally has another international horse that’s worth  the shot, and Sparky might just prove her right. He’s a funny looking little horse, and he has a very odd jumping style, but with their forces combined, they might just play spoiler this weekend. Kim is the ultimate competitor, and I hope they kick some serious ass this weekend.

Ellen Doughty and Sir Oberon at Red Hills CIC3*. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Ellen Doughty and Sir Oberon at Red Hills CIC3*. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Dana Widstrand & Relentless Pursuit: Dana and her OTTB Rover are heading to their very first Rolex together, and they’ve been working towards this goal for 14 years. Another Rolex Rookie, Rover will actually turn 18 years young today as they do jogs in Kentucky. They actually qualified for Rolex in 2008, but a small injury kept them out of the running, and then life kept them away from the upper levels for a little while. They completed Fair Hill CCI3* last fall in 22nd place with one stop on course, and they’ll be looking forward to a great experience at their first CCI4*.

Caitlin Silliman & Catch A Star: Caitlin and Hoku made their Rolex debut last year and had a cracking good cross country round, minus one small blip that marred an otherwise great trip. They’ll be looking to stay in the low 5-s in the dressage and improve upon their standing from last year, and a top-20 finish is will within their reach.

Ellen Doughty & Sir Oberon: Yet another Rolex Rookie, Ellen and Obie have a big weekend ahead of them. They’ve been competitive against the best pairs on the East Coast, finishing 6th in their first CCI3* at Fair Hill last fall, completing with just one rail to add to their dressage score. As our pick for the best rookie performance, I expect that these two will be laying down three solid phases to stay right up there with the big names.

Mark Todd & Oloa: This horse has been doing really well for Mark lately, and he’s been pretty consistently competitive in all three phases. They were 7th in their first CCI4* last fall at Burghley, with a 48 in the dressage and just a rail and some time to finish on. Mark knows more than any other rider here, and I think this might be the horse that will bring him back into the spotlight. I expect a sub-50 dressage score and for him to finish close to that, and given that, a top-10 finish isn’t out of the question.

Marilyn Little & RF Smoke On The Water: As Marilyn’s second ride of the weekend, this grey gelding is very talented in all three phases. He won’t be as competitive as RF Demeter, but this will be a good step for Smoke for the future. The only thing that could catch this pair out is their need for speed on cross country, which has in the past cost them some events at the top level. With a good educational round to bring this nice young horse around his first CCI4*, they could finish quite nicely.

Sharon White and Wundermaske at Carolina International CIC3*. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Sharon White and Wundermaske at Carolina International CIC3*. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Selena O’Hanlon & Bellaney Rock: Selena is coming back in a WEG year in a big way with two horses entered here this weekend. This horse is a super jumper, and I think he’ll be able to pop around his first CCI4* with Selena in the irons. While they might not be competitive in the dressage, the rest should be alright, and hopefully Selena will be able to find a good replacement for her old international partner Columbo.

Jennifer McFall & High Times: Another Rolex Rookie, Jennifer and Billy have been having a ball on the West Coast and made their East Coast debut last spring at Jersey Fresh CCI3*, where they finished in 9th place. They’ve only been competing at the Advanced level for a year, so they’re still new to the level, and this will be their first time at such a big competition together. They have a great partnership, and no matter what, they’ll have a blast competing here this weekend and running around their first CCI4*.

Peter Barry & Kilrodan Abbott: Peter and Eddie have been around this course more times than almost any other pair here this weekend. They won’t be terribly competitive on the flat, but I’d be willing to bet my hat that they can turn in both a clean cross country and a clean show jumping round to finish in style.

William Fox-Pitt & Bay My Hero: William’s second mount hasn’t been to a big three-day since Pau CCI4* in 2012, but he did place 4th there in his debut at this level. While he’s been taking it easy since then, it would be silly to discount his chances simply due to a light competition schedule. I don’t think William would fly him all the way over here if he didn’t think he was ready to kick some American butt. He’s pretty consistently amazing on the flat, and if anybody can produce some clear jumping rounds, it’s William. I would watch out for these two if you know what’s good for you.

Sharon White & Wundermaske: A lot of people are thrilled to see Patch here in his CCI4* debut, and none more than Sharon and her team of orange groupies. He’s a great little horse with a lot of heart, and I think he’s going to be very nice in the future. He might not be able to compete with his stablemate Reggie this weekend, but I think this weekend will be a great educational experience for him and help Sharon build her string of international competitors.

Allison Springer and Arthur. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Allison Springer and Arthur at Pine Top. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Kristin Schmolze & Ballylaffin Bracken: Kristin and Rox are heading back to their second Rolex, where last year they placed 25th. They have looked really in sync this spring, and I think Rox might even be growing up and fulfilling his potential in the dressage ring! Kristin knows all about talented but difficult horses, and she loves this big beautiful guy, and they’ll be looking to improve upon last year’s performance and maybe impress some selectors for the future.

Allison Springer & Arthur: Allison and Arthur need no introduction, and I know that they’re equally thrilled to be here with one another this weekend. This pair will surely kill on the flat, easily scoring in the top five there. They should be able to hop around the cross country easily with all their experience at this level and can hopefully leave all the poles up on the last day to finish out a great weekend with a dominant performance.

Libby Head & Sir Rockstar: Libby and Rocky are heading towards their first Rolex performance, and I know that they’re more than capable of zooming around the jumping phases, as they proved by finishing 12th at Fair Hill in the CCI3*.  The challenge for this pair will be surviving the stadium atmosphere on a busy Friday afternoon for dressage. If Rocky can hold his brain in place and let Libby get through this first phase, they’ll be golden for their first CCI4* experience.

Phillip Dutton & Trading Aces: Oscar has been aiming at this event all year, and he’s got some demons to slay, as he had to pull up just a few fences from home last year in his CCI4* debut. With a different rider in the irons and his sweating problems under control, Oscar has to do well this time out to prove himself as a contestant for the WEG once Boyd’s leg heals. He has all the pieces of a top horse, and he just has to put them all together here this weekend.

Buck Davidson & Park Trader: Kobe is Buck’s final entry here at Rolex, and he’s a super talented horse. He completed his first CCI4* here last year, finishing in 22nd place. This horse isn’t terribly easy to ride, so Buck might be wearing his crash helmet on Friday! After their 2nd place finish at Fair Hill CCI3* last fall, they should be able to take that momentum into this event and improve upon their finish from last year.

Go Eventing!

For complete coverage of this year’s Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, keep it tuned to Eventing Nation.


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