2024 Defender Kentucky Three-Day Event: Cross-Country Day

Great Britain surges into the top three spots following a day of leaderboard shakeups in the CCI5*-L.

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Horse Illustrated’s coverage of the 2024 Defender Kentucky Three-Day event is brought to you by Care Credit.

In a day of heat, then rain, followed by blazing sun, the sun indeed shone brightest on the British riders as they claimed the top three spots after cross-country at the Defender Kentucky Three-Day Event CCI5*-L.

Tom McEwen (GBR) and 13-year-old German Warmblood gelding JL Dublin had 4 time faults, but enough of a head start to maintain their overnight lead. Yasmin Ingham (GBR) and 13-year-old Selle Francais gelding Banzai Du Loir had 5.6 time faults but maintained 2nd place. Oliver Townend (GBR) and 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare Cooley Rosalent moved up from 8th into 3rd with just 0.4 time faults.

Tom McEwen and JL Dublin during cross-country at the 2024 Defender Kentucky Three-Day Event
Tom McEwen and JL Dublin maintain their lead during the cross-country phase of the Defender Kentucky Three-Day Event. Photo by Mary Cage

Lauren Nicholson and Elisabeth Halliday of the USA, who were tied for third going into this phase, each had a few time faults that bumped them down to 7th and 8th, respectively.

Mia Farley is now the leading U.S. rider after a fast and clear round aboard her 11-year-old Thoroughbred gelding, Phelps. She sits in 5th place going into Sunday’s show jumping.

A Banner Performance for Brits

Having finished 2nd here last year in the CCI5*-L, Tom McEwen also holds team gold and individual silver from the Tokyo Olympics, held in 2021.

“The pressure was performing up to what I know the horse can do,” he said after his ride. “Obviously this year we’ve all come here for a place on the [2024] Olympic team. It was really a rider’s track today. It rode really well and was a great place to be.”

When asked how he feels going into the show jumping phase tomorrow, he said, “Dubs is a great jumper. He’s done it plenty of times before, it’s just down to me.”

Reigning world champion Yasmin Ingham (GBR) had a smooth round with one lucky bobble.

“He was brilliant today,” she said. “Everything pretty much went to plan—sometimes it doesn’t. He had one small moment at the Head of the Lake, where he got close to the corner. He was super honest and stayed on his line.”

Yasmin Ingham and Banzai du Loir during cross-country at the Defender Kentucky 3-Day Event
Yasmin Ingham and Banzai du Loir sail over a jump early in the course. Photo by Mary Cage

Riding in his 100th five-star and ranked the No. 1 eventer in world, Oliver Townend (GBR) made the trip to Kentucky in order to go all-out and get a highly competitive slot on the British Olympic eventing team this summer in Paris.

“I’d like to think [Cooley Rosalent] is in the mix [as a Paris horse],” he said. “She’s been to [the 5*] at Maryland and here. She’s proved she copes with the crowd and quick tracks.”

Oliver Townend and Sorocaima maneuver the Park Question portion of the Defender Kentucky cross-country course
Oliver Townend and Cooley Rosalent maneuver the Park Question portion of the course. Photo by Mary Cage

When asked why he’s prepping for Olympic selection in a 5* versus the 4* that many American riders are using as their final prep, Townend said that the talent pool in Great Britain is so vast that you want to prove yourself against the toughest competition.

“And if the selectors could listen to that, that would be great, thank you,” he joked.

Top U.S. Rider

Sitting in 5th overall but the highest-placed American is Mia Farley, whose Kentucky-bred Thoroughbred, Phelps, is owned by Olympic gold medalist David O’Connor.

Mia Farley and Phelps near the end of the course
Mia Farley and Phelps near the end of the cross-country course. Photo by Mary Cage

Having ridden him at two five-stars with no time faults—a feat only done 37 times out of 1,000 horses to attempt it—Farley and Phelps are clearly ones to watch.

“With Phelps and a lot of Thoroughbreds, you set a pace at the beginning of the course, and at the end you can ask them to go, and they have it.”

Going into his weakest phase, Farley hopes recent training will be just the ticket.

“He’s been working hard at show jumping.  Sunday is his weaker phase, and I hope his training at home has been working.”

USA Tops the CCI4*-S at the Defender Kentucky Three-Day Event

Elisabeth Halliday (USA) and Miks Master C sit on top of the CCI4*-S leaderboard going into the final day.

“He was very keen today,” she said after cross-country. “He’s a very good jumper and he’s very careful. Although he was strong between the fences, he jumped great.”

Liz Halliday-Sharp aboard Miks Master C
Liz Halliday-Sharp aboard Miks Master C. Photo by Allen MacMillan

Will Coleman (USA) and Diabolo sit in second place currently.

“I was thrilled with him,” said Coleman. I have a lot of belief in the horse. We’re still getting to know each other. This was a step in that direction, and he enjoyed the Kentucky atmosphere and ate it up.”

Boyd Martin (USA) and Commando 3 also held their spot, sitting in third on the leaderboard.

“We’re all on very good show jumpers,” said Martin of Sunday’s jumping test. “The goal would be to give horses a good night’s sleep, school on the flat tomorrow, and do our best.”

Defender Kentucky CCI5* Top 10 going into Show Jumping

1. Tom McEwen (GBR) and JL Dublin
2. Yasmin Ingham (GBR) and Banzai Du Loir
3. Oliver Townend (GBR) and Cooley Rosalent
4. Monica Spencer (NZL) and Artist
5. Mia Farley (USA) and Phelps
6. Christoph Wahler (GER) and D’Accord FRH
7. Lauren Nicholson (USA) and Vermiculus
8. Elisabeth Halliday (USA) and Cooley Nutcracker
9. Jennie Brannigan (USA) and FE Lifestyle
10. Malin Hansen-Hotopp (GER) and Carlitos Quidditch K

Find all of our coverage, brought to you by Care Credit, on our 2024 Defender Kentucky Three-Day event landing page. Catch the livestream here.

Visit kentuckythreedayevent.com for a complete list of scores.

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