German rider Michael Jung returned to the Kentucky Horse Park, the site of his 2010 triumph in the World Equestrian Games, to take the top spot after the first day of dressage Thursday at the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event.
Jung, who won individual gold medals at the World Games in Kentucky in 2010 and the 2012 Olympics, led with a score of 39.3 on his horse Fischerrocana FST. He was followed by U.S. riders Laine Ashker and Phillip Dutton.
Jung said he was happy to return to the Horse Park, which provided good preparation for the horses for what he described as a "fantastic competition."
Second-place rider Ashker said her dressage ride was "like a dream come true."
Never miss a local story.
Dressage will continue Friday, followed by the cross-country phase Saturday. The forecast for Saturday calls for storms with plenty of rain.
On a tour of the cross-country course organized by Rolex, former Olympic eventer Leslie Law said riders would need to be careful.
"The ground could get quite soft quite quickly, " Law said.
Jung described the cross-country course as big but said the jumps were "very friendly and very clear."
Other competitors include last year's Rolex Kentucky winner, William Fox-Pitt of Great Britain, and teammate Zara Phillips, granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth II, who is riding at the Horse Park for the first time.
The Rolex Kentucky, which runs through Sunday, is the only four-star or Olympic level eventing competition in the Western Hemisphere, and one of six held annually worldwide. Prize money for this year's competition has been doubled to $100,000 for the winner, according to Equestrian Events Inc., which puts on the annual competition.
The Rolex Kentucky and the Badminton and Burghley eventing competitions in Great Britain comprise the $350,000 Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing.