Equestrian: Strong field for first eventing classic of the year

By David Leggat

Top class New Zealand rider Tim Price on Ringwood Sky Boy. Photo / Libby Law
Top class New Zealand rider Tim Price on Ringwood Sky Boy. Photo / Libby Law

Rio Olympian Tim Price is hoping it will be first time lucky for his quality horse Ringwood Sky Boy when he lines up at the Kentucky three-day event starting on Thursday night (NZT).

Price and 14-year-old horse, are one of just two New Zealand combinations in the first four-star classic of the year. American-based Joe Meyer, a 2008 Beijing Olympian, is back for his third tilt at Kentucky aboard Clip Clop.

Price, 38, is ranked 15th in the eventing standings - fifth best among New Zealand riders - and is happy with Ringwood's form.

The pair have been competing on the Sunshine Tour in Spain and believes they are in good nick for the start of the big European season.

''Ringwood Sky Boy is feeling very fit,'' Price said.

"I think competing in Spain has contributed a lot of fitness and jumping preparation to all our horses. We have been very impressed with how they have come back feeling fitter and stronger."

Last year at Kentucky, Price, riding Bango, was eliminated just before the end of the cross country phase but he's a classy rider. He finished second there aboard Wesko in 2015 and this will be his third start at Kentucky.

Price was reserve for the Rio Olympic team but got in after teammate Jock Paget had to withdraw shortly before the start. It didn't end well, as the combination fell on the cross country stage. New Zealand finished fourth overall.

Throw in a second and fourth placing at the Burghley trial in the last two years and a fourth at another classic event, in Luhmuhlen, Germany and Price is aiming to move up a step in this year's Classic series.

Many of the sport's top combinations will line up this week, including world No 1 and Olympic champion Michael Jung of Germany, who is chasing a hat-trick of wins aboard his 12-year-old mare Fischerrocana FST.

World No 2, American Phillip Dutton has three horses entered.

By contrast with Kentucky, a full contingent of New Zealand riders are expected at the second four-star event, the prestigious Badminton trial in Gloucestershire starting on May 3.

One who won't be entered, however, is Price's wife Jonelle, the world's seventh-best ranked rider. She is pregnant.

The other four star events this year are in Luhmuhlen, Germany from June 15-18 and at Burghley, England from August 31-September 3.

French rider Maximo Livio and Australian Hazel Shannon head the Classic standings with 15 points each, having won the Pau event in France and the Adelaide three-dayer respectively.

Jung and Australian Wilhelm Enzinger are equal third on 12.

- NZ Herald

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