Lexington, Ky. – Despite some unseasonably cool, windy, and even snowy weather in Kentucky this week, day one of the 2021 Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event presented by MARS EquestrianTM got off to a strong start with the first 30 horse-and-athlete pairs in the CCI5*-L taking their turn in the dressage arena on Thursday. With the first half of the CCI5*-L competitors completing the first phase, the leaderboard already has some heavy hitters at the top.
Marilyn Little (Howey, Fla.) and RF Scandalous, the Oldenburg mare owned by Jacqueline Mars and Phoebe and Michael Manders turned in an exceptional test to post a score of 21.7 and move into first place. Not only was that good enough to top the leaderboard today, but it is the best dressage score by any Kentucky Three-Day competitor since 2009.
“I had a plan for how I wanted today to go,” said Little. “As luck happened with the weather, she was exhilarated by the cold. We came up to the warm-up area and she was just super excited to be going into the stadium, so my plan changed a little bit. I rode a little more conservatively in the first few movements. But I felt her maturity and her professionalism coming through, and I said, ‘All right, we’ve gotta show them what we can do.’”
Little described “Kitty” as her horse of a lifetime, and said it’s a privilege to be competing together at Kentucky, especially after a year of canceled competitions due to COVID-19. While the atmosphere at LRK3DE is very different this year without the thousands of spectators that usually crowd the Kentucky Horse Park for the event, Kitty takes it all in stride.
“With her temperament—she’s quite a character—you would think that the crowds would affect her negatively, but she’s really a performer. She knows what she’s doing,” Little said, adding that the lack of spectators might have more of an impact on her than on her horse. “Especially on cross-country day, you really enjoy the energy, and we’re going to have to create that ourselves out there. At the same time, we don’t usually have snow for this! So we have plenty to deal with.”
Less than two points behind Little, Great Britain’s Oliver Townend and Angela Hislop's Irish Sport Horse gelding Cooley Master Class, are currently in second with a 24.1. This pair were the overall winners at LRK3DE in 2018 and 2019, and after the 2020 competition was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Townend and the Irish Sport Horse gelding will be looking to make it a three-peat in Kentucky this year.
Another LRK3DE legend, William Fox-Pitt of Great Britain, rounds out the top three on the leaderboard after day one. Fox-Pitt has won the event three times previously, in 2010, 2012, and 2014. With his sole mount at this event, The Oratorio Syndicate's Oratorio, he posted a 27.9 to move into third place.
Land Rover USEF CCI5* National Championship presented by MARS EquestrianTM
As the leading U.S. athlete, Little also currently leads the standings for the Land Rover USEF CCI5*-L National Championship presented by MARS Equestrian. Little and Kitty are previous winners of this championship, having taken the title in 2018 after posting a dressage score of 24.8 and adding only 8 time penalties on cross-country. Little will be looking to repeat the feat with clear rounds this weekend.
Boyd Martin (Cochranville, Pa.) was the National Champion in 2019 with Tsetserleg TSF, and after the first day of dressage, he sits in second place with Long Island T, the Oldenburg/Thoroughbred gelding owned by The Long Island T Syndicate. Their score of 28.2 puts them just a quarter of a point behind Fox-Pitt for a fourth place standing in the overall CCI5*-L. Martin will have two more opportunities to vie for a top spot on Friday with his two other rides for this year’s event, Tsetserleg TSF and On Cue.
Will Coleman (Gordonsville, Va.) and his longtime partner Tight Lines, an off-track French Thoroughbred owned by The Conair Syndicate, posted a 31.9 in the dressage today, putting them in third place for the CCI5*-L National Championship and in sixth position overall behind Tim Price and Bango of New Zealand. Coleman and Tight Lines have completed LRK3DE three times previously, with their best finish in 2018 when they finished in 12th place.
Day two of dressage in the CCI5*-L is scheduled to begin on Friday, April 23, at 12:15 p.m. Visit the LRK3DE website for the latest ride times, schedule of events, and scoring.
Watch the USEF Network for wall-to-wall coverage of the LRK3DE. The live stream will broadcast to North America. Not a US Equestrian member? Sign up for a free fan membership using promo code LRK3DE21 to access the stream.
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