Andrew Nicholson riding Quimbo wins the 2013 Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event

Andrew Nicholson riding Quimbo wins the 2013 Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event

On Quimbo, Andrew Nicholson of New Zealand won the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, Presented by Land Rover, for the first time with a score of 41.0. William Fox-Pitt of Great Britain finished second on Seacookie TSF (46.2), and Nicholson also claimed third place on Calico Joe (52.8) at the Kentucky Horse Park.

Buck Davidson finished as the best-placed American, claiming fourth on Ballynoe Castle RM (53.2) and winning the Rolex USEF Four-Star Championship. Americans Lynn Synansky, on Donner (54.8), and Will Faudree, on Pawlow (57.8), finished fifth and sixth.

Nicholson, 51, took home the coveted Rolex watch that goes to the winner, along with the $80,000 winner’s share of the $250,000 purse. He also earned $30,000 for third place.

Nicholson began the final leg of his quest for the Rolex Kentucky title by guiding Calico Joe to a 12-fault round, for lowering three jumps. Then Fox-Pitt smoothly rode Seacookie to a perfect score, increasing the pressure on Nicholson.

Next, Davidson and Ballynoe Castle RM lowered two fences late in the course, for 8 faults, to drop behind Fox-Pitt and to give Nicholson a cushion of two rails on Quimbo. But he didn’t need the cushion, as the dark bay gelding soared over the 16 jumps while finishing three seconds slow, for 3 time faults.

Only four of the 29 horses who started over Richard Jeffery’s course finished with faultless rounds. In addition to Fox-Pitt, they were Symansky and Donner, Hawley Bennett-Awad on Gin ‘N Juice (seventh place), and Peter Barry and Kilrodan Abbot (17th place). Bennett-Awad and Barry each represent Canada.

“Quimbo is a very, very smart horse and an unbelievable show jumper. That’s what he’s bred to be,” said Nicholson.

Quimbo is a Spanish-bred gelding, 10. “His breeding isn’t standard for an event horse. It’s good show jumping blood, but it’s not the out-and-out galloping sort of blood,” said Nicholson. “I’ve learned this weekend that he’s got enough stamina to do the four-star jumping efforts and the gallop.”

Nicholson earned a $10,000 bonus as the rider earning the best show jumping score and wearing SSG gloves and as the overall winner, in their “Go Low For the Dough” contest.

By placing fourth, Davidson, 37, won the Rolex USEF Four-Star Championship for the third time. His father, six-time Rolex Kentucky winner Bruce Davidson, was here all weekend to advise and support him.

“Rolex Kentucky has been a great place for the Davidsons, and to have both mom and dad here to help me this weekend was pretty cool,” said Buck.

Davidson, who rode three horses around the cross-country course with no jumping penalties, earned a special prize—the Land Rover Best Ride of the Day for being the U.S. rider finishing closest to the optimum time. Presenting sponsor Land Rover awarded him with a two-year free lease on a 2013 Range Rover Evoque. He earned the car for his ride aboard his second mount Mar De Amor.

“The Land Rover award was certainly in my head this morning, but I had lots of other things to think about, so it wasn’t really a priority when I was riding around the course,” said Davidson. “This award is great, because I’d been thinking that I’d like to have a Land Rover like this. I’d told my girlfriend that, and she’d asked me ‘Why do you need to have another car?’ Well, now I have one. And, no, I’m not going to let my dad borrow the Land Rover.”

Davidson, of Ocala, Fla., happily drove his new car away at the presentation, after saying, “I’m the luckiest guy in the world today.”

Fox-Pitt and Seacookie TSF galloped across the cross-country finish line right on the optimum time of 11:21, allowing them to take home $5,000 from SSG Gloves for their “Go Low For The Dough Contest,” awarded to the rider closest to the optimum time wearing their gloves.

With a score of 33.3 penalties in the dressage ring, Fox-Pitt and his second mount Chilli Morning held a commanding early lead over Nicholson, who stood second on Quimbo (38.0) and third on Calico Joe (40.8).

“He’s got a great presence, and so when you’re riding him you feel you’re capturing the ground jury’s attention,” said Fox-Pitt of Chilli Morning’s excellent score. “He paints a good picture throughout the test, and at this level you need to score well throughout the test.”

Fox-Pitt, the Rolex Kentucky winner in 2010 and 2012, also won $5,000 in SSG Gloves’ “Go Low For Dough” contest, a prize awarded to the rider who earns the best dressage score while wearing a pair of one of five types of their gloves.

Fox-Pitt retired Chilli Morning on cross-country after a refusal at fence 7ABC, the HSBC Water Park. He said he had no explanation for Chilli Morning’s mistake. “Who knows? There will be lots of time to reflect on it. Maybe he just over-jumped the fence before and shut down there,” said Fox-Pitt. “Whatever the reason, there was no point in carrying on—he’s 13 years old, and he’s not here for the experience. We’ll try again another day.”

While Fox-Pitt has won 50 international events, and Nicholson is a six-time Olympian, Alexandra Knowles, 26, of nearby Paris, Ky., was competing in her first four-star. As the U.S. rider with the event’s best dressage score (43.3, for fourth place), Knowles won four Bridgestone tires as the winner of the Bridgestone Performance Moment of the Day.

“I’m a little bit overwhelmed and very, very excited. I just feel so lucky to be here and to have done so well in dressage,” said Knowles.

Knowles grew up in California and moved to Paris 1 ½ years ago. She decided to retire Last Call from the course at about the midway point.

The four-day total attendance at the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event was 65,882. Sunday’s total was 19,989; Saturday’s total was 26,872; Friday’s total was 12,509; and Thursday’s total was 6,512.

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