Lexington, Ky.—May 1
We now know that Michael Jung can win a four-star nearly any time he wants—nearly any time he enters. So if there’s any suspense left in the eventing world it’s this: Can Jung ride his winning streak—extended with today’s massive victory at the Rolex Kentucky CCI****—into a Rolex Grand Slam victory at next week’s Mitsubishi Motors Badminton CCI****?
“I’m not normally a man of so many words or so much drama,” he said. “But the big thing I have to say is what I’ve said before: I have to say thank you to all the people who have helped me so that I can compete with so many good horses—that I can go to Badminton with one horse and have another horse for the Olympic Games.
“That’s a big pleasure, and I’m very proud of it,” he continued. “That’s the success of the whole team—all the people and every horse had a little part of it. That’s a very big success for the whole team. It’s very important we don’t forget this.”
By the time Jung entered Rolex Stadium with fischerRocana FST, he had four rails in hand. He used one of them, at fence 4a in the double combination, before jumping perfectly the rest of the round. This was the second consecutive Rolex victory for Germany’s Jung and “Roxie,” and he did it with a margin of 13.3 penalties.
Now Jung heads to Great Britain with La Biosthetique Sam FBW, his longtime partner and Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games gold medalist, with hopes of putting the third jewel in his Grand Slam crown. (He won last year’s Land Rover Burghley CCI**** in Great Britain with Sam.)
“I always think the same when I go to a championship,” he said. “I say to myself, ‘This is a normal competition.’ I don’t put more pressure on the horse or change anything; I do it normally, like every time, and that’s my plan next week. I’ll say to myself that it’s a normal competition. It’s important to win, but it’s more important to have a good feeling for the horse and a nice round together.”
The top U.S. women excelled today, with Lauren Kieffer earning only 1 time penalty on Veronica. That moved her up from sixth after cross-country into second and earned her the USEF Pinnacle Cup Trophy for being the highest-placed U.S. rider.
“There was a lot of planning going into this one,” said Kieffer, who earned the same placing and trophy in 2014. “It was the goal from the beginning to have a good performance here. Last time was a bit of a pleasant surprise.
“I’d like to win, but I have to shave 10 points off my dressage score,” she continued. “I couldn’t be happier with Veronica. The United States really dominated the leaderboard here this weekend, and we had a lot of nations here. We’re working hard to raise our game, and I think it’s starting to show. Hopefully everyone keeps gaining confidence as we go into the summer.”
Maya Black, fourth after yesterday, had one rail with Doesn’t Play Fair to finish third.
“I’ve brought him up for the last several years now, and I’ve brought him up the levels,” she said. “He’s been a pleasure to bring along, though anyone who knows him knows he’s not a pleasure in the barn. He’s been enjoyable to train. It’s been a good spring, and we kind of put some pieces together. I’m really pleased to be here.”
But where the women triumphed, the male team stalwarts faltered at the top of the leaderboard. Phillip Dutton was second with Fernhill Fugitive until the gelding pulled five rails and earned 1 time penalty, dropping them to 13th. Boyd Martin and Shamwari 4 were fifth before they had four rails down and 2 time penalties, lowering their placing to 12th.
Dutton’s other two mounts still had good days though, with Mighty Nice coming in fourth, and Fernhill Cubalawn earning fifth. Martin and Blackfoot Mystery had a single fence fall, and they finished sixth.
It was a day that saw few clear rounds overall from the 54 starters. There were just four pairs to put in double-clear trips—Laine Ashker and Anthony Patch, Lillian Heard and Share Option, Blyth Tait and Xanthus III and then Kurt Martin with Delux Z—and then a few more—Kieffer on Veronica, Hannah Sue Burnett on Harbour Pilot—who earned time penalties only.
New Zealand’s Mark Todd slotted into seventh, with U.S. rider Elisa Wallace moving up to eighth after having one rail down with Simply Priceless.
“Man, last year we had five rails, and the show jumping’s been hard for him, and we’ve worked all year long to change his shape,” Wallace said. “He was just, oh, I might cry he was so good. One rail, you can’t ask for more than that, so I was really proud of him. He’s like what his name says.”
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