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Written by Caylee Matthews

Photos by Tony Bailey


Following a nail-biting finish decided by the last jump, Great Britain’s Oliver Townend became just the fourth person to defend his title in the 41-year history of the Land Rover Kentucky Three Day Event. The prestigious event was staged at the Kentucky Horse Park, the only theme park in the country dedicated solely to horses. Townend logged a perfect performance in show jumping aboard Cooley Master Class, a 14-year-old Irish Sport Horse he has been riding since the horse was four.

“We’ve had the horse from the word go, and it’s a huge team effort,” said Townend. “So much effort goes into it, not just on my part. The horse has had a checkered career, and we’ve finally got him on top form. We’ve always believed in the horse, and it’s thanks to everybody at home putting in a huge team effort. It was just my job to push the buttons at the right point in time. I couldn’t be more proud of the horse and the whole team.”

Originally staged around the world to test the fitness and finesse of cavalry mounts, today the sport is an equestrian triathlon, consisting of three distinct elements: Dressage, CrossCountry, and Show Jumping. The winner is the horse-and-rider combination with the fewest combined penalties in each of the disciplines. Governed by the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI), the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event has been ranked as a Five Star Eventing competition, designating the highest level of competition that has been awarded to only six events in the world. Referred to as “The Best Weekend All Year,” the event also serves as the Land Rover/USEF CCI-5*-L Eventing National Championship presented by MARS EQUESTRIAN.

At the Land Rover Kentucky event, riders vie for their share of $400,000 in prize money as well as the elusive $350,000 Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing, which is awarded to the rider who wins Land Rover Kentucky, Mitsubishi Motors Badminton and Land Rover Burghley Five Star Events in succession. Townend took home a check for $130,000, a one-year lease on a Land Rover Discovery, and a Rolex Oyster Perpetual Datejust watch.

Following his fault-free show jumping round riding his 12-year-old Trakehner gelding, owned by Christine Turner, American Boyd Martin finished in second place. Speaking of his steed, Tseterleg, Martin remarked, “He’s probably not the fanciest horse here but he’s an absolute gutsy little trier, and that counts for a lot.” Tim Price of New Zealand riding Xavier Faer rounded out the top three.

When they aren’t taking in the action, fans shop and browse the nearly 200 booths in the Sponsor Village and International Trade Fair. Land Rover also sponsors a tailgating competition and off-road test drives. A fundraising dinner benefitting the event’s official charity, The Bluegrass Land Conservancy, as well as a twilight 5k race are included among the varied spectator experiences.


The 2020 event is scheduled for April 23-26


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