New Zealand equestrian Jonelle Price is embracing the biggest challenge of her career at the Kentucky Three-Day Event in the United States.
The 2018 Badminton champion is one of three UK-based riders competing, alongside her husband, world number two-ranked Tim Price and Jesse Campbell among a world class field of 66 riders.
The first of two days of dressage starts on Friday morning followed by the cross country on Sunday and the final show jumping phase on Monday.
With the cancellation of Badminton, the Kentucky event is the major competition for the elite riders ahead of the Tokyo Olympics and Price has entered three horses at five-star level for the first time.
"I think she's mad," Price's husband Tim told the Herald. "It's not a mean feat to have one horse at these competitions, two is a pretty serious day at the office but three, I mean you don't get time to draw breath. It's like three marathons; every horse is different. You need your wits about you.
"But there's no one better for the job than Jonelle. She is incredibly stubborn in her approach and her application to the job and hasn't left a stone unturned."
Jonelle Price admits it's a tall order but appears excited by the challenge.
"Certainly coming in fitness has been a big thing just making sure I'm fit, two of the horses are mares so they require quite a lot of work during the week and being really organised and planning your days so you are making the most of every hour," she said.
Price will be competing on her 2018 Badminton winning mare Classic Moet, now 18 and in the twilight of her career. The horse had been primed for Badminton but when that got cancelled, the owner entered her for Kentucky.
Price says Classic Moet needs to compete to qualify for Tokyo.
"With the uncertainty of what lay ahead it would have been really sad if we had waited for Burghley or the Games and neither happened and she didn't get another run, and she's been in great form so it's great to have her here," Price said.
The 40-year-old Kiwi will also ride 13-year-old Grovine de Reve, who finished 12th in his five-star debut at Pau in France in October, and 10-year-old Grappa Nera who is stepping up to five-star for the first time.
Tim Price has two horses in the field, 15-year-olds Bango and Xavier Faer. British-bred Xavier Faer was third at Kentucky in 2019 and also placed third at Badminton in 2017. His second horse Bango has competed at Luhmuhlen, Kentucky, Badminton and Burghley, where he was fifth in 2019.
"They are lovely experienced 5-star horses and are experienced at this level and nice horses to go into this competition with because I know them so well and hopefully that can convert into some good results," he said.
The Kiwi contingent has also had to contend with unseasonably cold weather, waking up on the eve of the event for the visionary inspection to snow.
"We have worked out it's the first time in history at any five-star event that Kentucky has had snow in April. We woke up this morning and it was just crazy, proper snow on the ground and we thought to ourselves how could this happen and thank crikey it's not on the weekend when there wouldn't be time for the ground to recover and the cross country to get underway."
Jesse Campbell will compete aboard Diachello, an 11-year-old gelding who will be having his first five-star start.
US-based Joe Meyer is also competing on his 13-year-old New Zealand thoroughbred Johnny Royale on the five-star card. Together they completed Kentucky five-star in 2019.
The New Zealand team in Kentucky is adhering to strict coronavirus protocols. They are all staying at the same house and Equestrian Sports New Zealand is looking to mirror health and safety protocols that are likely to be in place for the Tokyo Olympics.
Last year's event was cancelled due to Covid-19. Organisers then made the call to can the 2021 event again due to the challenges that came with the pandemic until a huge outpouring of support saw them flip flop when US$550,000 was donated to enable the event to go ahead, albeit without spectators.
Britain's world number one Oliver Townsend is the two-time defending champion having won in 2018 and 2019 with former winner William Fox Pitt another contender.
New Zealanders Andrew Nicholson (2013), Blyth Tait (2000) and Nick Larking (1998) have all won the Kentucky event.