By Nancy Jaffer
May 1, 2016
Rolex Kentucky is the Western Hemisphere’s only 4-star event, and one of just six in the world, so it’s always difficult.
But throw in a day of rainstorms and the cross-country phase becomes even more testing. No one made the 11-minute, 15-second optimum time yesterday on the course designed by Derek di Grazia, who also will be laying out the routes for the 2018 World Equestrian Games and the 2020 Olympics.
It takes experience to know how to handle a situation like the one riders faced at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington this weekend. With 64 horses competing, the ground became difficult as both the competition and the rain continued.
“Horses that ran earlier in the day had different going than the horses at the end of the day. I was shocked at how much the footing changed. It deteriorated quite a bit,” said Sinead Halpin, who operates a stable in Long Valley. Even so, she moved up with Manoir de Carneville from 18th after dressage on Friday to 11th following cross-country.
The question is, if the ground had been better, could he have risen higher in the rankings? Tate, as the Selle Français is known, has finished as high as third place at Rolex. He enjoys quite the resume, having been an Olympic alternate in 2012 and part of the U.S. effort at the World Equestrian Games in France two years ago.
“I was really happy with him, but I would have loved to have run earlier in the day,” commented Sinead, who went on course with her chestnut Selle Français at 1:36 p.m., more than three and one-half hours after cross-country began at 10 a.m.
Rolex leader Michael Jung of Germany, who has Olympic, world championship and European championship gold medals to his credit, started on course at 11:36 a.m. He was only two seconds over the optimum time with Fischerrocana FST, but no one was any faster.
Interestingly, Holly Payne Caravella, who operates a stable in Chester, went at 10:24 a.m. on the thoroughbred Never Outfoxed, and her effort that collected only 2.8 time penalties (which means she was a mere 7 seconds slow) boosted her from 67th after dressage to 19th. She was tied with two other women for the best time by an American.
On her second horse, Santino, Holly was 15th after dressage and looked as if she stood a good chance of moving up, considering the way the thoroughbred, who went at 1 p.m., was handling the course. Then she ran into trouble at the new water jump.
“He hung his stifles on the ‘in’ of the water, and I got knocked forward and almost came off. I tried to save him, but by the time I picked up to save it, I was headed right toward the crowd, so there was no way of getting back to the corner (the second element),” she recalled.
“I had to circle back to do the option on the corner, so I crossed my tracks and picked up 20 (penalties) to get back to the option. It was a total shame. I rode a bit aggressive; I should have been more patient. It’s nothing related to him. It was totally my fault.” Because of the crowds and roping, there was no way for her to turn back without crossing her tracks. So Santino dropped 26 places to 41st.
Asked about the footing, she said. “It definitely deteriorated. On the galloping lanes I was trying to look for good ground, moving a little left or right The take-offs were pretty good, but a couple of the landing spots, I felt them maybe stumble on landing on the back side of the jump, it was getting a little thick. But it didn’t seem to be bothering him.”
The event ends today with stadium jumping. It will be an opportunity for some riders to recoup, and others to drop further in the standings. The prediction is for more rain, but luckily, it is run in an arena on all-weather footing, so the ground shouldn’t be a factor.
I’m still drying out from cross-country, but I’ll be back in the weather again so I can update tomorrow night to tell you how the Jersey girls fared.