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Kentucky Key for Rio Hopefuls

Kentucky Key for Rio Hopefuls

All roads lead to Kentucky this week for the first of the biggies, the Rolex Kentucky CCI4*.

New Zealand is sending a strong contingent, spear-headed by former winner Blyth Tait, who is back for the first time since 2000 when he won the class aboard Welton Envy.

Tait has also twice won the Carimati Cup as the top placed foreign rider.

This time he takes Xanthus III, his 14-year-old bay gelding who was second at the CICO3* special Olympic qualifier at Boekelo in 2015.

Tim Price was looking to go one better than his runner-up spot on Wesko to Michael Jung (GER) aboard Fischerrocana FST in 2015, however, injury has seen his top horse side-lined. Price will start ten-year-old Bango who he believes has plenty of talent having placed fourth at the CCI4* in Luhmuhlen last year in his first 4* start.

“Bango is a serious contender for the big events,” said Price. “Every year he comes of age a little more and I have always deemed him to be a successful 4* horse. He hasn’t been winning everything all the way up through the grades, but he is a top quality horse and it is just a matter of time before he starts being completely established at this level.”

Price has taken the horse carefully.

The horse came to him as a three-year-old for breaking in and he didn’t let him go. Now he is looking forward to challenging Jung on him.

“It is great fun to be competing against him,” says price. “It is exciting and I gained a lot of confidence last year with Wesko at Kentucky and Ringwood Sky Boy at Burghley giving Michael (Jung) a run for his money. Even though he is an incredible performer, he is beatable and anything can happen.”

It is the first time Todd’s NZB Campino has started at Kentucky, however, the (team) bronze medal-winning horse from the London Olympics has 4* starts under his belt from Badminton, Pau and Luhmuhlen.

Paget has fond memories of Kentucky and is looking forward to getting Clifton Signature out on the course.

“I believe he is good,” he says of the 11-year-old chestnut who has just one other 4* start to his credit. “It takes a long time to get horses in a position to win these competitions but I believe he has the making to do it. It just has to come together on the day over all three phases.”

It will be the fourth time Paget has ridden at the Kentucky Equestrian Park – he has had two Rolex starts, with a sixth his best effort, and the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games as well.

“I have always enjoyed myself there,” said Paget. “I am excited to see how my young horse will go there. I would like to have him ready for the Olympics and this will be a good test for him.”

US-based Joe Myer will start aboard Clip Clop, who his co-owner Madison Foote describe as “a rowdy little Irish pony”.

“Clip Clop is in great shape,” says Myer. “He is coming along really well. He has had good runs but it is a big step up for him to 4*. I am confident in his abilities cross country – he has done all the fitness work. I don’t think I have ever seen him look so good.”

It is Myer’s second Kentucky start and Clip Clop’s first.

New Zealand has a strong history at the event. Andrew Nicholson and Quimbo won it in 2013, Blyth Tait aboard Welton Envoy in 2000 and Nick Larkin on Red in 1998. Nicholson, Tait and Larkin have each won the Carimati Cup as the highest placed foreign rider, while Heelan Tompkins and Masterpeace won the young rider trophy in 1998.

Equestrian Sports New Zealand high performance eventing leader Erik Duvander is looking forward to a good showing at Kentucky this year.

“It is a good test for those who are competing on surfaces similar to the Olympics and a stadium for dressage and showjumping, so more of a championship feel,” said Duvander. “We will learn about flying those horses across the Atlantic in preparation for Rio and that cross country is a proper 4* course by a designer who builds in a horse-friendly style. It is a great place for horses to develop and learn at that level.”

There is also a Kiwi connection on the ground jury at Kentucky in two-time Olympian Andrew Bennie, who is now based in the United Kingdom.

The horse details -

NZB Campino (owned by NZ Bloodstock and Sir Mark Todd), Xanthus III (owned by Jane Lovell-Smith and Blyth Tait), Bango (owned by Numero Uno Syndicate), Clip Clop (owned by Madison and Theresa Foote and Joe Myer) and Clifton Signature (owned by Frances Stead and Russell Hall).

What: Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event

When: April 28-May 1

Where: Kentucky, United States

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