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The excitement of the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event presented by Land Rover (RK3DE) is about to begin at the Kentucky Horse Park. Following the first horse inspection, 59 horse-and-rider combinations from nine nations will vie for top honors at America's only CCI4* event, which also serves as the Rolex/USEF CCI4* Eventing National Championship. For the first time in 2017, the Roger Haller Trophy, honoring the late, internationally-respected eventing official, will be awarded to the national champion. A field of 60 horses was presented at the first horse inspection, of which two were held. Revitavet Capato, Jordan Linstedt’s mount, passed upon re-inspection, while Covert Rights, Colleen Rutledge’s mount, was withdrawn from the holding box.

Competition begins tomorrow with the first of two days of dressage. Watch the live stream on the USEF Network and catch every ride and all the action of the weekend. Get behind-the-scenes coverage on the USEF Network Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts as well as on the USEF Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat accounts.

This year's field consists of seasoned veterans and first-time competitors in what will surely be an exciting competition. Many top U.S. combinations hope to prove their mettle this week in a star-studded field. Defending Rolex/USEF CCI4* Eventing National Champion Lauren Kieffer (Middleburg, Va.) brings Jacqueline Mars’s Vermiculus, an up-and-coming mount making his four-star debut. Competing Vermiculus at the RK3DE holds special meaning for Kieffer, as he is a full brother to Snooze Alarm, the Anglo-Arabian with whom Kieffer completed her first four-star at the 2010 RK3DE.

“You just want to check all the boxes. [Vermiculus] has had a good experience with three-stars; he has been to Europe and he has done Boekelo, Bromont, and Fair Hill,” Kieffer said of preparing her horse for his first four-star. “The spring is just making sure you have done all your homework, doing just a little bit more challenging questions so you prep them well, and making sure with your events that you are not only planning for the fitness, but that you prep them well and get them here on a good note.”

Phillip Dutton (West Grove, Pa.) has four Rolex/USEF CCI4* Eventing National Championship titles on his resume and could add another with one of his three mounts: Fernhill Fugitive, I’m Sew Ready, and Mr. Medicott. Thomas Tierney and Ann Jones’ Fernhill Fugitive will make his third consecutive RK3DE appearance, while Kristine and John Norton’s I’m Sew Ready will make his four-star debut. Both horses finished in the top 10 with Dutton at The Fork CIC3* earlier this month. Mr. Medicott will make his return to competition after a two-year hiatus, but “Cave” and Dutton are both seasoned veterans, making them a combination to watch.

Buck Davidson, a three-time Rolex/USEF CCI4* Eventing National Champion, will also ride three mounts as he aims for top performances. Davidson (Unionville, Pa.) will ride the same string from 2016: Sherrie Martin and Carl Segal’s Copper Beach, Carl and Cassandra Segal's Park Trader, and Caroline and Sherrie Martin’s Petite Flower. Park Trader and Petite Flower are quite familiar with Kentucky, as they are both making their fourth RK3DE appearances, and stablemate Copper Beach is coming off a win at the Chattahoochee Hills CIC3* with Davidson. This year’s competition will hold special meaning for Davidson, as his longtime partner and 2013 national champion mount, Ballynoe Castle RM, will officially retire from competition in a ceremony prior to the start of Sunday’s show jumping phase.

Up-and-coming stars of the sport will display their talent at the event, as well. Four Emerging Athlete Eventing 25 Program participants will make their four-star debuts: Madeline Backus, Jenny Caras, Caroline Martin, and Savannah “Woodge” Fulton. Backus (Larkspur, Colo.) and her own and her mother Laura Backus’s P.S. Arianna finished fourth earlier this year at the Red Hills International CIC3* and hope to maintain their top form in Kentucky.

“It’s great to be here. There is a lot of atmosphere, and there’s a lot to do, but I am really excited. I have a great team helping me,” said Backus. “The Emerging Athlete Program is so great to be a part of; we get to learn from Leslie Law, be a part of training sessions, and learn about horse management. We learn a lot of great things and it opens up a lot of opportunities.”

Fellow Emerging Athlete Eventing 25 Program participants Caras (Cartersville, Ga.) and the Fernhill Fortitude Syndicate’s Fernhill Fortitude, Martin (Miami Beach, Fla.) and her and her mother Sherrie Martin’s Spring Easy, and Fulton (Ocala, Fla.) and Full Moon Farm Syndicate’s Captain Jack earned top-10 finishes at the three-star level last summer and fall and have been diligently training to prepare for the RK3DE. Other alumni from the program competing at the RK3DE are Kieffer, Lindstedt (Duvall, Wash.), and Allie Sacksen (West Grove, Pa.).

The Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event presented by Land Rover is part of the FEI Classics™ series. The FEI Classics™ is a series uniting the top end of the international eventing circuit, namely the six four-star eventing competitions currently on the calendar.

Dressage begins Thursday at 10:10 a.m. ET with James Alliston (GBR) and Parker.

For more information about the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event presented by Land Rover, visit

by Kathleen Landwehr, US Equestrian Communications Department | Apr 26, 2017, 11:40 PM EST 
Photo of Buck Davidson and Petite Flower at the first horse inspection (Taylor Pence)