LEXINGTON, Ky.--Tamie Smith on Mai Baum finished on her dressage score of 24.2 to win the CCI5*-L at the Kentucky Three-Day Event on Sunday, April 30, and in winning she broke two long standing streaks.
It’s been 15 years since an American has won the Kentucky event and 12 years since a woman has won, and both those streaks were broken when Smith jumped a brilliant clean show jumping round for the win.
Smith and “Lexus” had all the pressure on them as they cantered into the Rolex Stadium.
Both Great Britain's Tom McEwen on JL Dublin and Liz Halliday-Sharp on Miks Master C had been clean, leaving them on scores of 27.8 and 28.5 respectively, and leaving Smith without a rail in hand.
Still, she cantered into the arena on Mai Baum and never faltered, leaving all the jumps up and coming home inside the time in front of a wildly enthusiastic crowd of 23,576.
McEwan placed second and Halliday-Sharp finished third.
As the highest-placed American, Smith’s win also makes her the USEF CCI5*-L Eventing National Champion, with Halliday-Sharp the reserve champion.
“TO WIN a 5* here in the U.S. and at Kentucky, I know so many people wanted an American to win, and I’m so grateful it was me,” said Smith. “I’m a bit speechless and a little bit in awe right now.”
McEwen, who had been a team gold medalist in Tokyo, was thrilled with his performance on JL Dublin, but he didn’t get much of a chance to celebrate it.
As soon as his round was over, he had to race to the airport to catch a plane back to England, where he has two horses entered in the Badminton Horse Trials May 5-8.
Halliday-Sharp has only been riding “Mickey” for about a year.
His breeder Laurie Cameron asked her if she’d be interested in riding and ultimately selling him, but Halliday-Sharp knew immediately she wanted to keep him and got together some of her other owners to buy him.
“He is the most amazing horse,” Halliday-Sharp said. “For him to come in and do his first 5* and finish as he did? I think he’s a Burghley and Badminton horse, and I hope he will be my Olympic horse. I think the world of him and couldn’t have asked more of him.”
In the show jumping arena, clean jumping rounds weren’t that hard to come by, but leaving the jumps up while making the time was a bit more challenging.
Of the 24 horses who started in the event’s final phase, only 10 were clean inside the time.
“To be completely honest, I was quite nervous going in with him today because of an uncharacteristic two rails I had at the World Championships in 2022,” Smith said. “When you’re on a horse that show jumps as well as he does and then have two down, you feel like the odds are against you. Scott Keach, who I show jump with, has been instrumental in helping me keep my cool and stay in the moment. He helped me learn that my job is to ride the right way, and my horse’s job is to jump the jumps. I’m glad Lexus felt healthy and strong and full of it. He knew the crowd was there, and it felt like everybody carried me over that whole course.”
Smith will now take Lexus home and let him rest before focusing on his show jumping this fall.
She’d like to have him in contention for the Olympics next year but said that at 17, they have to take it day by day.
“He’s healthy and strong, and he’ll tell me what he wants to do next,” she said. “He doesn’t owe me anything after something like this, and he’ll tell me when he’s ready to throw in the towel, but he doesn’t show any signs of that. He was feeling fit and fresh at the trot-up, and he was jumping out of his skin today.”
Germany's Sandra Auffarth, an Olympic gold medalist, on Viamont Du Matz was fourth witha scoreof 30.4 in her first time competing in Kentucky.
Phillip Duton of West Grove, Pa., on Z was fifth on 32.3, Maxime Livio of France on Carouzo Bois Marotin was sixth on 35.5, Will Coleman on Off the Record was seventh on 35.6, David Doel on Galileo Nieuwmoed was eighth on 35.6, Doug Payne on Quantum Leap was ninth on 37.3, Emily Hamel on Corvett was 10th on 39.5, Coleman on Chin Tonic was 11th on 39.8, and Jennie Saville on FE Lifestyle was 12th on 42.5.
Only four competitors finished on their dressage scores, including Auffarth, Livio and Doel along with Smith.
In the Dubarry of Ireland Nations Team Challenge, Team USA, Smith on Mai Baum, Will Coleman on Chin Tonic, Boyd Martin on Tsetserleg TSF, and Phillip Duttonon Z, won with a score of 96.3.
Team Great Britain, Yasmin Ingham on Banzai Du Loir, Tom McEwen on JL Dublin, Kristy Chabert on Classic VI, and David Doelon Galileo Nieuwmoed, placed second with a score of 125.5, and the combined team of Germany, France and Canada, Sandra Auffarth on Viamant Du Matz, Alina Dibowski on Barbados 26, Maxime Livio on Carouzo Bois Marotin, and Jessica Phoenix on Wabbit),finished third with 129.7.
CANADA'S Karl Slezak and Hot Bobo won the Lexington CCI4*-S on a record low score.
In the 4*, the show jumping track looked deceptively straightforward, but going clean and making the time proved to be challenging.
Slezak moved up from seventh after dressage, adding no additional penalties in either jumping phase, to win with a score of 29.3.
Overall, nine of the 35 horses in the 4* show jumping were clean within the time allowed, including the top three finishers.
“It feels amazing; she’s the best! I love riding her so much,” said Slezak. “I was hopeful about her performance in the show jumping, but we’ve been there before. She’s good on the flat but has never quite been right there, but she’s good on cross-country and shines here (in the show jumping, so I was optimistic.”
Smith on Solaguayre California also was clean to stay second with a score of 30.0.
Sydney Elliott on QC Diamantaire continued her steady move up the leaderboard, goingclean in show jumping round to place third on 34.9.
Overnight third-placed Halliday-Sharp on Cooley Be Cool had the first fence of the triple combination down and added 1.2 time faults to slip to fourth.
Slezak has had “Bobo” since she was a 4-year-old, and had to work through some spookiness.
“She handled the atmosphere today amazingly," said Slezak. "Even when I was doing the victory gallop so close to the crowds cheering, she was eating it up. I’m pretty excited about it going forward and very confident in her at any championship in that situation.
“She just wants to work all the time,” he said. “She wants to please and comes out the same every day. With mares you never know, but when mares work for you, they are amazing. She wants to please and works for me really well.”
“She felt great in the warmup,” Slezak said. “Anytime she show jumps after cross-country, she’s sharper and more amped up. It gives me a good feeling going in the ring, that even if I make a mistake, she can handle it. I was excited going in, and she didn’t let me down. The show jumping course today was a good track; it had a nice flow to it. Show jumping on the last day is always nerve-wracking, but here we are.”
“Show jumping my mare on the third day is always better,” Smith said.. “She can be quite spicy. She was a show jumper before she was an eventer, but she can still be quite spooky, she spooked at some flowers in the ring and darted sideways. But being able to have this 4* here in this atmosphere is so great for our horses.”
“My horse is very quiet,” Elliott said. “The last two years here, he has been very nervous going in the ring. Finally this third year, he was more like himself and very settled in there. I was thrilled.”
The Pan American Games in Chile this fall are a big deal for the Canadian riders, who must secure an Olympic berth there in order to compete in France in 2024, and Slezak hopes Bobo will be part of that team.
“The plan is to go to Tryon in a couple of weeks for the 4*-Long, and then hopefully Chile for the Pan Ams,” he said.
Elliott, Smith and their mounts are bound for Germany; both horses will compete at Luhmühlen in June.
“This was a last run before we head to Germany,” Elliott said. “We’re using it as a prep, and it’s a great last run for him before heading to Europe.”
“We wanted to make sure she handled this well,” Smith said. “And now we have May to decompress and get our wits about us before heading to Luhmühlen.”