Bachman and Gryffindor Lead After Cross Country at Rolex

Nearly 47,000 people turned out for a spectacular day of cross country yesterday (April 28) at the 2007 Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, presented by Farnam. A variation of last year's course greeted horses and riders, and at the end of a tumultuous day, Kristin Bachman, riding in only her second four-star on her own Gryffindor, found herself on top of a very classy heap of horses and riders with a score of 48.2.

But, the first "horse" out on course was actually Theodore O'Connor, who stands 14.1 hands. With one of the most experienced pilots in the game on his back, Karen O'Connor, he clocked around the course picking up just a handful of time penalties to end cross country on a score of 60.1. They ended the day in 15th place.

"I'm speechless," said O'Connor. "Our goal with this pony has always been to never overface him and never show him what he can't do. I was very nervous coming into the cross country today. But, as each exercise came, he just proved to me that he is just one-in-a-million horse. I'm in awe of him."

Bachman, a Washington state native now based in The Plains, Va., picked up a run-out last year here, but made no mistake Saturday clocking around a track that many of the world's most experienced riders fell victim to.

"I am sitting on the best horse in the world," said Bachman of the 13-year-old U.S.-bred Thoroughbred. "He was amazing. After [fence] 20, he tripped or bobbled and that was the only thing. He was better than last year at the quarry. He actually did jump to the bottom."

Sitting in sixth after the dressage, Bachman was the fourth rider to make the time on course.

Overnight leader Amy Tryon ended Saturday in second after adding 3.2 time penalties, but promptly withdrew the horse at the end of cross country. The horse sustained a serious injury at the last fence to his left front ankle and was moved from the finish to a veterinary clinic by horse ambulance.

"He has lost the ligamental support to the fetlock of the left front leg," said FEI Veterinary Delegate Dr. Catherine Kohn. "He is resting comfortably this evening."

Second here last year, Heidi White-Carty and her beloved 13-year-old Northern Spy find themselves in the same position again after the cross country. In 10th after the first phase, they added nothing to their dressage score of 52.0 despite being held before the Head of the Lake obstacle after Heath Ryan fell toward the end of the course. They romped around the Kentucky track together for the fourth time in five years.

"It was all hard," said White-Carty of the course. "But, he was fantastic. The Normandy Bank to the style was very similar to the fence at the WEG where I had a bit of a hiccup and had to go the long way, so I really wanted to pay attention there."

This leaves Bachman without a rail in-hand when she enters the show jumping this afternoon.

Two riders after Bachman, Australian Clayton Fredericks, who was sitting third after the dressage, put in a very workmanlike round on Ben Along Time, the 2005 FEI World Cup Champion and Silver medalist from the FEI World Equestrian Games, to maintain his position.

"I think I maybe took a few too many half-halts out there," said Fredericks of his 5.6 time penalties to finish on a new score of 53.0.

American rider, Will Faudree, and 18-year-old Antigua had an impressive round to easily make the time. Horse and rider, veterans of the Pan American Games and a teammate of White-Carty's at last year's FEI World Equestrian Games own a perfect record on the cross country through their five-year relationship. Based in Southern Pines, Faudree jumped up from 12th after the dressage to fourth.

"It's pretty exciting when a horse has done as much as he's done, and he's still pulling to the finish, asking ‘What's next?'" said Faudree. "I'm so lucky. I feel good about tomorrow (Sunday). I'm going to go in and do my best. The horse owes me nothing."

The highest-placed young rider in the field is Sarah Mittleider. The Idaho native made her third cross country trip to Kentucky worth it, picking up the second double-clean of the day and rocketing up the leader board from 23rd after the dressage to 10th going into the show jumping. Eleven-year-old El Primero made light work of the track, and Mittleider eyes her first team spot for the Pan American Games this summer.

"He was fabulous," she said. "We didn't have a great warm up, and then I realized that my bit wasn't put on correctly. I got that fixed, and we had one jump and then we went and he was just so on. He came out of the box and was like, ‘We're at Rolex again ... let's go.' He gets so confident the further he goes in the course, but he never gets cocky. He never really gets strong. He can be hard to bring back, but he's not very fast so you're never out of control out there. I would love to take him to the Pan Ams. He just seems to keep improving this year."
 
Heading into today's final phase of the event, 33 horses remain to go forward to the morning's horse inspection.

The Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, Presented by Farnam, is the only four-star event in the Western hemisphere. Riders compete in this competition for their share of $200,000 in prize money, with the winning owner receiving $65,000. The winning rider gets to sport a new Rolex watch. The USET Pinnacle Trophy is presented to the top American rider, who is also named the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) National CCI**** Eventing National Champion.

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 webcast, available at www.mediazone.com/channel/nbcsports/equestrian/index.jsp. These webcasts were made possible through the joint efforts of NBC; Equestrian Events, Inc., the producer of the event; and the USEF.--Joanie Morris

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