There’s a trio of Kiwi equestrians keen to fly the flag high at the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event and Kentucky CSI3* Invitational Grand Prix.

Olympians and World Champs representatives Joe Meyer, Tim Price and Sharn Wordley are all on the cards – Joe on Johnny Royale and Tim aboard Xavier Faer in the CCI5*-L three-day event and Sharn aboard Barnetta in the invitational jumping.

Joe’s preparation into Kentucky has been less than ideal. Late in March he and his terrier Wiggle were involved in a car accident that left him a little bruised and shaken with broken ribs. The injury meant they had to change their lead-in, however, they had a good win at Ocala amongst a large field with other Kentucky-bound combinations.

“He put in three solid phases and feels very good,” says Joe. “The weekend before was meant to be his last run but it did not quite go exactly to plan with me not being able to steer very well. I didn’t ride all week and was much stronger at Ocala. Johnny isn’t a strong horse but I was in a lot of pain. My ribs are improving every day and should be in good shape shortly.”

It’s an event he is really looking forward to. “Johnny still has a few things to learn at this level but he is only 10 and doing well for his age. He is fit and well, and the bubble wrap is on!”

They were set to compete at Kentucky last year but were a late withdrawal after Johnny Royale had an old injury flared up, so this will be his CCI5*-L debut. His rider, however, has ridden for New Zealand at both Olympic and World Champs level.

Johnny Royale – who is by His Royal Highness, out of Chivaney (by Tights) – is one of 11 bred-to-race thoroughbreds in this year’s event. His racing career was short-lived, spanning an eight-month period between 2011 and 2012 and earning his owners just $175 in prize money from eight starts. His first outing as an eventer with Joe was in 2016 at Tallahassee, Florida in a CCI2*-S and the two have worked their way up the grades since.

Tim is no stranger to Kentucky, having competed there in 2015, 2016 and 2017 with his best effort second on Wesko on debut, just a single penalty point behind Michael Jung (GER) on Fischerrocana FST. Each of Tim’s outings at Kentucky has been aboard a different horse.
This time he’s on 13-year-old Xavier Faer who has had three CCI5*-L starts and placed third at Badminton in 2017.

“I have been very happy with his prep,” he says of the British-bred gelding who is by Catherston Liberator out of Faerie Dazzler. “He has had three-and-a-half really good runs and before that a good month in Spain jumping. Fitness-wise it has been all to plan.”
But Tim is always a little cautious. “You don’t want to get ahead of yourself taking on big events. I am very excited about going out there and having a crack again.”

The horse flew out from the UK last week with Tim joining him at the weekend. “It is a couple of really busy weeks coming up. It will be a quick trip back and then straight on with the two horses I have going to Badminton and Jonelle with her one. So Team Price is being tugged in every direction at the moment! April is always our busiest month of the year getting all the horses up and ready for these early big events and everything getting going.”

The two Kiwis joins a star-struck international list for the 41st event, including 2018 winner Oliver Townend (GBR) aboard Cooley Master Class along with other riders from the United States, Canada, Australia, Mexico, Brazil, Switzerland, and Great Britain. Missing from the list is three-time winner Michael Jung.

New Zealanders have won Kentucky three times – in 1998 Nick Larkin and Red took the honours, with Blyth Tait and Welton Envoy winning in 2000 and Andrew Nicholson on Quimbo heading the field home in 2013.

For Sharn, Kentucky is a favourite event. “Barnetta is feeling fantastic,” he said. “There’s always a huge crowd, it is my home town, there’s big money and it is a great venue with fabulous footing. I can’t wait!”

Fifteen-year-old Barnetta – a German-bred Westphalian by Baloubet du Rouet out of Polydora – has been competed with Sharn since 2015 and done well at both CSI5* and World Cup level. They will start in the 1.45m ranking class on Friday with the 1.60m invitational grand prix on Saturday where there is a whopping $225,000 on the line. Last year was the first time the event has hosted the invitational. Courses this year will be designed by Guilherme Jorge.

The horse details:
Xavier Faer – owned by Trisha Rickards, Nigella Hall and Tim Price
Johnny Royale – owned by Team Johnny Syndicate
Barnetta – owned by the Sky Group

WHAT: Land Rover Kentucky CCI5*-L Three-Day Event and the Kentucky CSI3* Invitational Grand Prix
WHERE: Lexington Horse Par, Lexington, Kentucky, USA
WHEN: April 25-28, 2019

By Diana Dobson – HP Media Liaison