Oliver Townend wins again at the Defender Kentucky Three-Day Event

Great Britain's Oliver Townend won his fourth Defender Kentucky Three-Day Event with Cooley Rosalent.

Great Britain’s Oliver Townend won his fourth Defender Kentucky Three-Day Event presented by MARS Equestrian™ aboard Cooley Rosalent. Michelle Dunn Photo

Coleman comes out on top in the Cosequin® Lexington CCI4*-S

Lexington, Ky., April 29, 2024 — As the World #1 ranked rider, Great Britain’s Oliver Townend is no stranger to the CCI5-L level, nor is he a stranger to winning at the Defender Kentucky Three-Day Event presented by MARS Equestrian™ (K3DE). At the end of his 100th CCI5-L competition on Sunday, Townend and his young mare Cooley Rosalent claimed top honors following their double-clear show jumping round, finishing with a score of 31.8.

Organized by Equestrian Events, Inc. (EEI), the Defender Kentucky Three-Day Event presented by MARS Equestrian (K3DE) features one of only seven annual Five Star three-day events in the world. Known as “The Best Weekend All Year,” the event annually attracts nearly 90,000 spectators who also enjoy extensive shopping, a variety of hospitality experiences and a wide array of demonstrations. In addition to the traditional CCI5-L, the event also features the Cosequin® Lexington 4 and Kentucky CSI4* Invitational Grand Prix presented by Hagyard Equine Medical Institute.

This year marked Townend’s eighth CCI5*-L win and his fourth victory in Kentucky. “I can’t tell you how proud I am of this horse,” he said of the 10-year-old gray Irish Sporthorse mare owned by Paul and Diana Ridgeon. “Paul’s been a huge supporter to myself and Andrew Nicholson. He’s owned event horses for about 45 years and he just celebrated his 92nd birthday, and this is his first win at the level, so thank you to Paul.

“I’m still able to cry at my age, and we’re just so proud of the team at home,” he continued. “I’m still in shock. This is just the most special event in the world and a special day in all of our lives.”

Fellow Brits Tom McEwen and JL Dublin (33.8) and Yasmin Ingham and Banzai Du Loir (35.6), who were in first and second respectively coming into the final phase, both dropped rails to fall below Townend in the final standings.

“‘Dubs’ has been amazing,” McEwen said of the 13-year-old bay Warmblood gelding owned by James and Jo Lambert and Deirdre Johnston. “I feel like this weekend has really cemented our partnership. He’s such a nice, polite kind of character, and we’ve just taken a bit of time to find our path.

“I thought he did the best dressage ever, and I was kind of gutted at the marks if I’m being honest,” he continued. “He was fast on cross-country, just had a few things which cost me seconds, and he’s a great jumper. Today is one of those things and I’m sure I’ll beat myself up about it, but he’s crazy special … I know on his day, he will wipe the floors clean. It’s exciting coming up to an Olympic year to have put ourselves in a great position. So, onwards and upwards.”

“Overall, I thought he jumped super today; he just had an unlucky rub on an oxer,” Ingham said of the Sue Davies Fund and Jannette Chinn’s 13-year-old chestnut Selle Français gelding. “These things happen for a reason, and I know we’ll come out stronger next time. I’m delighted with him; it’s exciting to be on the podium at a 5* and it’s a very important year. He’s feeling amazing, so we’ll go away and work even harder.”

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Great Britain’s Tom McEwen and JL Dublin lowered one fence to finish second in the CCI5*. Michelle Dunn Photo

Clean rounds were hard to come by over Steve Stephens’ course Sunday afternoon, with only Townend and eventual fourth-placed finisher Malin Hansen-Hotopp (GER) aboard Carlitos Quidditch K managing to go double-clear. An additional four pairs left all the jumps up but added a few time penalties, including Buck Davidson (USA) and Sorocaima (6th/41.8), James Alliston (USA) and Karma (12th/50.5), Joe Meyer (NZL) and Harbin (14th /50.8), and Susannah Berry (IRL) and Clever Trick (22nd/82.0).

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Yasmin Ingham and Banzai Du Loir of Great Britain dropped one rail to end up in third in the CCI5*. Michelle Dunn Photo

Lauren Nicholson and Vermiculus (39.0) finished in fifth overall, but as the highest-placed American pair took home the Defender/USEF CCI5*-L Eventing National Championship presented by MARS Equestrian, with Davidson as the runner-up.

“We came in feeling a touch rusty because he hasn’t had a proper big outing since [the World Championships in 2022], but I wanted to come and be competitive,” Nicholson said of Jacqueline Mars’ bay 17 -year-old Anglo-Arabian gelding. “I would have liked to have beaten this lot, but I was very pleased for the fan following he has that I was able to deliver what he deserved to get on the day.”

Other top-six finishers in the National Championship were Liz Halliday and Cooley Nutcracker (42.2), Jennie Brannigan and FE Lifestyle (42.2), Sharon White and Claus 63 (47.9), and James Alliston and Karma (50.5).

Townend has had Cooley Rosalent in his barn since she was a 4-year-old. He was so taken with her that he initially bought her himself, something he doesn’t normally do, before selling her to Paul Ridgeon who was looking to add to his string.

The mare has an interesting and near-perfect pedigree for the sport, with her full Thoroughbred dam Bellaney Jewel being a winner of the Scottish Grand National and her sire Valent being a top-level show jumper. Coincidentally, she is a full sister to Jewelent, who Philip Dutton (USA) rode in the Cosequin® Lexington CCI4*-S.

“She’s tough, and she definitely knows her job,” Townend said. “She’s not merry, but she knows what she wants. She’s a very different personality to [my other horse] Ballaghmor Class. She’s pretty feisty and needs managing that way, but it feels like she loves her job in all three phases, and that there are no chinks in the armor and no weaknesses. Any mistakes are greenness or lack of experience. She’s one of the best horses I’ve ever ridden.

“The color is lucky as well,” he joked. “I like gray horses.”

Townend’s win gives him the second leg of the Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing, which awards a $350,000 cash prize to the rider who can win Badminton, Burghley, and Kentucky in succession, but not necessarily in that order. Townend’s victory at Burghley in 2023 and now at K3DE makes his rides at Badminton next week — where he’s entered with Treglider and Ballaghmor Class — all the more interesting. He’s won two of the legs twice before without being able to win the third.

“Hoping for third time lucky,” he said with a laugh. “It’s a huge privilege to be in this position for a third time. The first time, I nearly killed myself trying to win. The second time, I came second at Badminton. So, fingers crossed.”

While many riders competed with Olympic selection in mind, the amount of depth both the U.S. and British team selectors have to choose from — as well as an Olympic format that cuts the team berths down to three — means no one is punching their ticket to Paris just yet.

“It’s out of our hands now,” Ingham said. “We’ve done our job this weekend.”

Full results can be found at kentuckythreedayevent.com/results.

Press release Defender Kentucky Three-Day Event

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