Some of the best equestrians in the world return to Lexington this week for the annual Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event at the Kentucky Horse Park. The event begins Thursday with two days of dressage, followed by cross-country on Saturday and stadium jumping on Sunday.
Gates open at 7 a.m. all days and 60,000 to 80,000 spectators are expected over the four days.
The Rolex Kentucky is one of the few annual four-star or Olympic-level eventing competitions in the world and the only one in the Western Hemisphere. This year’s competition will serve as a selection for riders hoping to make their country’s team for the Olympic competition this summer in Rio de Janeiro.
Among the 71 rider and horse combinations scheduled to compete:
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▪ The 2015 Rolex Kentucky champion Michael Jung of Germany on Fischerrocana FST, the horse he rode to victory last year. The world’s leading event rider, Jung won the Land Rover Burghley competition last year so he is also chasing the Grand Slam of Eventing, a title and $350,000 prize that goes to a rider who wins Rolex Kentucky, Mitsubishi Motors Badminton and Land Rover Burghley in a row.
▪ Top New Zealand riders, including six-time Olympic veteran Sir Mark Todd who has won everything but the Rolex Kentucky; and 2000 Rolex Kentucky champion Blyth Tait.
▪ Top American riders, including 2008 Rolex Kentucky champion Phillip Dutton; and three-time Rolex Kentucky champion Kim Severson.
▪ Top Canadian riders, including Olympic veterans Jessica Phoenix and Kyle Carter.
The competition begins Thursday with dressage, in which riders must execute the same steps in a precise patter, at 8:30 a.m. Dressage continues until 4:30 p.m. and resumes at 9:30 a.m. Friday.
Cross-country competition, where riders complete a four-mile route of massive, multiple jumps, sometimes in combination, starts at 10 a.m. on Saturday and runs until 4:30 p.m. with horses starting on the course every four minutes.
On Sunday, the final phase, stadium jumping, starts at 1 p.m.
For more information or to buy tickets go to RK3DE.org.
Other events include a memorial at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the Head of the Lake Jump for Roger Haller, the longtime Rolex Kentucky, U.S. Equestrian Federation and FEI official who created the signature jump. Haller, who died in March, designed the cross-country course for the 1978 World Championships at the Horse Park as well as the course for the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.
There also will be a reception and fund-raising auction for Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance featuring commemorative Rolex Maker’s Mark bottles at The Livery, 238 East Main Street, at 7 p.m. Thursday. Tickets are $200 per person or $300 per couple and can be purchased online through RK3DE.org.
On Friday, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program will host a dinner in honor of rider Colleen Rutlege at Mereworth Farm. Tickets are $20 and available at horseadoption.com.
On Saturday, after the cross-country competition, Hunter Hayes will perform at the Alltech Arena at the Horse Park. Doors open at 4:30 p.m. with the opening act at 6 p.m. General admission tickets are $35. Tickets are available at hunterhayes.com.
For a complete schedule of additional events, go to the Rolex Kentucky website.