Michael And Maxime Set The Stage For Sunday Showdown At Rolex

Apr 29, 2017 - 4:44 PM

Lexington, Ky.—April 29

While Michael Jung may seemingly be an eventing machine, programmed to never make a mistake and jokingly called “the Terminator,” he’s still human and can have a less-than-perfect day.

But today, his “off-day” at the Rolex Kentucky CCI**** still meant he vaulted to the top of the leader board after cross-country when overnight leaders Clark Montgomery and Loughan Glen picked up two refusals on course.

Jung admitted he was nervous before the start of cross-country when fischerRocana FST felt a little lackluster, and it was clear he had to ride every stride on course today, but the pair still made it home with 1.6 time penalties.

“Every course is different, but I think this year maybe [looked] a bit more easy and not so technical, but in the end was really tough to ride. [She] does not have a big stride, so everything was a bit far away from me sometimes. But it was a very nice course, and I liked the beginning much more. It was better for the horses to do the first jumps and have a bit more time to come into a rhythm.”

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Michael Jung and fischerRocana FST had 1.6 time penalties on course but still vaulted into first. Photo by Lindsay Berreth.

Jung only competed “Roxie” at a CIC** in Germany before coming to Kentucky, and he said she was a little surprised the height of the fences as they headed out onto Derek di Grazia’s course and the humidity.

“She was a bit surprised at fence 2, that it was a very wide table, and then she realized, ‘Now it’s the four star,’ ” he said. “I think she had a bit of a problem today with the weather. It was not very perfect for her, but in the end it’s very important that you have a good partnership with the horse, and that you know the horse and the horse knows the rider—that you trust each other. She’s a very big fighter; that’s the most important thing on the cross-country.”

Jung only has a rail in hand (38.7) over Frenchman Maxime Livio and Qalao des Mers (44.6), who picked up one of five double-clear rounds.

The stage is set tomorrow for a battle between the two riders—at the Pau CCI**** last year Livio and Qalao des Mers edged out Jung on fischerTakinou for the win.

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French rider Maxime Livio and Qalao des Mers will start show jumping in second place. Photo by Lindsay Berreth.

“I was lucky one time. I don’t know if I will be lucky two times, but I don’t care. I will try to do my job first. My horse is a good jumper; he’s careful and strong,” he said. “I think it’s got to be boring for him to be on top!”

Livio stuck to his plan on cross-country, and despite a bobble over the fish jump at the Head Of The Lake, he said every fence was nearly perfect.

“When I saw the first rider I said, ‘Oh, it’s not the striding I had planned,’ and I said ‘OK, you don’t have to compare between your horse and the other,’ because he’s so correct, and he’s so fast,” Livio said. “I’m very happy also for the team here, and the team at home because it’s big, big work for everybody.

“He’s strong enough, he’s careful enough, and he wants to play the game, so if I [do] my job I know that he will do his if I make a mistake, but my main goal now is to focus on his preparation [for Sunday, and] I want him very relaxed in his body. If I have that, I have to make him connected to me, and the horse is careful, and I just have to pay attention to my ride,” he added.

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Zara Tindall and High Kingdom. Photo by Amy K. Dragoo.

Zara Tindall was another double-clear ride on High Kingdom, and they moved from 16th after dressage into third (44.6). Tindall was just thrilled to be competing at the event considering her last trip ended early when the gelding injured himself in the stabling before dressage.

“I had a great ride. I was really happy to do the dressage and cross-country because two years ago I didn’t do any of it! The ground was incredible, and I was very happy for the rain last night—I was doing a rain dance in my room!” she said. “He’s loves this phase, and he gallops great. He’s easy to turn and very good at all the combinations. With the heat, I was a little bit worried with how he was going to cope, but he coped with it really well, and he finished really good too. Hopefully that will make it easier for him tomorrow.

“I think with the terrain and the turns and a lot of people putting different distances in different combinations, you had to go out with your plan and stick to it. Like any four-star you need to go out and attack it. The more you attack it, the easier it is to make those distances happen and make the time easier to try and get,” she added.

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Matt Brown and Super Socks BCF. Photo by Amy K. Dragoo.

Matt Brown ended the day as the highest-placed U.S. rider in fourth on Super Socks BCF (47.8). The pair is making their second start at Rolex.

Unbeknownst to Brown, “Flaxen” lost both front shoes before the Head Of The Lake, but he dug in and finished with no time faults.

“My only plan going out was to take each exercise one at a time,” he said. “I started the course with one idea of maybe where I was thinking of taking some options, and I realized after jumping through the Head Of The Lake that I just needed to trust this horse and know that he’s going to jump whatever’s in front of him. After that combination it got easier for me to do that as we went through the course. He unfortunately jumped out of both of his front shoes somewhere before the Head Of The Lake. I think that there were a few jumps that I thought I saw a good distance to, and he added up, and now see that he was probably making some good decisions!”

Brown thought the ground became a little deep and sucking by the time he went towards the end of the day, “but that horse is nothing if not all heart, and I couldn’t have asked for more.”

Phillip Dutton guided all three of his rides into the top 11, with the 18-year-old Mr. Medicott in sixth, four-star veteran Fernhill Fugitive in eighth and four-star newcomer I’m Sew Ready in 11th.

Dressage winner Montgomery picked up a runout with Loughan Glen at fence 18A when the gelding ran out at the first of the very skinny brushes there, and then a second one at 27B. He finished the day in 35th place.

Kim Severson, who’d been third after dressage, elected to retire Cooley Cross Border after a runout at fence 22B. The horse jumped the table at A awkwardly, nearly popping her over his head on landing.

Liz Halliday-Sharp, who’d been in fourth after dressage first had a stop at the cabin at 15C when the gelding appeared to run out of steam there, and then she fell off at 20A but walked away.

It was overall an extremely safe day of competition, with no human or horse injuries reported.

Boyd Martin and Steady Eddie fell going around the turn after jumping down the Normandy Bank at fence 20A. First on course, Parker and James Alliston fell at the table before the Head Of The Lake, fence 10A, and Allie Sacksen and Sparrow’s Nio both fell jumping into the drop at the same complex. Canada’s Rachel McDonough slipped off the side of Irish Rhythm after jumping the fish in the Head of the Lake awkwardly.

Buck Davidson and Park Trader both fell at fence 4A, and Mexico’s Daniela Moguel popped off Cecilia at the C part of that question.

Of the 57 starters this morning, 42 went through the finish flags, which is nearly 74 percent of the field. There were five double-clear rounds, and 26 pairs who finished with only time penalties.

(EquiRatings fun fact: Last year, 76.1 percent of the field completed the event. In 2015, just 54.1 percent of the field completed.)

The skinny brush at 18A caused the most problems on course, with 10 pairs faulting there.

The final horse inspection will be tomorrow at 8 a.m., followed by show jumping, which is set to begin at 1 p.m.

For full results, click here.

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