My fingers are crossed for Mark Todd to win this weekend. He is truly a living legend of our time, and after coming off a win at Badminton last weekend, he is poised to take leg number two in the Rolex Grand Slam. Such a feat has only been done once before, and if he wins leg two this weekend, I am booking a flight to Burghley to see him win number three. When I heard he was coming out of retirement for the 2008 Olympics, as a competitor, I was quaking in my boots at the thought of competing against him. But, as a fan of three day eventing, I am thrilled to be able to watch him ride live. Back in the late 90′s I had the opportunity to clinic with Todd, when McKinlaigh was newly imported as a five year old, and again thte following year. I still have clear memories of those clinics and the lessons learned from Todd. I appreciate him as one of the truly great horsemen. If there is one rider you watch all weekend, make it Todd!
He, however, will not concede the title easily. The other members of the overseas contingent coming to challenge the title are forces to reckon with. William Fox-Pitt is extremely familiar with the Kentucky ground, having made the trip from England every year since the first four-star, and pickung up a qin last year. Mary King, Oliver Townend and Clayton Fredericks all have numerous wins at major international competitions, and with the right weekend, could take this year’s Rolex as well. On the home front, Karen O’Connor is sure to be excited about her prospects with her new mount, Quintus 54 and Phillip Dutton with his experienced partner Truluck, as well as up and coming Fernhill Eagle. Kim Severson, Missy Ransehousen, and Allison Springer have come close to winning the event in previous years with these current partners and will know exactly what they need to do to be in the final placing. And of course the great thing about eventing is the field is made of many great horse and rider partnerships. Any of them could have a stellar weekend and come out on top. Winning a four-star event is about truly being at your best of your best on three consecutive days. The other great thing about eventing is that it is an incredible achievement to even be riding at Rolex. The dedication and preparation that has gone into getting there, makes it an accomplishment in on itself and some of the biggest smiles of achievement you will see won’y be in the winner’s circle, but on the finish line of cross-country.
Good luck to every competitor to have a safe weekend. IN Derek DiGrazia’s first year taking over the course design, Mother Nature is throwing in her input. With as much water as Lexington has had this month, experience is going to count. The ground will be wet, and dealing with that aspect of the terrain will make the course even more challenging. You won’t see many rounds inside the time and we are likely to see a lot of shifting in the leader board after dressage day. Of course, riders will be looking to post a great starting score, but this for sure will be a three-day competition with the winners not decided until the last show jump is jumped.