March 25, 2010 -- British eventer Oliver Townend doesn't mind taking chances, but he's not crazy. While he originally planned to leave his Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials winner, Carousel Quest, at home when he goes to the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event next month, he now has some insurance in the form of that gray gelding as he pursues the $350,000 Rolex Grand Slam.
Carousel Quest was added to his string for the Lexington meet last week. It appears to have been a prescient move, since he had a fall last weekend from his new mount, Ashdale Cruise Master, at a competition in England. Cruise Master, entered originally with ODT Master Rose, had been touted by Oliver as his big hope for Rolex--even though he is a new ride.
Oliver is in line to become only the second winner of the Grand Slam if he takes the Rolex crown in the wake of his victories in the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton and Burghley horse trials. The Grand Slam goes to whoever wins those events in succession, but only one person--Oliver's countrywoman, Pippa Funnell, in 2003--has ever done it.
The 26-year-old rider is ranked No. 2 in the world (behind another Brit, William Fox-Pitt, who is also coming to Rolex.)
His initial thought process was that "it probably wasn't in the best interest of Carousel Quest and (Badminton winner) Flint Curtis to travel to the other end of the world at this stage in their life and career."
Added Oliver in an interview earlier this month, "We really decided they are going to take a step back this spring and give some of the younger, more up-and-coming horses, a chance to come through and prove how good they are."
Flint Curtis and Carousel Quest may well have the inside track when Oliver returns to the Kentucky Horse Park for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games this fall with the British team, but in the meantime, Carousel Quest has given him better odds of being the second person to secure the Grand Slam and its awesome paycheck.