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Holder Hangs On To Lead at Rolex
Lexington, KY, USA
by Amber Heintzberger
Photo: Anthony Trollope/
Becky Holder and Courageous Comet
Becky Holder has made a good start at leaving Olympic selectors with a good impression this weekend at the Rolex Kentucky three-day event CCI**** presented by Farnam. All she has to do is keep her cool in the show jumping tomorrow and leave the rails in the cups to win the big event. No easy task, as she well knows, but Holder has been working hard all winter.

"I've been working hard on my show jumping and I'm bringing more tools to the competition and looking forward to seeing how we hold up," she said. Holder, who suffered a crashing fall of horse and rider at Fair Hill last fall, has been working hard all winter, especially on her fitness. "I threw away the scale and I've been running five miles a day and eating healthy," she said. "As part of my own personal makeover I owed it to myself to get in shape."

This morning she proved that she and her grey Thoroughbred gelding have the cross-country phase well under control. "Comet was pretty amazing today, I have to say. He came out with his game face on and I did too."

Holder had to maintain her composure during a hold on course when Sarah Hansel's horse The Quiet Man hung a foreleg and fell at the Sunken Road and had to be transported off the course (he is stabilized and resting comfortably). In spite of being held for several minutes on course while Hansel and her horse were attended to, Holder and Courageous Comet maintained their lead in the four-star competition.

Holder , 39 of Mendota Heights, MN said that Comet is a sociable horse and seemed to enjoy having the crowd around him, focusing their attention on him during the hold. She said that her first concern was for the wellbeing of the fallen horse and rider and that once she was assured that they were okay, she focused on her own game plan. "It was fortunate that it was early in the course, because he wasn't very hot yet and there was a nice breeze blowing up there," she said.

She mentioned that during the hold she tried to stop her watch but had a few issues. "It went back to zero, then started beeping incessantly - I finally bashed it with my fist to make it stop and then forgot about it. I just focused on each fence and my position and pace the rest of the way around. I didn't focus as much on the time but he was well within himself.

Trailblazer Karen O'Connor started the event off this morning with the crowd's favorite pony, Theodore O'Connor. He jumped around clear and in the time, thrilling the audience with his style. O'Connor later rode Jacqueline Mars' Hugh Knows, who had a stop at the open corner at fence 16. The handsome gelding is still young, and O'Connor said that she plans to go home and school that type of jump properly, then come back and win with him next year. Teddy's clear round moved him up from 24th after dressage into the top ten going into tomorrow.

Twelve horses finished cross-country clear and in the time. Jonathan Holling withdrew Dun to a T before cross-country; three horses retired and four were eliminated. The standings changed considerably throughout the day. Though the morning was overcast, the rain got out of the way before the competition started and the weather continued to improve, with clear skies and sunshine in the afternoon. Things got a little more interesting in the competition however, with more falls and some big changes on the leader board. Several horses also made impressive moves up the rankings, including Missy Ransehousen, Allison Springer and Kim Severson, who moved from out of the top ten into the top six.

Notable riders Corinne Ashton, Polly Stockton, Boyd Martin and Heidi White were among the many riders that parted company from their partners. White was in second place after dressage and even though she remounted and finished the course she is well out of the ribbons now with 124.8 penalties. Stockton (GBR) and Martin (AUS) retired from the competition, though Martin still has Neville Bardos, who moved up to seventh on a double clear round, to ride tomorrow. Boyd and Neville are the leading foreign rider as of now, followed by Cammy O'Rourke, also of Australia. Mike Winter added a few time faults with Kingpin, so Hawley Bennett edged just ahead of him with Livingstone to lead the Canadian contingent.

Bonnie Mosser, seventh after dressage riding Merloch, lost her good standing at the third water jump when she lost her reins at the third duck, causing a refusal at the fourth. "It was a tricky moment because I was trying to figure out how to not cross my tracks after I lost my reins," she said. "I fell off at the ducks last year, so at least I didn't do that this time!"

Laine Ashker and Frodo Baggins were the fourth to last horse and rider to head out on cross-country. The pair were blazing along when they incurred a rotational fall at fence 5, an Easter basket. Ashker sustained injuries and was stabilized and airlifted to the University of Kentucky Hospital in Lexington. Frodo Baggins, a New Zealand Thoroughbred well known to fans since he was once of the horses featured in the movie The Lord of the Rings, was transported to Hagyards veterinary hospital across the road from the Kentucky Horse Park. More information will follow.

Due to spectator chaos in the galloping lanes, O'Connor and Hugh Knows were held on course because the approach was not clear to the Walnut Table. Eventually they were allowed to continue and completed the course without incident.

Stephen Bradley on From, Boyd Martin on Ying Yang Yo and Phillip Dutton on Connaught were held for over an hour in the warm-up area while medics tended to Ashker and her horse. Both Bradley and Dutton jumped around clear, incurring minor time faults, and Dutton moved up to second place followed by Bradley in fourth.

"Boyd and Stephen and I just joked around for a while," said Dutton, commenting on the delay. "We were concerned about Laine but you have to focus on the job at hand and go out and do it."

Regarding the difficulty level of the course Dutton said, "Everybody goes out making sure you don't take anything for granted. I think it rode pretty well - some people had trouble, but that's sport - it's not all perfect."

Emilee Libby, the Young Rider that had such a fantastic dressage score yesterday, had a sticky jump at 4a and a refusal at 4b. She continued on to the coffin at fence 6, but feeling that she and her horse were not up to the challenge today, made the admirable decision to retire from the competition.

Tomorrow's competition should be full of excitement as the leaders are mere points apart heading into the final phase. Spectators can also look forward to the retirement ceremony of multiple Rolex winner Winsome Adante, ridden by Kim Severson.

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