3 share the CCI4*-S lead at the Land Rover Kentucky event at Horse Park

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Tamie Smith (USA) and Danito. Photo by RedBayStock.com.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ/Press Release) —  There is a three-way tie for the lead after the

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Cooley Moonshine. Photo by RedBayStock.com.

first day of dressage in the Lexington CCI4*-S at The Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event Presented by MARS Equestrian™at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.

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Tamie Smith (USA) and Danito, Doug Payne (USA) and Starr Witness, and Liz Halliday-Sharp (USA) and Cooley Moonshine all received a score of 28.1 from judges Helen Brettell (GBR) and Mark Weissbecker (USA).

Smith and Ruth Bley’s Danito set the bar as the first to earn the leading score, but Smith

Doug Payne and Starr Witness. Photo by RedBayStock.com.

said the “quirky” 12-year-old Hanoverian is capable of better marks.

“He was really fresh and kind of naughty [in warm-up],” Smith said. “You just have to compromise with him. You’ve got to be firm but you can’t get after him or be mad at him or he freaks out. I went into that test today not being able to really ride him, so I was disappointed after my ride. He can produce a much better test than he did today. It’s what it is. He’s such a cool horse and such a trier and I really love him.”

Smith is based in California and spent the spring season on the East Coast. She has a busy week ahead with three entered in the CCI4*-S and one in the CCI5*-L.

“It’s been really good for the horses to see all the different venues. We have only a handful at home and they’ve been to all those multiple times. I feel like they’ve all come out better and better every show,” Smith said. “It’s a huge opportunity to be able to get these four horses in this environment and this atmosphere. It’s priceless really.”

Shortly after Smith, Payne piloted Starr Witness, a 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood, to an equal score. The mare, owned by Payne, Laurie McRee, and Catherine Winter, started out as a hunter/jumper. She shows early promise in eventing, earning a team gold medal with Payne at the 2019 Pan American Games.

“She’s a unique case. She had jumped through 1.25m prior to coming to us. In many aspects it’s not so much to teach her how to jump but more to teach her the nuances that are presented in eventing,” Payne said. “She’s wicked smart, quick on her feet, and very athletic. The Pan Ams were a big ask and she just stepped up to it and she’s continued to do that as we’ve gone forward.”

Starr Witness moved up to Advanced in 2020 and has since completed three CCI4*-S and one CCI4*-L but has yet to finish without time penalties on cross-country at this level.

“We’re just getting to the point we can start being more competitive as far as time goes, but I’ve wanted to give her enough time to set her up for combinations and make sure she truly understood everything that’s being asked of her,” Payne said. “Her attitude is such that she’s going to want to try her best and lucky for us she’s an athletic freak and was able to accomplish [the move up to Advanced] with ease.”

Halliday-Sharp and Cooley Moonshine heightened the level of excitement in this division by rounding out a three-way tie for the lead. Halliday-Sharp has had the ride on this 9-year-old Irish Sport Horse owned by The Monster Partnership since the gelding was five.

“He’s a really special horse,” Halliday-Sharp said. “I think it did him good to have an easy year last year. He’s still pretty green and this is his second Four Star. It’s such a great opportunity to get a horse like him into this atmosphere. He can be a bit hot and is keen to get on with the job all the time. Any chance we get to have him in this sort of atmosphere is a wonderful education. He’s a horse I’m trying to take my time with a bit and really get him dialed in. I think he’s very world class and hopefully an exciting one for the future.”

While the Kentucky Horse Park’s Rolex Arena provides plenty of atmosphere on its own, there is a notable difference with the absence of spectators.

“You do your very best anyway when you’re in the ring, so you try not to notice it,” Halliday-Sharp said. “If the stadium was completely packed there would be more for the horses to deal with. For the young horses it gives them a chance to ease into it and hopefully when they are here competing in a Five Star and it is packed full of people they’ll be more seasoned to it.”

The CCI4*-S scores are close at the top, with the best nine of the first session all scoring under 32.0 penalties. Competition will resume for this level at 7:45 Friday morning.

Known as “The Best Weekend All Year,” the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event Presented by MARS Equestrian™ (LRK3DE) hosts one of only seven annual Five Star three-day events in the world and is serving as a U.S. selection trial for this summer’s Tokyo Olympic Games. As the United States’ premier three-day event, LRK3DE serves as the Land Rover/USEF CCI-5*-L Eventing National Championship Presented by MARS Equestrian™ for U.S. athletes.

A new partnership between EEI and the Kentucky Horse Park Foundation combined with the support of US Equestrian (USEF), longstanding sponsors Land Rover, MARS Equestrian™ and Rolex and many other valued event sponsors, plus the collective efforts of the many individuals who donated, ensured that the nation’s premier equestrian event will be held with its traditional CCI5*-L in the afternoons and a new CCI4*-S in the mornings.

Although the event is being held without spectators, it can be seen live online on the USEF Network, free of charge with a USEF Fan Membership, which is available at no cost using the code LRK3DE21.