Lexington, Ky.—April 29
It’s been four years since Michael Jung galloped around the Kentucky Horse Park on his prolific partner and three-time Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event winner fischerRocana FST.
“Roxy” is now retired at home and busy being a mother to a new filly. So this year, Jung returned to Kentucky with his rising star, fischerChipmunk FRH, to contest the gelding’s first five-star.
They’re off to a good start, taking over the top spot after dressage on Friday with a 20.1.
“It feels very great to be back here in Kentucky,” Jung said. “It’s a wonderful place, horse country, and I feel very welcome here. I’ve had a great feeling the whole week. He was wonderful to ride and train, and I’m very thankful to my team who helped prepare the horse for this competition.”
“Chip,” a 14-year-old Hanoverian (Contendro I—Havanna, Heraldik I), was previously campaigned to the advanced level by German rider Julia Krajewski. She competed him at the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games (North Carolina) before Jung got the ride.
With Jung, he’s since earned individual silver at the FEI European Eventing Championships (Germany) in 2019 and finished eighth individually at the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2021.
Jung thought Kentucky would be a good place to test their partnership at the five-star level for the first time.
“I have great memories here, and I feel the horses like it here,” he said. “You have perfect conditions with the all-weather arena, a nice stadium and the cross-country track is very beautiful. I think it’s a big help for the horses to compete at their first five-star.
Watch Jung’s ride via USEF Network.
“I’m very happy,” he said of his ride in front of judges Gretchen Butts (USA), Nick Burton (GBR) and Christian Steiner (AUT). “I think that was, from my feeling, the best test ever. He was very powerful on one side, but on the other side very relaxed, so I really can work him through the test and enjoy. It was just an amazing feeling on him.”
Jung said Derek di Grazia’s cross-country course looks like a fair, but challenging test.
“Tomorrow is a big challenge for us,” he said. “I think there are big fences to jump, a long track to gallop that’s very hilly and a little bit twisty. We have to be concentrated together. I think it’s a proper, tough, five-star course. We’re here to get more information and build up our partnership. It will be very interesting on Saturday for me.”
Great Britain’s Sarah Bullimore slotted in second place on her 10-year-old homebred Oldenburg gelding (Balou Du Rouet—Lilly Corinne, Lovis Corinthe), scoring a 25.7.
“He’s a really special little horse,” she said of 16-hand “Elfie.” “I’m chuffed to bits with him, but I know it can still be better. This horse is so capable, and he’s got time on his side yet. He loves the atmosphere, and he will play up to the crowd, but sometimes, like today, he just came up a bit tight to play to the crowd rather than actually really showing off like he can. It’s all a learning curve on how I work him in. Yesterday he came and did the arena familiarization, and he actually wouldn’t leave the arena! He is a showman, but it’s just polishing those last little rough edges. It’s all there. He’s so talented.”
Bullimore first came to Kentucky in 2014 with her now-18-year-old campaigner Reve Du Rouet.
“I’m not getting any younger,” she said. “You never know if you’ll get a chance to come back, so this year it was a fantastic opportunity to bring him here and have a go again.”
Elfie is Bullimore and her husband Brett Bullimore’s first homebred, and they’ve since gotten more into breeding. He’s out of her 2015 FEI European Championships mare, Lilly Corinne, and shares the same sire, Balou Du Rouet, as Reve Du Rouet.
“He plays with new people,” she said. “He’s far too intelligent for his own good. There’s not a nasty bone in his body, but I think it helped us in quarantine [coming here] because the grooms there were like, ‘Well maybe you can do more with your own horse.’ My girl was allowed to do bits and pieces and was allowed in. He can be quite territorial of his space. He does have a little bit of small man syndrome!”
As for tomorrow’s course, she joked, “I think we all enjoy it when it’s over, don’t we? It’s big and technical, and there’s a few fences that just take you off your line, so we’ve got to be on our A game, but we’ll give it our best shot.”
Buck Davidson is the top-placed U.S. rider, slotting into third Friday, and he’s leading the Land Rover/U.S. Equestrian Federation CCI5*-L National Championship on Carlevo (27.4). He’s been partnered with the gelding since 2015, and they’ve completed Kentucky twice.
“He pretty much always delivers on the first day,” said Davidson of Katherine O’Brien’s 15-year-old Holsteiner (Caresino—Ramatuelle, Levernois). “David [O’Connor] helped me a little bit with some little things to make sure I was in the right frame. I rode him with two fingers—I took three fingers off the reins to keep him out [in his frame]. He’s been here now a few times, and he always delivers.”
He’ll have Jak My Style in the CCI4*-S and Sorocaima in the CCI5*-L first tomorrow, which will give him a feel for the course. He’s made a change to Carlevo’s feeding program that’s similar to that of a Thoroughbred race horse, which he’s hoping has helped with his fitness and condition.
“[Carlevo’s] not the fastest horse here, but we’ll go as fast as we possibly can,” he said. “Conditions are perfect for him. He doesn’t love the soft ground. He really tried hard here last year at the end of the day, even though he went in really bad conditions. He feels better than he has in his life; he looks better.”
Two other British riders, Yasmin Ingham with Banzai Du Loir and Pippa Funnell on her second ride Maybach, slotted in behind Davidson, while Boyd Martin on Tsetserleg TSF and Will Coleman on Off The Record also jumped into the top 10. New Zealand’s sole entry, Jonelle Price with McLaren, are in ninth.
Cross-country begins tomorrow for the CCI4*-S at 9 a.m., followed by the five-star at 12:50 p.m.
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The Chronicle of the Horse will be on-site all week for the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event bringing you reports from each round of competition, beautiful photos and stories from the competitors. Follow along with all of our coverage here, and be sure to read our May 23 Kentucky Results issue for more in-depth coverage and analysis of the event.