Michael Jung has equalled most eventing records now, after winning his third Rolex Kentucky. He’s equalled Andrew Nicholson’s record of three back-to-back wins at the same four-star (Burghley for Andrew, Kentucky for Michael), and had already equalled Sir Mark’s record of Olympic gold medals on the same horse. All three of the legends will go head to head again next weekend at Badminton. Of course we all hope that a Kiwi can get another four-star win, but they are up against Michael on Sam. Michael will be especially keen to win at Badminton as that is the next leg of the Rolex Grand Slam, which consists of Kentucky, Badminton and Burghley. Michael won it last year, joining Pippa Funnell and becoming one of only two riders to take that sought-after title. He has now won 10 four-star events, getting closer to William Fox-Pitt’s 14. Sir Mark has won 11.
Michael had only one rail in hand when he went into the show jumping, and all the pressure as both Maxime Livio and Zara Phillips had jumped clear to finish on 44.6 and 46.6 respectively. While FisherRocana did have a rail down, she and Michael had done enough to win, finishing within the time on a score of 42.7. There were few clear rounds in the last phase, with many riders incurring time penalties as well as jumping faults. Only four combinations did not add any faults, and only Maxime Livio with Qalao des Mers and Zara Tindall on High Kingdom finished on their dressage scores out of the original field of 59.
Clip Clop was a tired boy in the huge and packed arena (24,159 spectators) and had four rails down but completed within the time to finish in 22nd place for Joe Meyer. Ringwood Sky Boy also had a few issues with the coloured rails, taking two of them and adding three time faults to their total to leave them in 36th place. While that will be a big disappointment for Tim, he did complete and hopefully he can build on that for his next four-star with this horse. Having finished second there before, the pair’s ideal challenge could be Burghley.
Michi Jung was obviously very excited about his win, especially seeing some of the photos and videos of him hugging his horse.
“Without the horse you are just walking people, I’m not sure how you say that in English,” he laughed. “This is a very wonderful horse, she is absolutely a top horse, and she is always fighting for me. We have a partnership, I know everything that she needs for me to motivate her. But she was perfect. I am so thankful for my whole team and my horse.”
He felt that his rail in the triple combination had begun earlier on course when Rocana spooked at the stark white rails of the Race Track Rail combination. “Maybe I used my hands too much,” he admitted. “Then we had the problem in the triple and I had two more jumps, so that made me nervous!”
Maxime Livio, aged 29 from Saumur, France, had been chasing Michael all weekend, and had beaten him at the end of last season at Pau, but had to settle for second place today.
“There is always a little pressure in the ring, especially at a four-star with all the top riders,” Maxime said. “With my horse, I just have to stick to him and stick to my ride, and if I do that the pressure goes down. I know if I’m very focused on my riding, the horse will do his best. But of course there is pressure, because I want to be good enough for my horse, and after that it’s good for me to start to put pressure on Michi. I think to try beat such a rider you have to be 100% all the time. All this week my horse was 100%, but I was maybe only 90% in dressage. But after that I have no regrets.”
Zara Tindall, aged 35, from Gloucestershire, came to this event keeping her expectations in check after a difficult trip two years ago, where an injury in the stable prevented her from even starting.
“I’m obviously very lucky to come back and very thankful to my owner and to Land Rover and Rolex to be able to come back,” she said. “It’s great to be sitting up here with these guys. My horse was fantastic all the way through the competition – he jumped great today.
“He doesn’t owe me anything,” added Zara, noting the horse has been in the ribbons at several four-stars and has an Olympic medal and a World Championship medal on his resume. “I loved riding him all weekend. This is such a fantastic competition! Thanks for having it.”
Phillip Dutton, who finished fourth on Mr. Medicott, came to Kentucky without his usual enthusiasm. In the fall of 2016, his step-daughter LeeLee Jones suffered a devastating head injury while riding, and has been in hospital or a rehabilitation facility ever since. “It’s not easy,” he said. “LeeLee is in rehab and I’m very glad for the livestreaming because she apparently loved watching. But it’s a struggle and it’s something I hope you all don’t ever have to go through. Everybody in the horse world has been great – it’s a great family to be a part of.”
Phillip, aged 53, brought three horses to Kentucky, and all three finished in the top 10, with Fernhill Fugitive eighth (63) and I’m Sew Ready 10th (69.1). He and Mr. Medicott took home the Roger Haller Memorial Trophy for the Rolex/USEF CCI4* Eventing National Championship, winning it for a record fifth time. His finish this weekend on three horses gives him an astounding 40 completions at the event.
“Cave,” as Mr Medicott is known, is 18 this year and has Olympic performances to his name. He was bought for Phillip with those goals in mind. Unfortunately, he suffered an injury and has spent the last two years recovering.
“I was quite unsure about whether I should bring him,” Phillip admitted. “But there wasn’t much else for him the rest of the year that was suitable, and for a horse like this, this is an appropriate event. But for him to show so much heart — I mean, I only did one horse trial on him in two years. He’s such as an incredible horse. I probably didn’t have him fit enough, but he was just incredible.”
While the horse looked wonderful all weekend, Phil announced that he would be retiring Mr. Medicott from this level of competition.
In the Dubarry of Ireland Nations Team Challenge, Team USA jumped out in front of the combined New Zealand/France/Germany team to win with a score of 179.2. The combined team finished second with 180.3, and Team Canada was third with 231.5. Team USA included Hannah Sue Burnett/Under Suspection, Boyd Martin/Cracker Jack, Dutton/Fernhill Fugitive, and Lauren Kieffer/Vermiculus.
— Ruy Fonseca (@RuyFonseca) April 30, 2017
Prior to the show jumping, Buck Davidson retired his venerable mount Ballynoe Castle RM in front of cheering crowds. Buck and “Reggie’s” friends and family turned out to wish the Irish Sport Horse gelding a happy retirement.