LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 28, 2014) — With everything on the line Sunday, William Fox-Pitt of Great Britain calmly guided Bay My Hero faultlessly around the show jumping course to win the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, presented by Land Rover, for the third time.
His score of 44.0 topped second-placed Lauren Kieffer, of Middleburg, Va., on Veronica (46.7) and third-placed Buck Davidson, of Ocala, Fla., on Ballynoe Castle RM (51.7). Kieffer, 26, also won the USEF Four-Star Championship, the title Davidson won in 2013 when he finished fourth on Ballynoe Castle RM.
Sinead Halpin, of Oldwick, N.J., rode Manoir De Carneville to fourth (51.7); and Marilyn Little, of Frederick, Md., rode her two horses-RF Smoke On The Water (52.5) and RF Demeter (55.3)-to fifth and sixth.
For Fox-Pitt, 45, this Rolex Kentucky victory was his 13th win in a CCI4*, the highest level of eventing. This victory was worth $80,000.
“Each one is special for its own merits,” he said of his three Rolex Kentucky wins, the first two aboard Cool Mountain in 2010 and Parklane Hawk in 2012. “You can never believe it’s happened until it’s come off. I didn’t come here expecting to win. I came here expecting to enjoy two nice horses,” he said.
When asked how he’ll wear three Rolex watches, Fox-Pitt replied, “My wife, Alice, has the second one, and I guess this one will be for one of my sons.”
With the scores especially close after the first two phases, every rail seemed to count double. Third to 10th places were separated by just 1.4 points, and Davidson and Halpin, standing in fifth and seventh, increased the pressure on the top three with their faultless performances.
Earlier in the day, Phillip Dutton had withdrawn third-placed Mr. Medicott before the final horse inspection, leaving Little in third place on RF Demeter. But Little lowered the final rail of the triple combination to fall three places.
Then it was time for Kieffer, riding at Rolex Kentucky for the third time, to face the beautifully decorated show jumping course, designed for the 17th year by Richard Jeffery. Showing tremendous confidence, Kieffer guided Veronica to a perfect round, putting her in position to become the first American to win Rolex Kentucky since Dutton in 2008.
The roar that erupted in the Rolex Stadium when Kieffer landed from the last fence nearly unnerved the normally implacable Fox-Pitt and Bay My Hero, who could not afford to lower a single rail to keep their lead.
“He got a little bit excited when the crowd went wild when Lauren jumped a clean round,” said Fox-Pitt. “He tried to leg it back up the chute [into the ring], and I thought I might just do the same.”
Kieffer showed remarkable composure in front of the completely sold-out Rolex Stadium. Sunday’s attendance was 22,388, bringing the event total to 78,623.
“It took a lot of mental focus to try to keep cool, to ride it was like [it was just another event],” she said. Second place earned prize money of $37,000. Veronica is a 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare.
Davidson, 38, marveled at the consistency Ballynoe Castle RM, 14, has shown in his career, especially at Rolex Kentucky. “Basically you tell him its Kentucky, and he’s ready to go,” Davidson said with a smile. His third-placed prize money was $30,000.
He was, though, “a bit disappointed with my dressage score. I thought it was the best test he’s ever done.”
Still, “We have such a great partnership. I was like a little kid talking to my pony on cross-country. I was saying, ‘Come on, Reggie, we only have two more minutes to go!’
Kieffer’s, Davidson’s and Little’s scores propelled the U.S. to victory in the first Dubarry of Ireland Nations Team Challenge, in which the three-highest riders from each nation determined the result. The winning team members shared $10,000 in prize money.
The U.S score of 150.1 easily bested Great Britain (163.8) and Canada (200.9).
The Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, Presented by Land Rover, at the Kentucky Horse Park, is one of the world’s most prestigious equestrian competitions and features the world’s best horses and riders vying for their share of $250,000 in prize money, as well as a shot at the $350,000 Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing, which is awarded to any rider who wins the Rolex Kentucky, Mitsubishi Motors Badminton and Land Rover Burghley four-star Events in succession.
The 2014 Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event is a selection trial for the 2014 FEI World Equestrian Games and will crown the 17th Rolex/USEF National CCI4* Champion. The only four-star event in the Western Hemisphere, Rolex Kentucky draws an estimated 60,000 to 70,000 spectators and is seen by millions more on worldwide telecasts.
This year, for the first time ever, Rolex Kentucky includes a team challenge. The Dubarry of Ireland Nations Team Challenge will award $20,000 in prize money, while helping national teams prepare for the team competition at the World Equestrian Games this summer. The winning nation will be the nation with the fewest penalties after adding together the final scores of the three highest-placed individuals from that nation.
Rolex Kentucky is a fun time for all. Aside from the competition, the event features exquisite shopping in the Sponsor Village; an International Trade Fair with almost 200 booths and tents displaying designer clothing, artwork, gifts, sport clothing, horse-related items, and event souvenir items; and the brand-new “Kentucky Uncovered,” which highlights products unique to the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Rolex Kentucky also features a variety of other entertaining attractions. General admission to the Kentucky Horse Park, America’s only theme park dedicated to horses, is included with each Rolex Kentucky ticket.