Oh, Kentucky is almost upon us! How very exciting. I have been blessed twice to run around that course clear of jump faults and even once squeeze into the awards presentation. I have a photo hanging in my bathroom of just my face and my horse’s head after crossing the finish line at my first Rolex and I gotta say, the old adage of a picture saying a thousand words rings true in that one. Although I won’t say there is nothing better than finishing your first four-star, I will say that as far as horse accomplishments go, there really is nothing like it. Galloping around that beautiful track with the course roped off and those enormous jumps coming your way… it truly is something very very special that I will never forget.
I suspect that the Rolex this year will be naturally a tough course as one can never have an ‘easy’ four-star course, but not as tough as we will see in other years, seeing as this is an ‘off’ year for Games. In general, I think the course designers go heavier on WEG years and the such to let people, and selectors, have a better idea of where they stand for the major Games coming up that year. So, although it will certainly be hard, I do not think it will be as hard as next year for example. This said, I think one is going to need to be very good in all three phases to make the top 10, as I don’t think the cross country will be as influential as say, a Rio.
I have predicted my top nine and had to have a draw for my 10th slot in the Rolex. I also had to wimp out on two that I think are almost impossible to predict unless one allows assistance of a magic eight ball. A few names I have left black as well, as I do not know enough about them to make any real comment, but I know enough to think they won’t be in my top 10 anyway. I haven’t even cheated and looked to see what Jimmy predicted this year!
Two exciting things about this year is that we do have a fair amount of Canadians competing, which is good news for our future and, as well, Leslie has a number of his American Emerging Athletes (under 25s) competing, which shows the strength and success of that program that we are very honoured to be a part of.
So, here are my Rolex predictions…and no matter what…I hope for everyone to come home safe and sound and have a good Rolex memory like mine that will last them a lifetime.
The Rolex Draw Order
Lauren Kieffer, LANDMARK’S MONTE CARLO ~ These guys are heading off to Europe I believe.
James Alliston, PARKER ~ Parker is an amazing cross country machine and my friend James, who was my bunk partner for the best part of a year at Bruce Davidson’s, is a wonderful guy and a gutsy, good rider. But, sadly, Parker has never been a fan of dressage and I cannot imagine that at the age of 15 he has turned into a dancing queen, so I doubt that unless the course is much harder than I expect it to be this year that we will see James in the top 10.
Jessica Phoenix, A LITTLE ROMANCE ~ Well I famously or infamously (?) called Jessie ‘Dumbledore’ after she pulled off a half decent dressage score with this horse in Rio. I have much respect for what Jessie has done with this horse, but I’m afraid that much like Parker, I doubt Blue Eyes has turned into Ginger Rogers anytime recently and it will take all of Jessie’s amazing riding to get Blue Eyes around the large jumps at Rolex. I hope she gets the job done, but she won’t be anywhere near the top 10 unless she performs some major acts of black magic.
Joe Meyer, CLIP CLOP ~ I love Joe and his cross country riding. I was excited to get to announce at the Ocala three-day for a short period last weekend and when Joe was out on course I had great fun announcing that it was due to his small stature and condensed state that he was able to go so lightning fast as he was much more aerodynamic than I. But in all honesty, the guy is a great cross country rider and I hope all the best for him. Clippy has some amazing moves and has been known to throw in some death defying plunges and bucks when he feels up to it, but, sadly, I don’t think Clippy has the moves the judges want to see to get near the top, but I hope they have a great weekend nonetheless.
Phillip Dutton, I’M SEW READY ~ Well clearly this rider needs no smoke blown his way, we all know he is the boss cross country… And this horse, owned by Kristen Bond is very nice as all of her horses that I have seen have been. But at the end of the day, looking at its results, I don’t think it is ‘so ready’ yet to be a top contender here.
William Coleman III, OBOS O’REILLY ~ I think this is a really good horse and with all the stars and moons lining up Will could deffinatly pilot him into a top ten place. But he hasn’t done much since 2015, must have been broken in 2016 one would think anyways from the results. So, it is just lack of competitions, rather than lack of my faith in the horse or rider, that keep me from putting him into my top 10.
Bruce (Buck) Davidson, PARK TRADER ~ Park Trader is a cool, but quirky horse. Buck has done very little to not much at all with the horse this year and in the past, he seems to just miss as a top horse. So, for that reason he can’t be in our top 10.
Katie Ruppel, HOUDINI ~ Houdini has just come back to Katie from being ridden by Clayton Fredericks to varying degrees of success. I thought Clayton did a very good job with the horse; he brought it back down the levels, built it back up, but once back at the advanced level, in the eleventh hour, is seemed to bail out on him cross country. Now Katie has taken the ride back and, of course, she did very well with it last summer winning at Richland, but she must have balls the size of my house to just take the ride back, run it at one intermediate a week ago, and aim it at Rolex. If she does anything more than dressage I am not sure if I will be disgusted or inspired by her…but nonetheless, they will need all the skills of a Houdini to pull it off.
Hannah Sue Burnett, HARBOUR PILOT ~ Headed to the UK
Lillian Heard, SHARE OPTION ~ No comment
Boyd Martin, CRACKER JACK ~ I guess Boyd didn’t want to dance with the vicarage vee again this year? I will say, a bit like Jessie and Blue Eyes, I think Boyd has gone above and beyond what any normal mortal would chose to try and do with this horse… But I’m putting my money on Steady Eddy… sorry Cracker.
Colleen Rutledge, COVERT RIGHTS ~ No comment
Courtney Cooper, WHO’S A STAR ~ I really like Courtney a lot and I am 99% sure this is a homebred of hers, which we all love the Disney story there…but sadly, although he looks like a star, this gelding has just not quite lived up to his name. Maybe they will get lucky one day, but until then they are not in my top 10.
Sarah Cousins, TSUNAMI ~ Love watching her ride cross country. But more often than not, for whatever reason, she tends to go to Rolex and pull out. So, between that and the fact that this horse doesn’t usually pull off dressage results, they’re not in my top 10.
Madeline Backus, P S ARIANNA ~ This is one of Leslie’s emerging under 25 athletes. Another Disney story, as I believe her mom bred this horse. Arianna is a hot tamale in the dressage, which is very disappointing for Madeline, but man, are they like poetry in motion cross country. This mare is no spring chicken and I hope for Madeline and Arianna that they have one heck of a ride cross country and have a memory that will last a lifetime.
Bunnie Sexton, RISE AGAINST ~ I don’t know Bunnie, but I have seen the videos and the blogs about her and she seems a real super woman and an American dream story, but I don’t think she will be a success story at Rolex, at least not so far as the top 10 success.
Selena O’Hanlon, FOXWOOD HIGH ~ I really really want to put Selena and Woody in my top 10. I REALLY want to. His dressage has just been getting better and better and man can Selena ride him cross country; very well and very fast. I was a bit worried to see him have three rails in a combined here the other day and wonder what it will be like after he runs cross country. So, for that reason, I am leaving him off my top 10. But I don’t want to.
Kristin Schmolze, BALLYLAFFIN BRACKEN ~ This horse really hasn’t done a whole heck of a lot since it did rolex back in 2015. I guess he could surprise me and Kristin certainly is a fierce competitor, but I doubt it has been prepared as much as it needs to to have a top 10 placing.
Lynn Symansky, DONNER ~ Going abroad
Erin Sylvester, METTRAISE ~ No comment
Allie Sacksen, SPARROW’S NIO ~ No comment
Maxime Livio, QALAO DES MERS ~ This horse has been first and second at two four stars last year. So, any unforeseen disasters aside, a definite TOP 10.
Jolie Wentworth, GOOD KNIGHT ~ We actually sold this horse to Jolie years ago as a four- or five-year-old, bred by the great Canadian breeders King Ridge! This is a very nice horse, but, unfortunately, I don’t foresee him entering the top 10.
Daniela Moguel CECELIA ~ No comment
Hawley Bennett-Awad, JOLLYBO ~ Great Canadian rider with a pretty nifty horse that is new to her. This pair has had some good results, but not the best lead up to Rolex with a bad result at Chatt Hills a few weeks ago and then a pretty rough show jumping at the combined test here a week ago. I hope all the best for Hawley, but I would be surprised to see them in the top 10.
Jenny Caras, FERNHILL FORTITUDE ~ Another one of Leslie’s very good emerging athletes, this young lady is improving all the time and so too has her horse. She put in one heck of a performance on the UK Emerging Athletes tour last year and I suspect she will have a good rolex, but probably not a top 10.
Caroline Martin, SPRING EASY ~ Another one of Leslie’s emerging athletes, Caroline is a fierce competitor and I can promise you she will be there to do absolutely everything she can. She has a very nice horse in Spring Easy, but I’m not sure that he will be quite up to a top 10 performance. We will see Caroline in the top 10 at Rolex, just probably not this year.
Kelly Prather, TRULY WILEY ~ Kelly is a beautiful rider and very capable of putting in a clear cross country, but her horse is not so much up to the level of competitiveness in the other two arenas to make for a top 10 finish.
Jennifer, McFall HIGH TIMES ~ No comment
Lauren Kieffer, VERMICULUS ~ I love Lauren. If I had a girl crush it would be on Lauren. She is simply one of the most beautiful riders to watch these days at any level on any horse. But her best horses are on their way to Europe. I would put Lauren in the top 10 all day long, but not on this horse.
Jessica Phoenix, PAVAROTTI ~ As mentioned, I think a lot of Jessie’s ability and certainly Rottie can dance and can jump. But I think he also can be difficult to make time with, difficult to jump on the last day, and thanks to Fredericks/Phoenix Gate this past summer we all also know, difficult to keep sound. That’s why he will be left off my top 10.
Elisabeth Halliday-Sharp, FERNHILL BY NIGHT ~ I would put money on this combination being right up there after dressage as the two present the most glamorous picture. Blackie is one heck of a large presence in the dressage ring and Liz one heck of a dressage rider. They seem plagued, however, by blips here and there that just have kept them out of the top. They look like they should win, however, a few twenties have been dotting his dance card and for that reason, I won’t have them in my top 10.
Phillip Dutton, FERNHILL FUGITIVE ~ It is with this horse that I give Phillip his top 10 slot. I think they have such a relationship now and Phillip will have the horse so ready and it should come together for a TOP 10 as long as they can leave the rails up on the final day.
Bruce (Buck) Davidson, COPPER BEACH ~ I’m giving Buck a top 10 with this horse. Unlike some of the others who have had a less than desirable road to Rolex, Buck and Copper Beach have been on the rise leading to the event. I think it is their time to have a go and you will see them in the TOP 10.
Holly Payne Caravella, NEVER OUTFOXED ~ Holly is a very good rider and has balls the size of Florida when it comes to cross country riding. However, Outfoxed is a difficult dressage partner and also retired in North Carolina a few weeks ago so my money wouldn’t be on them.
Waylon Roberts, KELECYN COGNAC ~ Sadly, Waylon has withdrawn, as “Dan” has come down with shipping fever.
Rachel McDonough, IRISH RHYTHM ~ Great partnership, great love story, but never in top 10.
Kurt Martin, DELUX Z ~ Kurt is a very good rider and this is a very nice horse, but it needs to get a lot faster than it’s previous CCI results if it wants to be a top 10.
Andrea Baxter, INDY 500 ~ No comment
Lisa Marie Fergusson, HONOR ME ~ This pair had a pretty rough dressage at Red Hills this year and I think you may see him boil over at Rolex so sadly; it’s a no.
Ellen Doughty-Hume, SIR OBERON ~ No comment
Robert Meyerhoff, DUNLAVIN’S TOKEN ~ God bless… Bobby recently broke a few ribs and battered a lung just within the last few weeks, but he tells me he’s going to give it a go anyway. This is a great old horse that was formerly campaigned by his beautiful Canadian wife Danica and it is a lovely jumper but not so fond of the dressage. So, it will be a no for my top 10, but a big bear hug for Bobby’s tenacity and their love for this horse that has been in their lives for so long.
Clark Montgomery, LOUGHAN GLEN ~ OH GOD. This is a rat’s nest. You gotta love Clark and he is a friend of ours and boy is his horse lovely in every way, but making a prediction on them would make you sweaty…just ask David and the American Selectors. He will be either top three or a not finish. So, I am going to chicken out here and plead the fifth on this pair. I would need to consult my magic eight ball.
Aidan Keogh, MASTER TREDSTEP ~ I don’t know this gentleman or his horse, but looking at his results they seem to be sprinkled with more twenties than would make me want to put a horse on a plane and fly him across the pond, so I wouldn’t bet on him landing in the top 10, but hopefully he will enjoy the Kentucky hospitality.
Sharon White, COOLEY ON SHOW ~ I am adding Sharon to my top 10. If you haven’t seen this horse you simply must. You will be hard pressed to find a much more impressive jumper that seems to eat up the cross country as easily as it is careful show jumping. I’m not sure that Sharon has really figured him out totally on the flat yet…but if she can do just good enough there, their jumping should pull them into the TOP 10.
Hannah Sue Burnett, UNDER SUSPECTION ~ Top 10. Hanny Sue although perhaps not quite as sexy as Lauren, is still a damn good young American Rider and this is a damn sexy mare she’s on. I would bet on Hannah and this horse and this is why they are in my TOP 10.
Ryan Wood, FERNHILL CLASSIC ~ Ryan’s a great guy and a probably even greater rider and I suspect over the next years you are going to see a lot of him in the top 10 at Rolex, but I don’t think that will be the case this year. This horse ain’t the best at jumping on the last day and I suspect although he may improve on his dressage score a bit from last year, I’m not sure the jumping will be.
Kim Severson, COOLEY CROSS BORDER ~ I have absolute belief that Kim is still one of the finest riders America has and this is certainly a very nice horse. I suspect she will pull off one heck of a test, but what will keep me from having complete faith in her top 10 placing is whether or not the horse will get the trip. To be fair it did a very good job of Fairhill last year, which is certainly a major endurance test, but will it be fast enough on a course that length? Not sure… It is because of that unknown that I place her alongside the next entry as shared for my 10th SPOT on my list.
Zara Tindall, HIGH KINGDOM ~ This is interesting as Zara has only run this horse once so far this year at an advanced horse trial and to be fair they did win it. He’s getting up there in years now High Kingdom and I don’t wonder if she is bringing him to Rolex thinking it will be easier on him than Badminton for his last hurrah. I’m not comfortable with how little he’s run, but I would like to think that Zara for all her experience and her long-term relationship with this horse, knows what she is doing and for that reason, I place her next to Kim as possibly taking the 10th SPOT.
Tim Bourke, LUCKAUN QUALITY ~ Watch this cross country for sure. Tim and this horse are magic cross country, but the dressage has never been there and I don’t think will pop up on the day. As good as his jumping phases tend to be, his dressage is as bad, but look for them to show you a masterclass cross country.
Michael Jung, FISCHERROCANA FST ~ Well yes, of course TOP 10. He’s not showing up to complete is he? He’s looking for the grand slam.
Lillian Heard, LCC BARNABY ~ No comment
Savannah Fulton, CAPTAIN JACK ~ Woodge is another of Leslie’s emerging athletes. She is a strong competitor who has always been fierce cross country and is starting to add to that some real style and sophistication in the other two phases. Sadly, her horse is not seemly keeping up to his rider’s improvements especially in the dressage so it will be experience and not a top 10 that Woodge will earn for herself this week.
Matthew Brown, SUPER SOCKS BCF ~ I’m putting Matt in my TOP 10. A bizarre pick perhaps, but I really think this is a good horse and Matt can do a great job with him. Also, I hope to god he gets into the top 10 or we will all have to read about his mending holes in boats or overcoming the Zen mountains or something else along those lines in his chronicle blogs LOLOLOL.
Jordan Linstedt, REVITAVET CAPATO ~ This is a very impressive beautiful moving horse that Jordan has done one heck of a good job training. Sadly, I don’t think his show jumping will be up to snuff and that will keep her out of the top.
Tim Price, RINGWOOD SKY BOY ~ Gosh this is another hard one a bit like Clark. This horse’s results can be a hero or a zero. Again, I’m going to wimp out and plead the fifth.
Doug Payne, VANDIVER ~ I like Doug. I think he is one of the best American riders that flies a bit under the radar because he doesn’t blow smoke up his own butt on social media like a lot of the other riders his age tend to do, so people don’t always take real notice of him. But he keeps his nose down, works hard, has become one heck of a rider and has done some good things with this horse. I think he will be TOP 10. Don’t let me down Doug.
Boyd Martin, STEADY EDDIE ~ I’m going to go ahead and throw a bizarre top 10 out to Boyd on this horse. It’s one of those strange things where he’s tried to sell the horse for ages, the dressage was never very good, and because no one will buy him he’s soldiered on and seems to be getting better and better. The judges also seem to forgive, at least at his hometown shows, what I would think were tests that should have been scored a bit harsher. But he has that Aussie charm and he sure can run and jump this horse, so I am throwing caution to the wind and betting on him for a TOP 10.
Will Faudree, PFUN ~ Love will and love this big grey horse that he’s done such a beautiful job producing, but I don’t think he’s quite marinated yet for a top 10…but no doubt…he will have fun.
Holly Jacks-Smither, MORE INSPIRATION ~ Holly is one of our Canadian love stories that we love to cheer for, but I’m afraid her are Morris won’t have what it takes to have a top 10 finish.
William Coleman III, TIGHT LINES ~ Very nice blood horse with a few good advanced results, but I don’t think he looks ready just yet for a top 10.
Lauren Kieffer, VERONICA ~ Going abroad
Phillip Dutton, MR. MEDICOTT ~ I suspect this will be the last we see of Mr. Medicott and he’s kinda been brought out of the ashes, dusted off and prepared rather miraculously for this event. I suppose if anyone can do it, it would be Phillip, but I have a hard time believing it’s meant to be.
Jessica Phoenix, BENTLEY’S BEST ~ This could be the best of Jessie’s rides. This is a very nice horse, but still very green in experience at the upper levels and for that reason I think will be out of the top 10, as I could see him possibly making a green mistake cross country, but certainly a very good horse for Canada’s future.
Bruce (Buck) Davidson, PETITE FLOWER ~ Everyone loves to root for this little mare and Buck has really got some great dressage out of her these days. But I think she is tired and done at this level so she is not in my top 10.