LEXINGTON, Ky. — It came down to the last jump, but Great Britain’s Oliver Townend successfully defended his title of champion at the Kentucky Three-Day Event by putting in a perfect performance in the show jumping with Cooley Master Class to finish on a score of 25.3.
Townend and Cooley Master Class defended their title.
American Boyd Martin also turned in a fault-free show jumping round to finish second on 27.9 and claim the top spot for the Land Rover/USEF CCI5*-L Championship, while New Zealand’s Tim Price, also faultless, finished third with Xavier Faer (30.9).
Townend, with his back-to-back win, joins the Bruce Davidson, Kim Severson and Michael Jung as only the fourth person to defend his title in the event’s 41-year history.
He has been riding Cooley Master Class, a 14-year-old Irish Sport Horse since the horse was four, initially picking up the ride from Olympian Andrew Nicholson and then finding a buyer, owner Angela Hislop, to allow him to keep the ride on the horse.
In his early years, according to Townend, the bay gelding was prone to niggling injuries, but they’ve put the past behind them and risen to the top of the sport.
“We’ve had the horse from word go, and it’s a huge team effort,” Townend, 36, of Dudleston Heath, Ellesmere, Shropshire, England, said. “So much effort goes into it, not just on my part. The horse has had a checkered career and we’ve finally got him on top form. We’ve always believed in the horse, and it’s thanks to everybody at home putting in a huge team effort. It was just my job to push the buttons at the right point in time. I couldn’t be more proud of the horse and the whole team.”
Tension in the stadium at the Kentucky Horse Park was high as each of the horses cantered around Richard Jeffery’s challenging track, and as each clean round was accomplished, it ratcheted up the pressure for the riders still to come.
“It was a bit of a different situation as I came from behind last year,” Townend said of having to go last in the ring as the overnight leader. “It was much nicer (last year) to come in the ring in third place. This time I had to see the other guys sitting outside and these two lads (Price and Martin) did some job in their rounds. I’ve known Tim’s horse most of his life and I saw Boyd’s (in the warm-up) and he must have ridden well to say the least.
“Obviously my round went to plan,” he continued. “We had a rub at the Land Rover water tray but he’s a very good jumper so even when he touches a jump, he does it lightly and then apologizes for the next six jumps. It was definitely the most (high pressure) round I’ve ever ridden and I’m just glad I didn’t muck it up for him.”
To see a video of Oliver’s winning ride, click here.