Andrew Nicholson of New Zealand expertly guided Quimbo around the show jumping course to win the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, Presented by Land Rover, for the first time on a score of 41.0. William Fox-Pitt of Great Britain finished second on Seacookie TSF (46.2), and Nicholson also claimed third place on Calico Joe (52.8) at the Kentucky Horse Park.
Hawley Bennett-Awad was the top-placed Canadian, in seventh place aboard Gin & Juice, with a score of 60.2. Three more Canadians rounded out the top 20 – Shandiss McDonald and Rockfield Grant Juan were 16th (73.7); Peter Barry and Kilrodan Abbott were 17th (74.0); and Kendal Lehari and Daily Edition were 19th (75.2). Micheline Jordan was 29th with Irish Diamonds (118.6). Unfortunately, Jessica Phoenix and Exponential withdrew before cross-country after receiving a score of 65.5 in dressage.
Nicholson, 51, took home the coveted Rolex watch that goes to the winner, along with the $80,000 winner’s share of the $250,000 purse. He also earned $30,000 for third place.
Victory also put him in position the win the $350,000 Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing, which goes to the rider who can win the four-star three-day events at Rolex Kentucky, Badminton (England) and Burghley (England) in succession. Nicholson won Burghley in September 2012 on Avebury, one of three horses he has entered to aim for the Grand Slam next weekend at Badminton.
“Because of the Rolex Grand Slam, this win is even more important than normally winning a four-star. Now I have a chance to win it—if William lets me,” said Nicholson.
Nicholson began the final leg of his quest for the winner’s Rolex watch by guiding Calico Joe to a 12-fault round, for lowering three jumps. Then Fox-Pitt, the 2010 and 2012 winner, smoothly rode Seacookie to a perfect score, increasing the pressure on Nicholson.
Next, Davidson and Ballynoe Castle RM lowered two fences late in the course, for 8 faults, to drop behind Fox-Pitt and to give Nicholson a cushion of two rails on Quimbo. But he didn’t need it, as the dark bay gelding soared over the jumps while finishing three seconds slow, for 3 time faults.
Only four of the 29 horses who started over Richard Jeffery’s course finished with faultless rounds. In addition to Fox-Pitt, they were Symansky and Donner, Hawley Bennett-Awad on Gin ‘N Juice (seventh place), and Peter Barry and Kilrodan Abbot (17th place). Bennett-Awad and Barry each represent Canada.
“Quimbo is a very, very smart horse and an unbelievable show jumper. That’s what he’s bred to be,” said Nicholson.
Quimbo is a Spanish-bred gelding, 10. “His breeding isn’t standard for an event horse. It’s good show jumping blood, but it’s not the out-and-out galloping sort of blood,” said Nicholson. “I’ve learned this weekend that he’s got enough stamina to do the four-star jumping efforts and the gallop.”
Fox-Pitt, 44, could also win the Rolex Grand Slam at Badminton. That’s because he won Burghley in 2011 and Rolex Kentucky in 2012, but Badminton had to be cancelled because of rain in 2012. So Rolex officials have determined that, if he wins this year’s Badminton event, they will consider it winning the three events in succession.
“We’ve got a few more days of peace before it all kicks off at Badminton. So many things have to come off in a row for either of us,” said Fox-Pitt.
“But at the end of the day it probably won’t be either of us. Michael Jung, here we come,” he said, referring to the German rider who won the 2010 World Championships and the 2012 Olympics and is entered at Badminton.
By placing fourth, Davidson, 37, won the Rolex USEF Four-Star Championship for the third time. His father, six-time Rolex Kentucky winner Bruce Davidson, was here all weekend to advise and support him.
“Rolex Kentucky has been a great place for the Davidsons, and to have both mom and dad here to help me this weekend was pretty cool,” said Buck. “And, no, I’m not going to let my dad borrow the Land Rover that I won yesterday.”
Nicholson earned a $10,000 bonus as the rider earning the best show jumping score and wearing SSG gloves and as the overall winner, in their “Go Low For the Dough” contest.
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