A four-star first-timer tops the CCI**** in Germany while Will Coleman finishes fifth for the United States.
Although the start list at the premier German event, the Luhmühlen CCI****, held June 11-14, was littered with elite riders, it was a young upstart who eventually took the crown.
Michael Jung, 26, was the only rider to complete the event on his dressage score, and in doing so he reclaimed the trophy for Germany after two years of British dominance.
Jung, a four-star first-timer, snatched his victory in the final phase with a clear show jumping round on the 9-year-old La Biosthetique-Sam FBW, usurping the overnight leader, Andreas Dibowski, who had one fence down.
Dibowski, 43, was riding his Olympic team gold medalist Euroridings Butts Leon and was on the opposite end of the experience scale in comparison to the eventual winner.
“We’re always pleased to see so many riders from abroad, but we’re proud to see three German riders at the top,” said event director Julia Otto.
It was fitting that the top two places went to those who put in the best cross-country performances—the only two clears inside the time—because this event was characterized by an intense and difficult cross-country course, which turned the dressage leaderboard upside down.
Jung was 14th after the first phase, but he put in the class round of Saturday, earning the plaudits of course designer Capt. Mark Phillips for the way he tackled the rarely taken direct route through the technical combination in the arena at fences 19 and 20.
“Michael Jung rode it exactly as I thought it could be ridden,” said Phillips.
Jung noted after his round: “This horse has never had a problem cross-country. In the middle of the week I was thinking about what alternatives I could take, but today everything seemed to work right, and he gave me a good feeling.”
Jung was the 2003 European Young Rider Champion in Bialy Bor (Poland), and his partnership with “Sam” has gone from strength to strength, with their successes including a win in the CCI** at Compiègne, France.
“Michael is one of the best young riders in Germany,” said Dirk Schrade, who took third with Gadget De La Cere AA.
Coleman Cruises Into Fifth
One U.S. rider made the trip to Luhmühlen, and Will Coleman upheld his home country’s honor with style, finishing fifth after adding 6.8 cross-country time penalties to his dressage score of 47.8.
Coleman’s ride was the 13-year-old Westphalian Twizzel, who was making his four-star debut, having missed Kentucky after incurring a mild strain at the advanced horse trial at Southern Pines (N.C.) earlier this spring.
Coleman, 26, got the German-bred horse three years ago, but a few months later the gelding developed a cyst in his shoulder. He was successfully operated on by Dr. Dean Richardson, but he missed almost two years of competition while recovering. Since last year, when they placed third at the Fair Hill CCI*** (Md.), however, the pair has been a force to be reckoned with.
“He’s an extremely strong character, and you can’t try to dominate him,” said Cole-man, Gordonsville, Va. “But we’ve slowly been able to form a good partnership.
“He gave me a great ride across country,” he added. “He’s from this area, and I think he’s happy to be home, as he went round like a champ. I took all the straight routes, and everything went to plan.”
For Britain, Mary King took fourth on the homebred mare Kings Temptress, while Tina Cook was sixth with the Thoroughbred Miners Frolic, who won two Olympic bronze medals last year.
Thirty-six horses came before the ground jury of Germany’s Christoph Hess, Denmark’s Anne-Mette Binder and France’s Michel Asseray for the dressage, and two Germans scored in the 30s.
The first was accountant Simone Deitermann with her longtime partner, the 16-year-old Flambeau H3. Deitermann scored a 35.0 to hold a temporary lead, until she was overtaken by the 2006
winners, Frank Ostholt and Air Jordan 2, on 33.5.
“The ground was muddy [due to rain before the event and fierce hail storms on dressage day], so it was difficult for horses to stay in balance and rhythm, but he’s so cool,” said Ostholt.
A Course To Cull The Field
Deitermann commented that the cross-country course was more difficult than the previous year, and the numerous questions on the 10-minute, 23-second track certainly took their toll.
The problems started at fence 5, the Holzströbe, where riders had to jump an imposing narrow log pile and then choose between two log piles as the second element. Two British horses fell at the first part of the combination—Nicola Wilson’s Oingy Boingy and Julie Tew’s Sir Roselier.
Fences 6 through 9 were situated near each other, with horses circling around in a spectator’s paradise. A large pond served as the centerpiece, and riders crossed it twice—at the Jeep Big Four Station fences at 8 (a hanging log in followed by a triple brush arrowhead in the water) and 9 (two boxy hedge-topped skinnies on mounds with the water between them).
Britain’s Oliver Townend had a run-out at 8B with pathfinder Jackson D’Allez and also collected 20 penalties at 9A with Golden Hue. Deitermann’s problems also started there with a run-out.
Fence 11, the HSBC Hexagon Corner, was one of the most influential complexes. On the direct route, riders had to tackle a hedge, cross a ditch and then turn sharply right-handed to a narrow hedge.
Schrade’s first ride Be My Guest deposited him in the ditch, while both British pair Kate Walls and Alter Ego and Italians Luisa Palli and Lalia Della Nave had falls, seemingly unaccountably, as the ditch had never caused much trouble in past years.
Phillips said the troubles might have been due to riders keeping a tight hold on the reins to make ready for the turn to the final element, and horses therefore kept their heads up and couldn’t see the ditch.
There were no penalties at the big hedge and ditch at fence 12, but the skinny on a mound at fence 13, the An der Wellenbahn, brought down Britain’s Ruth Edge in a horrible rotational fall with Marsh Mayfly.
The double of left-handed corners at fence 21 also saw plenty of drama. Deitermann retired after a run-out, and Townend’s hopes of adding to his points in the HSBC FEI Classics Series were over when his third horse, catch ride Sportsfield Sandyman (who finished 15th), collected 20 penalties.
Eventual runner-up Dibowski also had a dodgy moment there when, after almost falling off at the first corner, he knocked down the flag at the second.
“I was in a little bit of doubt about whether I’d really cleared it, so when I heard later on the loudspeaker that I’d got through, I was quite relieved,” he said later.
The last big problem was the E.ON Teich. German rider Beeke Kaack’s Sinjang 2 napped and wouldn’t go near this final water fence, and dressage leader Ostholt’s dreams of a second Luhmühlen win slipped away when Air Jordan 2 stopped at the house in the middle of the water. He finished eighth after a clear round on Sunday.
For many nations, Luhmühlen was a selection trial for the European Championships in September in Fontainebleau, France, and Germany named its squad on Sunday—Jung, Dibowski, Schrade and Ostholt, all with their Luhmühlen mounts, plus Ingrid Klimke (FRH Butts Abraxxas) and Bettina Hoy (Ringwood Cockatoo).