Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event: Ransehousen Leads on Day One of Dressage

Riders and spectators had the opportunity to bask in the traditional rain on the first two days of The Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, Presented by Farnam. Spectators came prepared for the typical Rolex wet weather as they gathered to watch the top competitors in eventing vie for the prestigious four-star title.

Phillip Dutton and Connaught led the morning session. The rain didn't seem to bother the pair as a deluge started at the beginning of their ride. Dutton, rode for Australia on the 1996 and 2000 Olympic Gold-medal teams, although has been based out of Pennsylvania since 1993. He switched his citizenship in December to ride as an American. Dutton's ride earned him a score of 48.90, which placed him in third at the end of Day 1.

Missy Ransehousen aboard Critical Decision took advantage of the improved weather later in the day and knocked Dutton into second with a score of 47.8. Critical Decision, a bay Warmblood/Thoroughbred gelding, is owned by Missy's mother, Jessica Ransehousen. Ransehousen expressed her appreciation for her 17.1-hand horse with a big pat on the neck, and a smile that said she knew she had ridden a good test. This is Ransehousen and Critical Decision's first year at a four-star event.

Michael Etherington Smith's cross-country course will put the pair to the test Saturday.

"The first time walking this course...actually I liked it," Ransehousen said. "I think it's a beautiful course. I don't feel overly overwhelmed about it all. I think they've done a beautiful job, and hopefully it will ride as well as it looks."

In 2006, Critical Decision competed in the Advanced Horse Trials at Plantation Field (16th) in Pennsylvania, at Morven Park (12th) in Virginia, and at Fair Hill (11th) in Maryland. The pair placed second in the Open Intermediate Horse Trials in Florida in February and came in second at Rocking Horse II in the advanced division.

The next rider to follow Ransehousen, Kristin Bachman also topped Dutton's early score with a 48.2 aboard Gryffindor, although it was not enough to get the lead. Bachman said the test rode pretty well, despite the earlier downpours, although the corners were a bit harder to ride due to the footing.

Bachman commented that she is more comfortable and organized this year than last, when she finished in 27th.

"Last year was my first year and walking around it [the cross-country course], my eyes were popping out, and I was wondering what I was doing here, but this year I think it's a great course," Bachman said. "But again, I'm a little more comfortable with it. I don't quite wonder what I'm doing," she concluded with a laugh. "But it looks like it's going to be a lot of fun."

Coming in fourth place was young rider Tiana Coudray and King Street. The pair was the first pair of the afternoon to get near the lead with a score of 49.3, as earlier riders in the afternoon session dealt with huge downpours. Sitting in fifth place is Karin Donkckers of Belgium aboard Gazelle de la Brassarie. Darren Chiacchia, known for riding the black stallion Windfall II, brought another horse this year, Better I Do It. The pair currently sit in sixth place.

In seventh is the much-talked-about Sport pony, Theodore O'Connor (a.k.a. Teddy), with rider Karen O'Connor. Teddy, who stands at 14.1-hands, becomes the first pony to ever start at the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event. His breeding is 3/4 Thoroughbred, 1/8 Shetland, and 1/8 Arabian. But despite his small stature, he looked big in the arena as he performed his dressage test, ending on a score of 55.7. Tied at 55.7 is the veteran pair of John Williams and Sloopy. In 2006, Williams and Sloopy tied for ninth in the four-star at Rolex.

Rounding out the top ten is WEG-veteran Jan Byyny with the Thoroughbred gelding Waterfront in ninth and Australia's Wendy Schaeffer aboard Koyuna Sun Magic in 10th.

Ransehousen and Critical Decision's score of 47.8 leaves room for one of Day 2's riders to come along and post an even lower score. Some of the top American riders to watch on Day 2 include Dutton on his second horse, TruLuck, the final pair of the day; Becky Holder on Courageous Comet, who led after last year's cross-country course to finish 13th after a challenging show jumping round; Heidi White Carty on Northern Spy, who landed in second last year as the highest-placed American; Karen O'Connor on Upstage; and Olympian and FEI World Equestrian Games veteran Amy Tryon aboard Le Samurai. And, you can bet that some of the riders who have come from as far away as Australia, Great Britain, The Netherlands, Belgium, and Canada are not going to give up.

The only four-star event in the Western Hemisphere, the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event is the premier competition for the top horses and riders in eventing.

For more information on the 2007 Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, presented by Farnam, visit the Rolex Kentucky website at www.rk3de.org.  

Highlights from the event will be broadcast by NBC Sports in a one-hour special on Sunday, May 6, from 5:00-6:00 p.m. EDT.

In addition, fans who aren't able to make it to the Kentucky Horse Park for the event can still catch the action live through NBCSports.com's daily Web cast. For more information on the Web cast see www.thehorse.com/ViewArticle.aspx?ID=9408.

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