Nicholson’s First Rolex WinBy Staff Report April 29, 2013
New Zealand, with its challenging natural terrain, is a nation that produces strong eventers, and Andrew Nicholson continues to flaunt that tradition by donning the crown at the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, riding Quimbo. Perhaps to drive the point home, he also placed third on Calico Joe.
In all Nicholson, 51, scooped up the coveted Rolex watch, an $80,000 winner’s check and another $30,000 ― a nice dent in what could arguably be called the hardest-earned $250,000 in (horse) show biz (although his six Olympic medals couldn’t have been any walk in the park, it says a lot that this was his first Rolex Kentucky 3DE win).
The competition, presented by Land Rover, ran April 25-28 at the Kentucky Horse Park. Nicholson finished on a score of 41.0, followed by William Fox-Pitt (GBR), who was second on Seacookie TSF (46.2) to Nicholson’s third on Calico Joe (52.8).
Buck Davidson was the top-placed American, claiming fourth on Ballynoe Castle RM (53.2) and winning the Rolex USEF Four-Star Championship. Americans Lynn Synansky, on Donner (54.8), and Will Faudree, on Pawlow (57.8) were fifth and sixth.
In an exciting turn of events Fox-Pitt, who won last year and also in 2010, ended the dressage phase in the lead with Chilli Morning. Nicholson ended Thursday well-placed at second and third, though his best score lagged the Brit’s by five points.
All that changed for phase two, as Nicholson staggered the crowd with two flawless cross country scores of, completing phase two with penalties of 38.0 and 40.8 (Quimbo and Calico Joe, respectively). The USA’s Davidson guided Ballynoe Castle RM to a perfect performance, boosting from eighth to third (45.2), while Fox-Pitt also improved his lot considerably with a clean tour on another horse, Seacookie TSF, boosting that pair from 10th to fourth (46.2).
Nicholson was early in the ring on the third and final day of the three-part competition, guiding Calico Joe through a three-rail (12-fault) show jumping round. Fox-Pitt followed with a clean ride on Seacookie, turning up the heat on Nicholson for his second ride, on Quimbo.
Davidson and Ballynoe Castle RM came in next, lowering two fences late in the course for 8 faults, which dropped them below Fox-Pitt and gave Nicholson a cushion of two rails on Quimbo. But he didn’t need the cushion, as the dark bay gelding cleared the 16 jumps without dropping a rail (although they had three time faults).
A mere four among the 29 combinations that tackled Richard Jeffery’s show jumping course made it around without dropping rails. In addition to Fox-Pitt, they were Symansky and Donner, Hawley Bennett-Awad (CAN) on Gin ‘N Juice (who placed seventh), and Peter Barry (CAN) and Kilrodan Abbot (17th).
“Quimbo is a very, very smart horse and an unbelievable show jumper. That’s what he’s bred to be,” said Nicholson.
Quimbo is a 10-year-old Spanish-bred gelding, 10. “His breeding isn’t standard for an event horse. It’s good show jumping blood, but it’s not the out-and-out galloping sort of blood,” said Nicholson. “I’ve learned this weekend that he’s got enough stamina to do the four-star jumping efforts and the gallop.”
Nicholson earned a $10,000 bonus as the rider earning the best show jumping score and wearing SSG gloves and as the overall winner, in the company’s “Go Low For the Dough” contest.
By placing fourth, Davidson, 37, won the Rolex USEF Four-Star Championship for the third time. His father, six-time Rolex Kentucky winner Bruce Davidson, was here all weekend to advise and support him.
“Rolex Kentucky has been a great place for the Davidsons, and to have both mom and dad here to help me this weekend was pretty cool,” said Buck.
Davidson, who rode three horses around the cross-country course with no jumping penalties, earned a special prize—the Land Rover Best Ride of the Day, as the U.S. rider finishing closest to the optimum time. Presenting sponsor Land Rover awarded him with a two-year complimentary lease on a 2013 Range Rover Evoque. He earned the car for his ride aboard his second mount Mar De Amor.
“The Land Rover award was certainly in my head this morning, but I had lots of other things to think about, so it wasn’t really a priority when I was riding around the course,” said Davidson, of Ocala, Fla., who drove off in his new car after the presentation, saying, “I’m the luckiest guy in the world today!”
Fox-Pitt, the Rolex Kentucky winner in 2010 and 2012, also won $5,000 in SSG Gloves’ “Go Low For Dough” contest as the rider who earns the best dressage score while wearing SSG gloves for his performance aboard Chilli Morning.
Fox-Pitt wound up retiring the horse on cross-country after a refusal at fence 7 a-b-c, the HSBC Water Park. He said he had no explanation for Chilli Morning’s mistake. “Who knows? There will be lots of time to reflect on it. Maybe he just over-jumped the fence before and shut down there,” said Fox-Pitt. “Whatever the reason, there was no point in carrying on—he’s 13 years old, and he’s not here for the experience. We’ll try again another day.”
While Fox-Pitt has won 50 international events, and Nicholson is a six-time Olympian, Alexandra Knowles, 26, of Paris, KY, was competing in her first four-star and managed to come away as the U.S. rider with the best dressage score (43.3, for fourth place).
She, too, wound up retiring her horse at about the midway point on cross country. “I’m a little bit overwhelmed and very, very excited. I just feel so lucky to be here and to have done so well in dressage,” said Knowles. Knowles grew up in California and moved to Paris 1 ½ years ago.
The four-day total attendance at the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event was 65,882. Sunday’s total was 19,989; Saturday’s total was 26,872; Friday’s total was 12,509; and Thursday’s total was 6,512.
The Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, presented by Land Rover, is the Western Hemisphere’s only Four-Star Three-Day Event. It is part of the HSBC FEI ClassicsTM and features the world’s best horses and riders vying for their share of $250,000 in prize money as well as a shot at the $350,000 Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing, which is awarded to any rider who wins the Rolex Kentucky, Mitsubishi Motors Badminton and Land Rover Burghley Four-Star Events in succession.
Rolex Kentucky draws more than 50,000 spectators to the Kentucky Horse Park and is seen by millions more on worldwide telecasts. This year’s event features Olympic and World Equestrian Games medalists from Australia, Canada, Ecuador, Great Britain, Ireland, New Zealand and the United States and will crown the 16th Rolex/USEF National CCI4* Champion.
The Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event is produced by Equestrian Events, Inc. (EEI), a non-profit charitable Kentucky corporation that was established initially to produce the 1978 World Three-Day Event Championships at the Kentucky Horse Park. Following the success of those championships, EEI established an annual event that quickly evolved into what is today the only four-star three-day event in the western hemisphere, the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event. EEI started producing the Kentucky Reining Cup in 2011.
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