Lexington, Ky.—April 25
If you’re wondering if Michael Jung—Olympics, FEI World Equestrian Games and European Championships gold medalist—felt nervous about contesting this Rolex Kentucky CCI****, the answer is yes. Did those nerves prevent the German rider from winning yet another title? The answer to that question is no.
“I think you always have pressure from yourself when you go to a competition,” he said. “You want to do the best dressage you can, you [want to have a] clear round in the cross-country, and then you also want a clear round in the show jumping; this is why you train at home and prepare everything. You’re always thinking what you can do better.”
Jung admitted he could have done better on one of his mounts today, as he pulled two rails with La Biosthetique Sam FBW, who was second after cross-country. But before that, he jumped one of only seven show jumping double clears on FischerRocana FST, who’d been third after cross-country. Then the mare was waiting in the wings for the win after cross-country leader Tim Price had one rail on Wesko—but she also might have slightly contributed to Jung’s rails with Sam.
“I was a little too fast in the [triple] combination with Sam because my first horse needed more gallop and a little more speed to the fences,” he said. “Then I did a little bit too much maybe with Sam. I wasn’t as concentrated with him as when I’m riding him alone in a competition. I think that was the mistake.”
In the end, the 10-year-old “Rocana,” who’s owned by Michael’s parents Brigitte and Joachim Jung and was Michael’s partner for individual silver and team gold at last summer’s Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games (France), took first on her dressage score of 39.3 penalties. Price was second on 40.3, and then Sam ended on a score of 44.7.
Phillip Dutton was the highest-placed U.S. rider on Fernhill Cubalawn in fifth (54.1) behind Great Britain’s William Fox-Pitt on Bay My Hero, and Dutton also picked up ninth on Fernhill Fugitive. Both horses were contesting their first four-star here.
“I’m excited about their futures,” said Dutton. “Both were youngish horses, and it seems they really stepped up and improved and matured and had a great experience this weekend.”
Price, who rides for New Zealand but is based in Great Britain, tried not to focus on the 23,000 spectators seated in the Rolex Stadium.
“I tried to harness [the crowd] as an advantage to my horse,” said Price. “He’s very good in the crowd and a good performer, and I do believe it helped my round. The pressure of the situation helped him. It’s a good experience, and the crowd was great. I think it was a little similar to Sam—I came up to the triple bar and rode a slightly bad line, so that’s where my mistake was.”
And though Sam didn’t win Rolex today, Michael is in no way holding those rails against his longtime partner.
“Every horse is different, and I think Sam is my favorite,” he said. “With Sam, I win every title. With Sam, I start to come up, and Sam is a very special personality. He’s a very good friend of mine. I like him so much, so I think no horse is better than him.
“But I also like FischerRocana; she did a brilliant job, and she’s a top horse,” he continued. “She will do everything correct and great, and she’s so focused and concentrated on the dressage. She knows, in every competition, what she has to do in dressage, cross-country, over the show jumping fences, everything. Every competition is easier with her. That’s really special, I think.”
Will Michael return to Kentucky next year?
“No,” quipped Price, who said he is planning on a return trip to this event.
“I’m not sure now,” said Michael. “I like it very much here. If it’s possible then yes.”