USA Sweeps Medals at Kentucky Cup Endurance Event, a Prelude to WEG

The United States dominated the Kentucky Cup Endurance FEI CEI***, sponsored by Emirates Equestrian Federation. The Kentucky Cup was the official endurance test event for the 2010 Alltech World Equestrian Games.

The U.S. riders garnered all three team and individual medals at the conclusion of the events on Oct. 14. The winners were officially declared at an awards ceremony held at the Kentucky Horse Park on the morning of Oct. 15. 

Danielle McGunigal of Ft. Valley, Va., was the individual gold medal winner of the modified CEI*** in a ride time of 6:30:41, with an average speed of 18.43 kph. The race was originally an FEI-qualifying event at a distance of 100 miles (160 km), but it was shortened to 75 miles (120 km) after the footing became questionable due to the inclement weather that began shortly before the race began and continued throughout the day, making the trail slippery and muddy. 

"I was disappointed by the race being shortened, but happy to be finished,” lamented McGunigal, the 1996 Endurance World Champion. "This was the toughest ride I have ever done. It was like swimming up hill with a hole in your paddle.”

The race was shortened—from six loops down to four—and McGunigal led almost the whole way riding Gold Raven, her 8-year-old Arabian mare. McGunigal's mother, two-time Endurance World Champion Valerie Kanavy, came to the mandatory vet check ahead of her daughter, but was later eliminated after her mare slipped on the second loop. 

Ellyn Rapp of Dubuque, Iowa, won the silver medal in a ride time of 6:52:16 (17.46 kph) on her 14-year-old Arabian gelding Berjo Smokey. "Smokey is amazing," said Rapp. "He never quits. I have had all my best rides on him.” 

Jan Worthington of Scales Mound, Ill., won the bronze medal in a ride time of 7:01:33 (17.08 kph) riding Golden Lightning. The 9-year-old Arabian gelding was awarded the prestigious Best Condition award, given to the horse that is judged to be the most fit to continue. Worthington was thrilled with his accomplishment.

"It really took me by surprise,” said the 69-year-old Worthington. "I am blessed with a great horse. I think he did so well in the mud because he has small feet, like a mule.”  

The individual medals were awarded first, and the ceremony turned out to be very moving, thanks to a technical difficulty. The music for the U.S. National Anthem could not be played, so the audience volunteered to sing it instead. 

Despite the weather, the event was considered a success and a good test for next year. Competition Manager Emmett Ross said Wednesday (Oct. 15) provided some excellent learning opportunities, and he was pleased with his feedback about the trail. 

"We were committed to make the trail wonderful. You never got to see the trail in its full glory because of the weather,” said Ross. "I'm saving some surprises for next year. We are looking forward to making this a very enjoyable trail next year--and it's not going to rain!”

Team Results for the Modified CEI***

Team USA East--Gold Medal: Danielle McGunigal, Dr. Margaret Mary (Meg) Sleeper, Stephen Rojek, Farzad Faryadi.

Team Central USA--Silver Medal: Ellyn Rapp, Janice Ann Worthington, Darolyn Butler, Julie Jackson-Biegert.

Team Mountain USA--Bronze Medal: Christoph Josef Schork, Suzanne Hayes, Douglas Swingley, Tennessee Mahoney.

The Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games are the world championships of eight equestrian disciplines recognized by the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI). HRH Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein of Jordan is the current president of the FEI. The Games are held every four years, and this will be the first occurrence in the United States.

The Games will be broadcast on NBC Sports, which has marked the largest commitment to network coverage of equestrian sport in U.S. television history. The 2010 Games are expected to have a statewide economic impact of $150 million, and current sponsors include Alltech, Rolex, John Deere, Ariat International, Meydan, Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital, and the American Quarter Horse Association. For more information on the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, please visit alltechfeigames.com.

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