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Darren Chiacchia, Kim Severson Pull Ahead of Mara Dean in Dressage At Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event
Lexington, KY, USA
Photos: Anthony Trollope/EWBNews.com

EWB News Service
Leslie Law (GBR)
Darren Chiacchia of Ocala, FL, took a commanding lead Friday at the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event CCI**** Presented by Farnam when he and Windfall II glided through a dressage test that brought cheers from the record crowd in the stands.

Windfall and the other sleek equine athletes -- some of the best in the world coupled with gorgeous Kentucky spring weather were an irresistible attraction to the more than 18,000 spectators at the final dressage competitions on Friday, up 26 percent from the previous year.

With a score of 33.0, Chiacchia and the striking black Trakehner finished 6.5 points ahead of Kim Severson of Scottsville, VA, his partner on the bronze medal-winning US team at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, who scored 39.5. Mara Dean of Round Hill, VA, who claimed Thursday's top dressage score of 43.2 riding Nicki Henley, dropped into third place.

Severson, who has won Rolex Kentucky three times aboard crowd-favorite Winsome Adante, is riding Royal Venture, a dark bay Australian-bred Thoroughbred, on this outing. "Lenny has always been a bridesmaid to Dan," she said, describing how Royal Venture was often her backup horse when she rode Winsome Adante at international competitions. "I hope to goodness that this is Lenny's year. Depending on how he goes [on cross-country], he might have an edge on Dan."

Severson was talking about the Eventing World Championships at the 2006 World Equestrian Games Aug. 20 through Sept. 3 in AŠchen, Germany. The 2006 Rolex Kentucky event is a United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) Selection Trial, and she, Chiacchai and Dean, a veteran of the 1996 Olympic team, are among the US riders who are hoping to be selected for the team that will represent the United States at the Games.

EWB News Service
Boyd Martin (AUS)
Rivalry between these riders who are competitors at one event and teammates at the next came up in Friday's press conference, where the media get a chance to question the leading riders that day. Chiacchia and Severson looked at each other and laughed.

"Obviously we are both competitive," Chiacchia said. "We both want to win, but since we were on the team together, we both want each other to do well."

"It's ultimately the team competition we're working for," Severson chimed in.

With the dressage phase of Rolex Kentucky completed, the rest of the horse-and-rider pairs in the top 10 are: Courageous Comet, Becky Holder, US (43.7); From, Stephen Bradley, US (43.9); Call Me Clifton, Donna Smith, NZL (45.6); Shear Lâeau, Leslie Law, GBR, tied with Tom Quigley, Polly Stockton, GBR (48.2); Paris, Kelli Temple, CAN (48.7); Northern Spy, Heidi J. White, US (49.4).

Attention now shifts from dressage to the cross-country phase of Rolex Kentucky on Saturday, April 29. Always the highlight of any three-day event, this phase at Rolex Kentucky takes horses and riders over the most challenging set of obstacles in the United States. On Friday, riders and trainers often with eager fans trailing along behind could be seen pouring over the almost four-mile course in preparation for riding it.

Course designer Mike Etherington-Smith of Great Britain has added new obstacles this year, including a new water complex and a Normandy Bank, while revamping others, including Rolex Kentucky's famous Head of the Lake water complex complete with giant, wooden ducks that the horses must leap over. Beginning at 9:30 a.m., a free, live Webcast of the action at the Head of the Lake will be available through the Rolex Kentucky Website, at www.rk3de.org.

"It is a four-star course," Chiacchia said of the Kentucky Horse Park's lush green hills. "Every time I approach a course, I think it looks pretty straightforward, then you get out there and there's a lot to do."

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