Eventing: Kentucky joy has Townend on course for sport’s richest prize

MAN OF THE MOMENT: Huddersfield's Oliver Townend, pictured riding Ballaghmor Class.
MAN OF THE MOMENT: Huddersfield's Oliver Townend, pictured riding Ballaghmor Class.
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HUDDERSFIELD’s Oliver Townend is on course to land eventing’s richest prize after he won the Land Rover Kentucky three-day event in the United States.

The British number one triumphed aboard Cooley Master Class, beating Germany’s reigning Olympic champion Michael Jung, who led before the final showjumping phase but had a fence down on Fischerrocana FST.

Shropshire-based Townend won the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials last September, and victory in Kentucky means he is in contention for the Rolex Grand Slam, which has only been achieved on two previous occasions by Jung and Britain’s Pippa Funnell.

It carries a £255,000 jackpot and is awarded to any rider who wins consecutive Burghley, Kentucky and Badminton crowns.

Townend, 35, will head to Badminton this week among the major title challengers with his Burghley champion Ballaghmor Class.

It was the fourth time Townend, who helped Great Britain take European team gold in Poland last September, has won an elite four-star event, collecting just over £90,000 for his efforts.

And he becomes the fourth British rider to claim victory at Kentucky after Funnell, William Fox-Pitt and Mary King.

Townend’s brilliant showjumping clear with 13-year-old gelding Cooley Master Class left him on a final score of 28.7 penalties, with Jung, who was chasing a fourth successive Kentucky win, finishing second and America’s Marilyn Little third with RF Scandalous.

Townend also finished equal sixth with his second ride MHS King Joules, and he will now arrive at Badminton - the world’s biggest four-star competition - with his confidence sky high.

The Huddersfield-raised rider admitted winning the Land Rover Kentucky had been “an absolute long-term dream” and the rider wrote on his official Twitter page: “Thanks everyone for all your support. Can’t believe it. Amazing horses, amazing owners, amazing team. Speechless.”