Jung strikes again

A mixed day for the Kiwis at Rolex Kentucky in the cross country

Michael Jung and FischerRocana FST hit the lead after cross-country (Image: Rebecca Berry/FEI)

Even dual Olympic champion Michael Jung admitted cross-country day at the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, third leg of the FEI Classics, was a tough one, with Derek di Grazia’s track posing a serious challenge. However, the German maestro is yet again in pole position on FischerRocana FST, despite finishing four seconds (1.6 time penalties) over the optimum 11 minutes 17 seconds and surviving a few precarious moments, such as when the brave little mare made an enormous leap into the lake. He certainly adopted the most defensive back-seat riding position we have seen for a while!

“Today was not our best ride, but we have a true partnership and kept fighting,’ said Michi. ‘FischerRocana looks very well after the finish – she is a tough girl!”

Michael did not have his signature perfect round, as the mare got a few funny distances. “I think that’s cross-country. You never know what will happen,” he said. “You walk the course and make a plan, but then I felt in the warm-up today that Rocana was not feeling perfect with the weather. It made me nervous before the start, but on course she was galloping well and jumping powerfully.”

He credits his ability to succeed, even when things don’t go perfectly, to his partnership with his horses, and that especially applies to Rocana. “Some situations were not very clear for me and the horse, but we have a good partnership. That is the most important thing in eventing–that you know each other and trust each other and can find your way out of difficult situations. I am very happy that we both came out happy and healthy.”

Michael has a fence in hand to win a record third successive Kentucky on the same horse. His nearest challenger is Frenchman Maxime Livio, current leader of the FEI Classics after his win in Pau, who rode a masterful round to finish exactly on the optimum time on Qalao Des Mers to rise from eighth place after dressage to second.

Maxime Livio (FRA) and Qalao des Mers looking good at the midway point across country. (Image: Rebecca Berry/FEI)

Maxime also had nothing but praise for his horse and his partnership. “I am super-happy with my horse, who had a super round. He started like he starts every time — fast and strong. I tried not to fight too much at the beginning, but he never wanted to get quiet. But he did exactly what I wanted everywhere. With all [the terrain and crowds] on that course, sometimes you can have a plan and not realise that plan. It happened for me (on the fish in the Head of the Lake). My last stride was too short, but it was my only bobble on the course. The horse is well, I’m very happy, the ground was superb for me and the weather was a good thing today.”

The leaderboard has changed dramatically and a brilliant, committed ride by the sole British representative, Zara Tindall on High Kingdom, has propelled her from 16th to third place. She rode beautifully, and once again showed that she can be counted on at these big events. Zara had a rough time during her last trip to the Kentucky Horse Park, when High Kingdom had to be withdrawn from competition after injuring himself in the stables just before he was set to do dressage.

Zara Tindall and High Kingdom are third after cross-country (Image: Rebecca Berry/FEI)

“I had a great ride,” she said. “I was pretty happy after my dressage and to get through to my cross-country was already better than two years ago! I was happy for the rain last night, the ground was incredible. He loves this phase – he gallops great, he’s easy to turn, he’s very good at all the combinations and we did what we planned the whole way around. He kept galloping well in the heat – you are always worried, and he coped really well. He finished really good too, so hopefully it will be easier for him tomorrow [in show jumping].

A determined Matthew Brown, 19th after dressage, has leapt to fourth place on Super Socks BCF and is the highest-placed American rider.

“I was really happy with Super Socks,” Matthew said. “My only plan was to take each exercise one at a time. I’ve since discovered he jumped out of both of his front shoes somewhere before the Head of the Lake. There were a few jumps where I thought I saw a good distance, but he added up. Now, knowing he didn’t have fronts, I see he was making good decisions. I thought it was hard to find good ground at the end of the day, and he was quite tired but that horse is nothing if not all heart. I asked for more and he kept giving.”

 

Matthew Brown (USA) on Super Socks BCF – who literally jumped out of his shoes (Image: Rebecca Berry/FEI)

Joe Meyer and Clip Clop were the first combination to complete the course clear and while they ended up with 15.2 time faults, it was a great ride by Joe who showed true Kiwi grit to get young Clippy through some of the big questions. They are now in 17th position.

Joe was buzzing after the round. “He was amazing. It didn’t all go to plan. There were places where we added a stride where I wasn’t planning to, but he is adjustable now, he has more experience so he is just going and doing it.The only one life I had really had was the brush to the corner but it was my fault as I went a wee bit slow and he pecked on landing. I thought it was going to ride short. I had to scrap to get there. He always jumps in sticky to the waters, it is just how he goes.”

When asked about the course, Joe’s response was, “It has ridden tough. It has ridden hard. It has caught a lot of people out.”

Joe went to some lengths to explain what was happening to Clippy (ice, massage, acupuncture, fluids etc), and then when asked what he was going to do for himself, his short reply was; “I’d like a beer, actually!”

Tim Price was looking good but the skinny at 18a took away his chances, as it did with nine other competitors, including overnight leader Clark Montgomery. It seemed that Ringwood Sky Boy didn’t even notice it, and skimmed straight past. Tim then took the option and continued, but incurred another 20 penalties at the second to last and added 34.4 time to their 40 jump faults. They are now in 39th position.

Demonstrating the openness of the competition, Erin Sylvester (USA), who was only 51st after dressage, is now 13th on Mettraise after finishing bang on the optimum time. She wins the use of a Land Rover for two years for her efforts – the closest to the optimum time wins the “ride of the day!”

One who deserves a special mention is Phillip Dutton who had three clear rounds (none under time) on his three horses. He is now sixth on Mr Medicott, eighth on Fernhill Fugitive, and 11th on I’m Sew Ready.

There were 26 clear rounds from the 42 finishers and six within the time. Dressage leaders Clark Montgomery (USA) and Loughan Glen lost their chance of retaining their position with a disappointing refusal at 18a and another run-out later on the course.

Clark Montgomery (USA) and Loughan Glen (Image: FEI/Rebecca Berry)

Three other riders in contention after dressage also disappeared off the leaderboard: both Kim Severson (USA), third on Cooley Cross Border, and Jessica Phoenix (CAN), fifth on Bentley’s Best, retired after run-outs at corners, and Elizabeth Halliday-Sharp (USA), fourth, parted company with Fernhill By Night at the Normandy Bank.

In the Dubarry of Ireland Nations Team Challenge, the combined team of New Zealand/France/Germany kept its lead with a score of 156.3 over Team USA (162.2) and Team Canada (194.5). The combined team includes Michi Jung (38.7), Maxime Livio, (44.6), Joe Meyer (73.0) and Tim Price (121.3).

Boyd Martin (USA) and Steady Eddie had a fall towards the end of the course but are both okay (Image: Rebecca Berry/FEI)

Tomorrow’s jumping finale is sure to be a tense affair as the magnificent Michael Jung bids to make history – again. Michael went into the final round at Pau with Maxime Livio breathing down his neck and Maxime emerged the victor that time, so the Frenchman will be hoping history repeats itself tomorrow.