Australian rider Lucinda Fredericks and her plucky mare Headley Britannia held off all rivals to win the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event at the Kentucky Horse Park on Sunday with a flawless ride in the stadium jumping phase.
Upon finishing the last combination and realizing she had jumped clean, Fredericks took a jubilant victory gallop around the stadium to a standing ovation from the crowd, attempting to hold back tears and pointing again and again to her horse.
Fredericks had been in second place after the dressage, but she moved to first with a clear round in the cross-country phase and held on to the lead.
Bettina Hoy of Germany stayed in second place on 18-year-old Ringwood Cockatoo, and Buck Davidson, the only American among the top five finishers, stayed in third with another clear round on My Boy Bobby. Davidson also placed 15th on his second horse, Ballynoe Castle. Presented with the award by Gov. Steve Beshear and first lady Jane Beshear, Fredericks also will take home a check for $80,000 and a Rolex watch.
Fredericks is no stranger to the winners' stand: She and her small, 16-year-old mare, who stands at only 15.3 hands, won the four-star Burghley Horse Trials in 2006 and the four-star Badminton Horse Trials in 2007. The pair also won the team silver medal at the 2008 Olympic Games.
In addition, Fredericks' husband, Clayton Fredericks, won Rolex in 2007. Although the couple ride for Australia, they are based in England. Fredericks thanked everyone for "the best week in our lives."
"For this horse to come out all the way to America against some serious opposition, I think she's done a fantastic job," she said. Fredericks said her husband urged her to come to Rolex, despite the logistical difficulties.
"To come here and experience this amazing place, ..." she said after the medal ceremony. "We don't have anything like this in the U.K., or in Europe. We're going to really look forward to coming back next year."
The jumping finals were the inaugural event in the $25 million outdoor stadium at the Kentucky Horse Park; the riders had to complete a complicated course of 16 jumps in 90 seconds, many of them decorated in the colors of local horse farms. This year's Rolex featured a tough international crowd of riders, many of whom had come to see the Horse Park in advance of the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.
Only two other Americans placed in the top 10: Last year's winner, Phillip Dutton, on Connaught, came in seventh, and Stephen Bradley on Brandenburg's Joshua was 10th.
WEG organizers said 16 national federations came to Rolex to talk about the World Games. They discussed competition, athlete services, and ticketing and hospitality. The four days of competition had clear, sunny skies but was marred by the death of a horse on the cross-country course, apparently from natural causes. The cross-country attendance, usually a huge draw in nice weather, was down by 10,000 people, which organizers attributed to the bad economy.