Swiss rider Felix Vogg marched out to an early lead following the first half of dressage at the 2019 Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event presented by MARS EQUESTRIAN, taking the top spot on a score of 28 aboard Colero. Nipping at his heels are two Americans, Elisabeth Halliday-Sharp riding Deniro Z (30.9) and Buck Davidson on Park Trader (32.1) Davidson is also standing fifth on his second ride Jak My Style.
“I’m pretty happy, he did a good test,” Vogg said of his ride aboard the 11-year-old Westphalian gelding. “We tried something new, I didn’t warm him up too long, and it worked out quite well. He’s the kind of horse that just doesn’t take his atmosphere too seriously. He always puts in a good test and if I ride well, he does what I want.”
Vogg, 29, of Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany, is competing in Kentucky for the first time, but he came as a spectator last year and entered with the encouragement of his good friend, Michael Jung, a three-time winner here.
“I really like it,” Vogg said of his trip to Kentucky. “Michael Jung, my friend, (has been here a lot), and he was always really positive about it.”
You can see a video of Vogg’s winning ride here.
Halliday-Sharp, 40, who splits her time between Ocala, Florida and Sussex, England, was pleased with the performance from her 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood, despite a few bobbles in the flying changes.
“I was really pleased with him,” she said. “It’s his second five star and his first time at Kentucky. It’s never easy being third to go and I really felt he gave me everything he had. I was a little disappointed with the score, I’m not going to lie. He does struggle with his changes and he did today, but I’m thrilled with the horse. He gave me everything and pushed hard and did phenomenal trot work. And, once he understands the mechanics of the flying changes, he’ll get those too.”
Halliday-Sharp is currently leading the Land Rover/USEF CCI5*-L Championship as the highest-placed American. You can see a video of her ride here.
Davidson, 43, of Unionville, Pennsylvania was very happy with his veteran Park Trader, but ecstatic with Jak My Style, a relatively new ride for him.
“Park Trader isn’t fantastic at this phase, but he is maturing and getting better, finally, at the age of 17,” he said with a laugh. “He did as well as he could possibly do, he did all the flying changes as well as he could do them. He did everything as well as he knows how.
“But Jak did it better than he knows how to do,” he continued. “Everything was better than he knows how, and he did it all in the ring. I’m very excited about my first time riding him here.”
Park Trader is a 17-year-old Irish Sport Horse, while Jak My Style is 14 year-old American-bred Thoroughbred.
All three riders are excited about the challenge course designer Derek di Grazia has set for them on his cross-country course, but they are not taking it for granted, especially the level of fitness it will require.
“Derek is a brilliant designer and he knows what he’s doing, but for my horse it will be quite challenging, the way it is all the time going up and down,” Vogg said. “It is more fitness work than some think and, as I saw last year, a fitter horse does better. Every five star is challenging, but especially here you need a fit horse. But I’m really looking forward to it, it’s a beautiful course and looks fun to ride.”
“Derek always loves to bring something different, he tries to keep us guessing a little bit,” said Halliday-Sharp. “He always builds a bold, forward-riding track. (Deniro’s) last five star was at Luhmuhlen (Germany) and that was very different track, very twisty and in the trees. This is a more open, galloping track and I hope it will reward a big, bold jumping horse, which he is. It’s a fair course, but there’s a lot of questions and a lot to do out there.”
“It’s deceivingly hilly here, there’s a long pull uphill from the start to the quarry, then you have a minute down to the Head of the Lake, but then it’s back up hill,” Davidson said. “It’s a course that lulls you in the beginning, but then it gets very technical at the end, so being smooth and having a very fit horse is the key. It will be interesting to find out how tired they get. There’s a lot of jumping at the end this year, almost more than the beginning.”
Davidson has three horses competing this weekend, his third and final mount Copper Beech will strut his stuff tomorrow during the second day of dressage. Saturday will see horses and riders competing in the heart of the test, the cross-country, with a nail-biting finish on Sunday in the show jumping.