Mark Todd (NZL) has flown to the US for this weekend’s Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event (April 28-May 1) in a bid to keep up momentum in the HSBC FEI Classics™.
Todd interrupted celebrations for his magnificent win at Badminton last weekend and within 24 hours was on a plane en route to Kentucky, where today he will trot up NZB Grass Valley, a horse that knows its way around the Kentucky Horse Park having been a key member of New Zealand’s bronze medal team at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ last year.
Both Todd and fellow traveller Mary King (GBR), third at Badminton, have said that the lure of the generous prize-money on offer in the HSBC FEI Classics™ is making them plan their CCI4* seasons carefully.
King, a member of Britain’s triumphant gold medal team last year, is making a two-pronged attack: she rides her home-bred mare Kings Temptress, seventh at Burghley last year, and the exciting prospect Fernhill Urco, a horse that had clocked up useful CCI3* results before spending most of last year on the sidelines.
Other overseas visitors in the 53-strong field are former (2006) Kentucky winner Clayton Fredericks (AUS) with the German-bred mare Be My Guest, third at Burghley last year, and William Fox-Pitt (GBR) and Oliver Townend (GBR) who have three HSBC FEI Classics™ titles between them.
Fox-Pitt, last year’s winner on Cool Mountain, this time rides the French-bred Neuf des Coeurs, winner of Blair Castle CCI3* (GBR) last year, and Townend has the nine-year-old ODT Sonas Rovatio, eighth at Boekelo.
A large home contingent is headed by three former winners: Philip Dutton with the veteran Truluck, fourth at Burghley in 2009, and new ride Fernhill Eagle, second at Fair Hill CCI3*; triple victor Kim Severson, who has Tipperary Liadhnan back at top level, and Karen O’Connor, who will ride Quintus 54.
It is expected that the Cross-Country course will have a different look and feel. Derek di Grazia (USA) has succeeded Mike Etherington-Smith as designer and says he is planning “a few surprises”. However, the 45-effort track will run in the same direction as last year’s event, following a similar route to that used at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™.
“My whole approach is to take advantage of all we worked on last year,” says di Grazia, who worked as Etherington-Smith’s assistant for three years. “There are a lot of great features to be used from last year, but I will slowly be incorporating my own ideas.”
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