Cross-country is what we all love about eventing, even in the rain. Today’s conditions at Kentucky tested that to the max for those competing and there were big changes in the leaderboard. Nothing could loosen the grip that Michael Jung has on this title though, and the Rolex Grand Slam is a bit closer for him. American Phillip Dutton had a fantastic day to go into second and third places, with his third horse in ninth spot. Sir Mark Todd (12th) is the best-placed of the New Zealanders.
Tim Price was the first out for New Zealand. Bango showed his inexperience at the beginning of their round, a bit sticky over the first few fences and over-jumping some, but they settled into a rhythm and looked really good around the majority of the course. However, the second element of the second-to-last fence, a corner, was their undoing. Bango didn’t quite lock on to the fence, and glanced out the side in a way that tipped Tim out out the side. Neither of them looked hurt but there will be disappointment in the Price camp with that outcome.
There’s a wee gif of the fall which Tim will hate with a passion, but if you really want to see it, click on this: tpfall.gif
Michael Jung went not long after Tim, and gave everyone a lesson on how to ride in the very wet conditions. He finished with just 0.8 time faults, and made the course look easy. You cannot help but be impressed with the way this man rides. He’s the total package.
In post-XC interviews, he was asked about how good his mare, FisherRocana FST, was. “She felt perfect, she gave me a great feeling. She’s a really good fighter. Sometimes a little shy, but when I say to her ‘we can do this’ she trusts me.”
Joe Meyer was the next New Zealander out. Clip Clop looked green, but overall Joe should be well pleased with how it all went. They incurred 20pen early on at 7b, the frog pond, where Clippy just ran out of room so Joe then elected to jump the alternative. Until this point in his career, the horse hadn’t incurred any jumping faults since graduating to three-star level, and this is his first four-star. After fence 7, it looked like Joe was giving Clippy an educational round, nursing him along in the driving rain. They incurred 38 time faults but at least have a four-star under their belt now. A short clip of Clippy in action is here.
Jock Paget set out on Clifton Signature looking like he meant business and there was no change in that right through until he flashed through the finish flags. The horse rose to the challenge and looked seriously impressive. They finished outside the time, incurring 9.6pen to finish on a score of 57.1. Now Clifton Promise has retired, it is good to see Jock’s other horses stepping up to fill the gap. During his interviews after the ride, Jock said, “I had a ball. He found it a little bit hard, all those hills and twists and turns; he’s a big horse. He’s not bred for galloping but he’s got a great mind and a big heart and he kept trying.” He also commented that the footing was holding up amazingly well but his horse did get a bit tired towards the end, so he forgot about the clock. “I’d like have him there for the Olympics. The priority is that he had a nice experience first, and competitive second.”
You can listen to his interview on this link.
Blyth Tait had a run out at 14b, the curving brushes. Unfortunately, we have not yet heard what happened, nor did we see anything of it on FEI TV who chose to feature an American rider’s complete round instead, rather than show any more than the first couple of fences for Blyth. USEF Network are adding videos on demand of the cross-country, and Blyth’s is there to watch. Here’s the link.
Watching events like Kentucky while here in New Zealand is something that we wouldn’t have even dreamed of just a few years ago. Now it is what we expect, but isn’t yet perfected. FEI TV faltered as much as the horses on course, and at one point, with about 15 horses still to go, told us the event was over. Much relief as it was restored, but then for the last horses, including Sir Mark Todd’s round, there was sound but no picture. This affected people worldwide – there were even more howls of protest from the UK via Twitter.
At the recent FEI forum, there was so much talk about improving the sport so it was more appealing for the masses, but surely a big part of this is having the technical capacity to bring the sport to the people? How about focusing on getting the FEI live coverage right, FEI? Subscriptions are paid in the hope that we get to see the best of the best in our sport, only to be frustrated time and time again.
Anyway, getting back to the competition, APPARENTLY Sir Mark rode really well, with NZB Campino struggling in the heaviest of rain and over a course already well cut up by previous competitors. They finished adding 13.6 time faults to their score. Thanks to USEF for having on-demand videos of the rounds, we can all watch his one again and again on this link.
So, we go into the show jumping phase with Michael Jung having a huge lead of 12.3pen. Phillip Dutton is in second and third places, and Sir Mark is the best-placed Kiwi, in 12th place, with Jock Paget close behind him in 15th. Blyth is 50th and Joe 51st. Eight combinations either were eliminated or retired on cross-country and seven withdrew before it started.
Poor Libby got absolutely drenched. If we find a photo of her in this state, we will be sure to post it.
Here’s the scoreboard for you on this link.
Additional Reporting by Revolution Sports:
Lauren Kieffer (USA) on Landmark’s Monte Carlo won the Land Rover Best Ride of the Day and was presented with a two-year lease to a 2016 Land Rover Discovery Sport .
The prize is awarded to the the rider who finishes closest to the optimum time, 11 minutes and 15 seconds. Lauren finished in 11 minutes 22 seconds, as did Lynn Symansky (Donner) and Holly Payne Caravella (Never Outfoxed); it was her dressage score that gave her the winning edge.
Additional photos thanks to Revolution Sports