Lexington, Ky.—April 30
Even from a distance, you could see the briefest moment of panic flash across Michael Jung’s face.
He had one rail in hand before today’s Rolex Kentucky CCI**** show jumping, and fischerRocana FST jumped into the triple combination at fence 12 and took down the B element—hard. She kicked the rail out in front of her, and Jung’s elbows and knees went out to the side as he kicked and pushed the mare forward.
From a distance, he seemed doomed.
But “Roxie” recovered. She jumped the C element, and then she jumped the final fence in lovely form. The pair’s final score of 42.7 gave them the win over France’s Maxime Livio on Qalao des Mers (44.6), and Great Britain’s Zara Tindall on High Kingdom (46.6).
Jung’s fist shot up in the air, and he grinned as he took a victory lap around the stadium. He almost looked like winning the Rolex Kentucky four-star is new to him, which it’s not at all. This is Jung’s third consecutive Rolex Kentucky win, and he did all three of them here on “Roxie.”
“Without a horse you’re just walking people, or I don’t know what you say in English,” said Jung. “This is a very wonderful horse. She’s an absolutely top horse; the mare is always fighting for me so much. We have a very nice partnership.
“On the course I had a good feeling, and then the problems started with the white combination [at 10AB],” he added. “She was a bit spooky, and maybe I used my hands too much. I didn’t have enough power in the triple, and we had still two more jumps, and that makes me a bit nervous. But in the end, it works. I’m very thankful for my whole team and my horse.”
Jung has joined an exclusive club; previously only Kim Severson and William Fox-Pitt were three-time winners of this four-star, though neither of them did it three times in a row.
But he had a challenger in Livio, who happens to be one of the only riders in recent history to best the German. The French rider topped the Pau CCI**** (France) last fall.
“I think it’s a good for me to start to put pressure on ‘Micky,’ ” said Livio with a laugh. “I think to try to fight with such a rider, you have to be 100 percent all the time. I think all week my horse was 100 percent. I was maybe 90 percent on dressage, so after that I have no regrets; he gives his best, and I try to do the same also.
“Michael is the top rider, and I’m working every day just to try and reach the same level,” he added. “I managed to do it one time. I tried this time, but it wasn’t enough. I will keep working and try to do it again.”
As for Tindall, she was just happy to compete here in Kentucky. The last time she brought High Kingdom over, in 2015, the gelding had to be withdrawn before dressage when he cut himself in the stable.
“I’m obviously very lucky to come here and very thankful to my owner and Land Rover and Rolex to have me again,” she said. “I tried to put the pressure on Maxime, but it didn’t work,” “My horse was fantastic all through the competition. He jumped great today. He doesn’t owe me anything; he’s been second in a four-star and third in a four-star and been to Olympics and World [Equestrian Games], and he’s been a fantastic horse for me.”
Phillip Dutton was the highest-placed U.S. rider in fourth this year on the 18-year-old Mr. Medicott. Before this spring the gelding hadn’t attended an FEI competition since completing a CIC** in March of 2015.
“Yeah, I was quite unsure what to do with him,” Dutton said. “There wasn’t much else for him the rest of the year that was suitable. A horse like this, a lot of events would be beneath him. This is a pretty appropriate event for the horse. For him to show so much heart—I probably didn’t have him quite fit enough—he’s such an incredible horse. I’d say this will be his last time at this level. It’s a great way for him to finish.”
In an impressive feat, Dutton also finished his other two mounts, Fernhill Fugitive and I’m Sew Ready, inside the top 10—in eighth and 10th, respectively. He also found out today that these three rides rounded him up to 40 total Rolex Kentucky completions.
Now Jung heads to defend his title with La Biosthetique Sam FBW at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials (England) next week, which was site of his Rolex Grand Slam win last year. So is he angling for another Grand Slam later this year? Well, maybe.
“We’ll have to see,” he said.
Full scores available on the Rolex website.