After conquering every hurdle on the course at Rolex this year, including a tension-filled dressage performance, and a rain-soaked run on cross-country day, 17-year-old OTTB Anthony Patch pricked his ears, lifted his feet ever-so-carefully, and pulled off one of the only clear rounds of stadium jumping in an electric atmosphere that had the spectators riveted.
Competing against 54 other horse/rider teams representing the best and the brightest from around the globe, Anthony Patch and his longtime owner/rider Lainey Ashker put in one of only four clean rounds.
This clean, clear ride followed a cross-country run through a sodden course with poor footing a day earlier, put the team in the top 20 finishers.
“It was our seventh Rolex together and probably our best performance to date,” says Ashker, noting that though they’ve scored higher in past runs, her seasoned gelding put in an amazing performance, even when circumstances were not in his favor.
New name: Anthony Patch
Sire: Castle Guard
Dam: Aimee Alexis
Foal date: May 19, 1999“He’s an exceptional creature and he’s a Thoroughbred through and through,” she adds.
That Thoroughbred heart showed its true grit when he entered the stadium ring after navigating the grueling cross-country course less than 24 hours before. He was not tired. He was not scared. “There were a couple of jumps where I failed to help him out, but he had my back,” she notes.
She adds, “When he’s on, he’s unbeatable. He has a natural sense of being very careful, even after a day spent running flatly and boldly. He gave me the best ride we’ve had on cross-country, and then warming up for stadium day, he just felt happy. He didn’t feel like a 17-year-old at all. So I took a deep breath, we went in, and Al delivered.”
While the show jumping and cross-country were highlights of their Rolex experience, dressage day proved the disappointment. As with any great athlete that can have a bad day, Anthony Patch just wasn’t on his game, she says.
Though her Thoroughbred didn’t miss a beat in everything from shoulder-in to half passes, and clean changes, Al was in a “mood” when he entered the arena in the late afternoon, she says. “There was such a buzz in the stadium that at one point someone caught me in a picture holding my finger up to my mouth as I tried to shush the crowd,” she says. “I love our fans … but there was so much clapping and picture taking … and to say Al was tense is an understatement.”
By cross-country day, he was back on his game. But by the time they left the start box, the pouring rain and all the horses who’d run before them, left a difficult trail to navigate.
All that said, when it was all over, she was thrilled with the performance of her OTTB. Noting that she is bringing along three very promising Thoroughbreds —Calling All Comets, 7, Last Comet Shining, 4, and Call Him Paddy, 6, Ashker says there will always be a place for great Thoroughbred sport horses at Rolex, and in her barn.
“After the weekend I had with Al, in all that pouring, pelting rain, there’s no other horse I would have wanted to be on than an off-track Thoroughbred,” she says. “I think Thoroughbreds can and will remain huge in this sport.”