Fayette County

Top Rolex riders arrive, some officials replaced

Two of the leading riders at the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event have arrived at the Kentucky Horse Park after a harrowing trip forced by Iceland's volcano ash cloud that grounded flights across Northern Europe.

William Fox-Pitt, a leading rider from Great Britain, persuaded a neighbor to fly him in a single-engine plane to Madrid, Spain. There he joined Oliver Townend on a flight to Miami, and they traveled to Lexington together, Fox-Pitt's Web site reported.

Townend, also of Great Britain, wants to become the second rider to attain the Rolex Grand Slam and a $350,000 prize by winning the Badminton Horse Trials, Burghley Horse Trials and the Kentucky Rolex in succession.

Townend made it to France by train, only to find a strike by rail workers, Rolex officials said. So he took a cab from Paris to Madrid, a 14-hour journey that cost $3,000. In Madrid on Sunday, he and Fox-Pitt flew to Miami, where they spent Monday night. On Tuesday morning, they got an early flight through Atlanta to Lexington.

Both riders' horses were already in the United States because they had to be here early for quarantine restrictions. The length of quarantine depends on which country the horse is coming from.

The volcano has also disrupted other riders' plans. American rider Phillip Dutton was hoping to take his horse Woodburn to the Badminton event in England the week after the Rolex event. But because of the volcano, the horse couldn't get there. So Dutton is trying to get special permission to enter Woodburn at Rolex as his fourth horse in the event, officials said.

Other officials — for Rolex and for the simultaneous test events for the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games — haven't been as lucky as Townend and Fox-Pitt.

Judges from Great Britain and Denmark have been replaced, and the cross-country course designer, Mike Etherington-Smith of Great Britain, won't arrive until Friday.

Two judges of the dressage test event were replaced, and show-jumping test event course designer Conrad Homfeld has been trapped in Europe. He will be replaced by Richard Jeffery, of Great Britain, who was already in Lexington because he is the designer for the jumping phase of the Rolex Three-Day Event.

The test event for dressage, the Kentucky Cup, got underway Tuesday and will continue through Thursday.

The Rolex Three-Day Event will also start Thursday and continue through Sunday. The Kentucky Cup for Show Jumping, the other test event, will begin Friday night.

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