Rolex: O'Connor Leads After Thursday's Dressage

Karen O'Connor and Mandiba have taken the first-day lead at the Rolex Kentucky CCI**** Three-Day Event, presented by Bridgestone, scoring 43.7 penalties.

Becky Holder rode Courageous Comet to second place (45.2), and Phillip Dutton rode The Foreman to third place (47.2).

O'Connor, 52, won the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event in 1999, while Dutton, 46, won the 2008 event. All three of the leaders are also Olympic veterans and are among the leading candidates for the U.S. team that will compete at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.

O'Connor, of Middleburg, Va., said that Mandiba's performance today was consistent with his other performances so far this year. "He's more confirmed [in his flatwork] than he's ever been, for sure, so I can ride down the centerline with more confidence than ever before," said O'Connor.

"Plus, he's such an elegant horse and has such try in him, so I was just over the moon when we finished the test," added O'Connor about Mandiba, a 10-year-old, Irish-bred Thoroughbred.

Dutton, of West Grove, Pa., said he was "pleased" with The Foreman's test, especially since the 14-year-old, Thoroughbred gelding hasn't competed in a three-day event in almost three years. After winning the 2007 Fair Hill CCI3*, he had surgery to have a splint bone removed on a foreleg and then suffered a series of complications that kept him out of action.

"He's one of the best horses I've ever had, so you do whatever you can to get him going again. And he always shines in the biggest events," said Dutton. The Foreman is owned by Ann Jones, who has supported Dutton as an owner since shortly after he moved to the United States from his native Australia in 1993.

Dutton also rode Kheops Du Quesney to a tie for 14th place (55.3). Friday he'll ride Woodburn and Waterfront into the main arena.

Holder, 41, and her horses moved from Minnesota to Chattahoochee, Ga., last winter. She's been in the top three after dressage at Rolex Kentucky before but has never won the top prize. She did, however, win the competitors' drawing for a Rolex watch at Wednesday night's welcome reception, and she'd like to take the watch that goes to the Rolex Kentucky winner home with her too.

But she said she's trying not to think about Sunday yet. "It's a long weekend, and this is just the beginning of it. I've been here before, and I'm just planning one day at a time and jumping one jump at a time," said Holder.

Dressage concludes on Friday, starting at 9:30 and ending at 3:36. On Saturday the first horse-Kheops Du Quesnay with Dutton-starts on the cross-country course at 9:30, and the last horse-Waterfront with Dutton-starts on course at 3:30.

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