The Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event lost a bit of star power on Friday as British rider Zara Phillips, granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth II, withdrew after her horse, High Kingdom, suffered a minor injury.
"I'm gutted because I really wanted to ride the course, and it was a great course. And it would have suited him," Phillips said. "It's a great competition. They've made us feel really welcome, and it's a really nice change to competing at home."
This was to have been Phillips' debut at the Rolex Kentucky, the annual four-star or Olympic-level eventing competition held at Lexington's Kentucky Horse Park. The event runs through Sunday.
Still, fans were treated to a display from eventing royalty Friday: Germany's Michael Jung and "Sam," his gold-medal winning ride from the 2012 Olympics and 2010 World Equestrian Games, performed a dressage test that put him into a first place tie with New Zealand rider Tim Price on Wesko, with scores of 36.3
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Jung is in fourth place on his other horse, FischerRocana, with a score of 39.3.
The top ranked American rider after dressage is Colleen Rutledge, who is in fifth place on Covert Rights with a score of 42.3.
The top 11 riders are separated by less than 10 points and well within striking distance of the lead.
On Saturday, all the riders will be watching the weather.
The cross-country course is nearly 4 miles, with 29 jumping efforts that will test the 73 remaining competitors, who also may have to contend with heavy rain. Competition isn't usually delayed by rain, but lightning and high wind would be a different story.
The start of Saturday's competition was moved up 15 minutes to 9:45 a.m., and the timing between riders was shortened to give the final riders a chance to get their ride in before stormy weather hits.
Competition is expected to be done by 1:30 p.m. Saturday. Fox-Pitt predicted that the terrain will be "quite tiring" even without rain.
His teammate Phillips will be looking on from the sidelines.
Phillips and High Kingdom won team silver at the 2012 Olympics in London and team silver at the 2014 World Equestrian Games in Normandy.
As she was preparing for dressage Friday, High Kingdom got hurt. "He kicked out in the stable for some reason about an hour before my test and managed to cut his right fetlock joint open, and we had to staple it," Phillips said later. "He had about four staples put in. So we worked him, (to) see if it was going to be okay, and it wasn't good enough."
Phillips abruptly withdrew just before she was to go into the dressage arena.
British eventing coach Yogi Breisner said they were disappointed but philosophical. "It's a long way to come not to be able to compete," he said. "The injury is on the right hind leg ... It's absolutely nothing. He'll be perfectly all right in a day or two."
This was Phillips' only horse entered in the Rolex Kentucky competition, which continues Saturday with cross-country and concludes Sunday after stadium jumping.