Townend Wins Again with Cooley Rosalent at the Defender Kentucky Three-Day Event presented by MARS Equestrian™

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Oliver Townend and Cooley Rosalent were one of only two double-clear rounds in the show jumping in the CCI5*. Photo by Michelle Dunn Photography

Edited Press Release

Lexington, Ky., April 28, 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.

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

“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.”

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).

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.”

Lauren Nicholson and Vermiculus are the 2024 Defender/USEF CCI5*-L Eventing National Champions. Photo by Michelle Dunn Photography

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.”

Lauren Nicholson and Vermiculus lowered a fence, but it was good enough for fifth overall and the national championship. Photo by Michelle Dunn Photography

It’s all “Will and Boyd” in the Cosequin® Lexington CCI4*-S

Before this year, only one horse-and-rider pair finished the Cosequin® Lexington CCI4*-S on their dressage score — 2023 champions Karl Slezak (CAN) and Hot Bobo. This year, the USA’s Will Coleman and new mount Diabolo did just that, claiming victory on a score of 29.9. Coleman also finished third with Off The Record (30.9), bracketing countryman Boyd Martin, who finished second on Commando 3 (30.1) and fourth on Federman B (32.5).

Coleman was favored to take the top spot coming into the class, but not with this horse; his top contender, Chin Tonic HS, had to withdraw before the start of the competition. That doesn’t mean Coleman was completely surprised by the outcome.

“I think I am pleasantly surprised, but not totally shocked,” he said of his win with the 12-year-old dark bay Holsteiner gelding owned by The Diabolo Group, LLC. “The horse has been giving me the feeling of being on the verge of being competitive at a big event. I have a lot of belief in the horse’s talent, and I’ve been patiently biding my time until he was ready to show it to the rest of the world. He has a long way to go, but I’m really keen on him and really excited about him.”

Will Coleman and Diabolo soared to the top of the leaderboard in the CCI4*-S. Photo by Allison Pezzack Photogrpahy

Coleman has only had Diabolo for about a year. He received an email from an agent in Australia representing the horse, something he admitted he gets a lot of and that he often discards out of hand.

But, in this case, his wife Katie happened to start watching the videos and told him he should take a look, that the horse seemed like something special. Coleman then took his dad along for a three-day marathon trip to Australia and decided to purchase the horse and bring him to the U.S. However, it wasn’t all smooth sailing.

“The transition to the northern hemisphere was difficult for him,” he said. “He struggled to feel like he was his normal self, and he had various issues with adjusting to life in a different hemisphere. It definitely took a toll on him.

“But I was patient — I couldn’t do a lot with him last year — and waited for him to tell us he was ready to compete again,” Coleman continued. “It served us well; he’s been sort of quietly getting better this spring and we felt like good results were right around the corner. So [his win] may be a little surprising, but for those of us who have been around the horse a lot, it felt like this was getting closer.”

Martin and Coleman put the pressure on early, riding their first horses — Federman B, a 14-year-old bay Dutch Warmblood gelding owned by the Annie Goodwin Syndicate, and Off The Record, a 15-year-old by Irish Sporthorse gelding owned by the Off The Record Syndicate — out of order and putting down smooth double-clear rounds.

Boyd Martin and Commando 3 were double-clear in the CCI4*-S show jumping to finish in second. Photo by Allison Pezzack Photography

Martin then cantered into the Rolex Arena in third place on Commando 3, an 11-year-old bay Holsteiner gelding owned by Yankee Creek Ranch, LLC, and kept the pressure on the top two.

“It was a great course,” Martin said. “The top jumpers all jumped well. The time was a little tight and you had to scoot around corners.”

Coleman and Diabolo rose to the occasion keeping all the rails up, but overnight leader Halliday dropped the second-to-last rail on Miks Master C to drop to seventh (33.2), though it wasn’t all bad. She put in clean jumping rounds on her other two horses to ultimately have all three in the top ten, with Cooley Quicksilver in sixth (32.8) and Shanroe Cooley in ninth (37.7).

Three fellow Americans rounded out the top-ten placings, including 2o23 Pan American Games gold medalists Caroline Pamukcu and HSH Blake in fifth (32.5), their Pan American teammates Sydney Elliott and QC Diamantaire in eighth (37.6), and Dani Sussman and Jos Bravio in tenth (38.3).

Coleman and Martin are both mounted on relatively new rides for them, and while they are grateful to have them, it hasn’t been easy.

Will Coleman and his veteran Off The Record jumped clear in the final phase to finish third in the CCI4*-S. Photo by Allison Pezzack Photography

“I think it’s always more difficult when you buy a horse later in their career,” Coleman said. “It’s never an easy thing. It may sound like a shortcut, but honestly, it’s more difficult.”

Faults were spread pretty evenly around Steve Stephens’ course, though there were a surprising amount of rails at the first fence. In all, there were 12 double-clear rounds — including all top six finishers — with another six adding just time faults.

Thoughts now turn toward the Paris Olympic Games despite being a long way off from team selection. Coleman, Martin and Pamukcu have certainly put their hats in the ring with their performances at K3DE.

“I’m very blessed with two horses that finished in the top group here, and it’s hard to split them; each is about as good as the other,” Martin said. “It’s a wonderful position to be in to have a couple of hopefuls, but they’re like your children. You should never favor one more than another.”

“I don’t think any of us is going to say which horse we’d like to take,” Coleman added. “We all believe in all of the horses we have. Diabolo is a newer horse for me. ‘Timmy’ is more tried and tested, but he’s getting a little older. Truthfully, I’m not thinking too much about Paris. I want to regroup after the event and see where my horses are at. What happens for the selection is out of my hands.”

“I’m in a little bit of a different position, because the oldest horse in my string is nine,” Pamukcu said. “Blake is the top of my string, and I’m supposed to head over to Europe with my other horses [next month as part of the U.S. Eventing European Development Tour]. He’s going to run the 4*-L in Tryon and then if that goes well, hopefully, we’ll be looking toward the Olympics.”

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.