Luhmühlen, Germany—June 15
New Zealand rider Tim Price is enjoying outstanding form as his foot-perfect performance at the Luhmuhlen CCI**** led to his first four-star win.
Riding the Wesko Syndicate’s Wesko, an 11-year-old Dutch-bred gelding by Karandasj, Price was the only competitor to finish on his dressage score of 43.8.
Cross-country leader Michael Jung of Germany looked the picture of concentration as he had fischerRocana FST jumping on springs, but a groan from the crowd signaled that a pole had fallen—the first part of the double at 12A—and that it was not to be a German victory.
Price was thrilled to win, but he was quick to acknowledge the host nation in a gracious acceptance speech, in which he dedicated his victory to the young German rider Benjamin Winter, who died as the result of a fall on the cross-country yesterday.
“I would like to dedicate this win to Benjamin. It was a very sad day yesterday,” he said. “And I’d like to thank the organizers at Luhmühlen for making us all so welcome. I first came here as a visitor eight years ago, and I’ve been waiting ever since to ride here.”
Instead of a lap of honor, the leading riders, all wearing black armbands in honor of Winter, were escorted quietly from the arena.
Boyd Martin proved to the American selectors that he is fully recovered after breaking his leg in March by finishing in third place on new ride Shamwari 4 and 15th on London Olympic Games partner Otis Barbotière.
Martin picked up just 1 time penalty in the show jumping to rise four places from seventh on Shamwari 4. This exciting prospect was bought from Swedish rider Ludwig Svennerstal by a syndicate during the winter, but this was Martin’s first opportunity to try out the horse at an international competition.
“In January we got this horse, and 10 people got behind him and believed in him. Right from the get-go I knew he was a class horse,” said Martin, Cochranville, Pa. “I got here, and everything fell into place this weekend, and I’m very happy.
"Without question this is one of the classiest horses I’ve ever sat on, in all three phases," he said on his blog. "It felt amazing jumping him around cross-country and show jumping. He has confirmed my belief that he’s one of the world’s best event horses, and I’m thrilled to put in a top-three finish on him, which I think leaves us in good standing for the [Alltech FEI] World Equestrian Games."
Martin said he and "Otis" both were a bit rusty in all three phases as both have been sidelined for injuries at times during the past two years.
"However Otis has always been a favorite of mine, and it was wonderful being back in the saddle at this level with him once again," he said.
Finishing in seventh place were Phillip Dutton, West Grove, Pa., and Bruce Duchossois’ 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding Mighty Nice. The combination lowered rails at 3, 6C and 12B to add 12 faults to their total in the show jumping. They finished the weekend on a score of 58.0.
"He hasn't jumped in a big atmosphere like this in some time, so he was pretty excited to be out there," said Dutton on his Facebook page. "I'm thrilled with his performance this weekend and excited for the future with this horse.
"While we are very happy for the good result, we are still mourning the lives lost yesterday in our sport," he continued. "Thank you to the event for handling the tragic circumstances so tastefully and respectfully. The commemoration service this morning before show jumping was especially touching."
Oliver Townend of Great Britain hit fence 10 on the 13-year-old Black Tie, but he remained in fourth place and left the ring with a broad smile on his face.
This was the second time this year that he’s been the highest-placed British rider at a CCI****, having finished as runner-up at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton CCI**** (England) on Armada. As a result, he’s now leapt into second place in the FEI Classics, just 10 points behind fellow British rider William Fox-Pitt, which means that the series will go right to the wire at the Land Rover Burghley CCI**** (England) in September.
Tim Price found Wesko “by chance at the end of a long, cold day” in a jumping yard where he was being competed by British rider Siobhan Edmonds. The white-faced bay gelding proved “flawless” in his early eventing competitions and went on to win twice at three-star level, at Blair Castle (Great Britain) CCI*** last year and at Tattersalls (Ireland) CIC*** a fortnight ago. The pair contested Badminton but took an early ducking in the Lake.
“I’m thrilled for my horse. This is his first four-star completion and my first visit here, and I certainly didn’t expect to be standing here as the winner,” he said.
Price, 32, grew up on a farm near Canterbury in New Zealand’s South Island and began his riding career in jumping, up to FEI World Cup level, before deciding that most of his horses were better suited to eventing.
He paid for his first trip to the United Kingdom by selling a good horse, Vortex; they were later reunited and competed at the four-star level together, finishing 20th at both Badminton and Pau (France) in 2009.
This year he was ninth at Badminton on Ringwood Sky Boy and a member of the winning New Zealand team in the FEI Nations Cup at Houghton (England).
He’s now based in Wiltshire, England, with his wife Jonelle (nee Richards), another South Islander, and a yard full of horses; Jonelle was a member of New Zealand’s bronze medal team at the London 2012 Olympic Games and finished 12th (Classic Moet) and 16th (The Deputy) at Luhmühlen.