Jonathan Paget has ridden Clifton Promise through a brilliant clear cross country round in the RolexKentuckyThreeDayEventintheUnitedStatesthis morning to move into third place with team-mate Andrew Nicholson and Qwanza in ninth spot.
Just 32 managed to complete a very challenging cross country course, with just eight going clear and inside time – the two Kiwis both included in that illustrious list.
Leader William Fox-Pitt (GBR) has a very strong New Zealand connection – his horse Parklane Hawk is a former Kiwi race horse who was previously ridden by New Zealand Olympian Matthew Grayling (Taranaki) before being sold offshore.
There is nothing between the top three of the leader board, with Fox-Pitt on 41.3, second-placed Allison Springer (USA) and Arthur who led after the dressage on 43 and Paget aboard Promise (owned by Frances Stead) on 44.8, as they head into tomorrow's all-important showjumping phase.
Paget was delighted.
“He is an amazing horse – he’s a warrior and fast and he just loves his job. It’s great to be on him. Hats off to (owner) Frances (Stead) because she really knows how to pick them.”
The combination had a little “sticky” moment in the lake where they nudged a log on the way in and ended up adding an extra stride, but Paget said it was just a matter of regaining momentum and they were away again.
“It was hard work out there, but great! Promise has pulled up looking fresh and feeling fine.”
Promise is known for his clear showjumping having taken only three rails in his four star career.
“I figure he’s due to go clear again,” says Paget.
Nicholson and Qwanza’s (owned by Rosemary and Mark Barlow) efforts pulled them up from 25thovernight into ninth spot.
Nicholson and Calico Joe (owned by the Twenty Twelve in Mind Syndicate) retired at the tricky combination ninth fence. Lucy Jackson and Kilcoltrim Ambassador (owned by Jackson and the Sprout Syndicate) were eliminated two thirds of the way through, after picking up an early 20 penalties at the troublesome fence nine. Twenty riders picked up faults, retired or were eliminated at this fence.
Fifteen combinations were eliminated throughout the cross country course today, seven retired and three withdrawn before they even started.
Fox-Pitt, who is chasing the Rolex Grand Slam prize for the rider who wins Burghley, Kentucky and Badminton in succession, had plenty of praise for his New Zealand-bred horse.
“He gave me some ride,” he said. “He is a thoroughbred horse, he has raced in New Zealand, his grandfather is Danehill so I had a huge advantage. He is pure class.”
The showjumping phase of this prestigious four star event goes in the early hours of tomorrow (Monday) morning.