Banzai du Loir and Ingham Back on Top at the Defender Kentucky Three-Day Event Presented by MARS Equestrian™

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Great Britain's Yasmin Ingham and Banzai du Loir strutted to the top of the leaderboard after the first day of competition. Photo by Michele Dunn Photography

Martin leads the Cosequin® Lexington CCI4*-S

Edited Press Release

Lexington, Ky., April 25, 2024— Reigning world champion Yasmin Ingham has experienced both the highs and lows of the sport of eventing, especially in the last year, but after the first day of dressage, the rider from Great Britain sits atop the leaderboard after the first day of dressage at the Defender Kentucky Three-Day Event presented by MARS Equestrian™ (K3DE).

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.

Ingham leads the CCI5*-L with a penalty score of 26, and she is trailed by countryman Kirsty Chabert with Classic VI (31) and Germany’s Malin Hansen-Hotopp on Carlitos Quidditch K (31.1).

“I think his test overall had some brilliant highlights,” she said of The Sue Davis Fund’s 13-year-old chestnut Selle Francais gelding. “We’ve been working really hard to get a bit more expression in the trot. He carries himself so beautifully in the ring now, and holds so much presence when he’s in there, and he definitely showed that today.

“My first center line could have been a little bit straighter, but I think he was really on my aids in all the movements and he really excelled today,” she concluded.

Ingham finished second at K3DE in 2022 and later that year took top honors in the FEI Eventing World Championship. Unfortunately, a stop in Kentucky last year kept her from returning to the podium, an unfortunate event that repeated itself at the European Championships in September.

“I take snippets away from every event, and I’ve had a lot of those in the last year,” she said. “We’ve done lots of training to perfect each phase, and I’m coming into this having learned a lot of things from lots of learning experiences. I always try to make a positive out of a not-ideal situation and channel into the next event. We definitely learned a lot in the last year.”

With the first phase behind them, Ingham is already eyeing the cross-country course. “He’s run well here the past two years,” she said. “I really enjoy riding around here; the ground is obviously just brilliant. The way [course designer Derek di Grazia] produces the cross-country course and designs it is spectacular, and it’s always dressed beautifully. There’s lots of questions throughout from beginning to end, but I’m really excited to get out there on Saturday.”

Chabert and Kate Ward, Carole Somers, and John Johnston’s Classic VI, a 15-year-old bay Anglo-European Studbook mare, put in a strong test that thrilled Chabert.

“It sounds daft, but at 15 she actually is improving, so hopefully she’s like a really nice bottle of red wine and keeps improving with age,” Chabert said with a laugh.

Chabert faced some weather-related challenges this spring at home in England, but a strong run in a 4* in The Netherlands has her feeling good about her chances in Kentucky.

“We’ve had a great prep, but it’s obviously been very, very wet in England,” she said. “To be honest, I’ve come here — yes, full of confidence — but I’ve got Yaz to my left and I hope she’s still sitting there Sunday. I’ve got my own goals that I would like to achieve, and where we are at the end of the week will look after itself.”

Hansen-Hotopp and Bodil Ipsen’s 12-year-old gray Holsteiner gelding found each other a bit by chance, but they’ve made a strong partnership together. She was asked to ride him as a 5-year-old in some young horse classes, and she was initially resistant given her own string of horses and her children. When she finally agreed, she had an interesting time.

“I did it and he was really grumpy and bucking all the time,” she laughed. “He was a big, loose horse who was not so easy, but he did a great job when he was jumping. [At the time I] had a horse who was jumping very badly in show jumping, so my husband said, ‘You know what? Just buy him if you think that’s a good horse.’

“So, we bought him and then we built it together from when he was a five-year-old. It was just going up and up and up, and now I’m here,” she finished with a smile.

Strong start in the CCI4*-S with familiar names at the top

This weekend’s Cosequin® Lexington 4* competition has been called “star-studded” by some, given the number of potential Olympic candidates in the mix. And the riders who have risen to the top after the first day of dressage certainly fit that bill – both as previous Olympians and in the quality of their mounts.

Boyd Martin is excited by his blossoming relationship with Commando 3, who stands in first place after the first day of dressage in the CCI4*-S. Photo by Allison Pezzack Photography

Three-time U.S. Olympian Boyd Martin stands atop the scoreboard with Yankee Creek Ranch LLC’s Commando 3. The 11-year-old bay Holsteiner gelding showed his class and quality, scoring 28.9 to take an early lead.

Martin has only had the horse for about a year, and he was previously owned and campaigned through the 4* level by Louise Romeike from Sweden, who’d owned him since he was two.

“It’s not very easy buying someone else’s horse,” Martin said. “But I knew I wanted him as a potential Olympic horse so had to go quick [with competing him and moving him up]. It’s not really your horse until about a year in, but this horse is such a class animal that even as we were figuring each other out and ticking the boxes, he jumped a lot of big courses. But it wasn’t until this year that I felt we have a real partnership, we understand each other, and I know how to ride him.

“Buying a mega horse doesn’t often work out,” Martin continued. “It’s huge pressure and scary because they are expensive as hell, but I feel like these days in the sport of eventing, the top ten or 15 riders are about as good as each other and it comes down to who has the best horse. You have to have a mega horse if you want to be a winner.”

Hot on Martin’s heels is fellow American Will Coleman with not one but two mounts; he stands second on Diabolo and third on his veteran campaigner Off The Record. Diabolo, owned by Diabolo Group LLC, is a 12-year-old bay Holsteiner gelding previously campaigned to the 4* level by Gemma Tinney of Australia and currently stands only a point behind Martin on a 29.2. Off The Record Syndicate’s 15-year-old bay Irish Sporthorse is only a whisper behind on 30.1. Coleman also has his top horse Chin Tonic HS in Friday’s dressage finale.

All three of these mounts are up for potential Olympic berths, but Coleman is clear that he needs to focus on the horses rather than the selection.

“Given it’s an Olympic year, everybody has a different approach, how to put forward for selection, the 4* versus the 5*. But for me it’s about focusing on the horse,” Coleman said. “In the case of my situation, Off The Record is an older horse and if asked to go to Paris, doing the 5* here and then a championship in July would be a lot. Same with Chin Tonic. But Diabolo is working towards his first 5*, so they are all on the 4*-short track. You have to listen to your horse and make the best decision for them. The selection is out of our hands and not worth worrying about.”

Though Diabolo is the least experienced of Coleman’s mounts, he stepped up Thursday in the atmosphere of the Kentucky Horse Park, which was part of Coleman’s plan all along. “The Horse Park has a real championship atmosphere. Diabolo is a new horse for us, so that experience can’t be duplicated in many places. It’s nice to get it under our belt and help me know how to better prepare him, and it gives a sense of where we’re at in terms of big championship events.”

Friday is another day of dressage, before the heart of the competition — the cross-country — takes place on Saturday. Martin said he had taken a quick tour of di Grazia’s course, and he isn’t taking anything for granted.  

“It looks to me like a 5* over six-and-a-half minutes,” he said with a laugh. “The coffin looks pretty massive, and it’s early in the course when the horses are still sharp and spooky. It’s one of those courses where you could have a mistake anywhere. It’s a pretty tricky design of Derek’s, and there’s a few combinations at the end when you’re pressing for time and the horse is tired where you could have a mistake.”

Other award winners

On Wednesday night, the first awards of the competition were given out during the competitors’ party. The DuBarry Best Dressed Award is given to the best dressed rider at the first horse inspection, and this year it was awarded to New Zealand’s Joe Meyer. His bespoke suit that matched with his flashy gray mount earned him a gift certificate for a DuBarry jacket and a pair of DuBarry boots with a value of $1,000.

There was also a drawing for a free Sponsors Table, which was won by Chabert of Great Britain.

Finally, Carolyn Borgert was awarded Volunteer of the Year by competition organizer EEI.

Dressage at K3DE continues Friday morning with the CCI4*-S competition as the rest of the field struts their stuff in the dressage arena, and in the afternoon, the second half of the CCI5*-L competitors take their turn in the ring. Following Saturday’s cross-country test, everything culminates on Sunday with the show jumping phase to determine the winners.

About Equestrian Events, Inc.
Equestrian Events, Inc. (EEI) is 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 evolved into the world-renowned Kentucky Three-Day Event, which draws nearly 90,000 spectators to the Kentucky Horse Park each year. EEI added the Kentucky CSI Invitational Grand Prix in 2018, the Lexington CCI4*-S in 2021, and also produces other events. EEI supports several local and equine charities and over the last 20 years has donated more than $1.1 million to various charities. For more information, please visit www.eq-events.com.