Michael Jung (GER) and FischerRocana FST were breathtaking to watch across country at the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event (USA), third leg of the FEI Classics™ 2015/2016, and now hold a commanding lead.
The seemingly unstoppable Olympic and European champion has three Jumping fences in hand over Phillip Dutton (USA), who is in second and third places on Fernhill Fugitive and Mighty Nice.
The world number one gave a masterclass in brave, accurate riding in difficult conditions, as pouring rain and wind made Derek di Grazia’s course a true test of horsemanship.
Jung took the most economic lines and encouraged his gallant mare all the way, finishing the course with a flourish and the most enormous flying leap over the last fence. He was only two seconds over the optimum time of 11 minutes 15 seconds, which was the fastest time of the day.
“When I say ‘Come on, we can do this’, she trusts me completely. She’s an absolutely great mare,” a visibly thrilled Jung said touchingly. “When you finish a four-star course with a horse that has trusted you like that, it’s a great feeling.”
Jung aside, the leaderboard changed considerably and time proved influential on a track that contained not only big island fences but combinations on continually turning lines and ground that turned from slippery to sticky as the rain poured relentlessly down.
The masterful Dutton, who was first out on course, now has three horses inside the top 10, as Fernhill Cubalawn has risen from 19th to 10th.
Maya Black (USA) put up a great performance on the pony-like Doesn’t Play Fair and has risen from 12th to fourth with one of the fastest rounds of the day. Boyd Martin (USA) is fifth on Shamwari 4 and 10th on Blackfoot Mystery, an inexperienced American Thoroughbred and bred just down the road from Kentucky.
Lauren Keiffer (USA) is in sixth and seventh on Veronica, her 2014 runner-up, and Jaqueline Mars’ home-bred grey gelding Landmark’s Monte Carlo. Buck Davidson (USA) rode a brilliantly determined round on Petite Flower, a horse bred by his father, Bruce, and is in eighth place.
American riders dominate the top of the leaderboard after Sir Mark Todd (NZL) dropped six places to 12th on NZB Campinowith 13.2 time penalties. His compatriot Jock Paget is 15th after a good round on Clifton Signature, while Blyth Tait on Xanthus III had a run-out at 14a, and, disappointingly, Tim Price tipped off Bango at the final combination.
Mention should be made of Daniela Moguel, the first Mexican rider ever to compete at Kentucky; she finished clear on Cecelia with 14.8 time penalties to lie a creditable 24th of the 56 finishers. “I feel amazing!” she said afterwards. “I can’t describe it. My mare was unbelievable. She said: ‘Hold on, I got it!’”
Allison Springer, the runner-up after Dressage on long-time partner Arthur, endured a nerve-racking long wait for her round. She set off at the end of the day amid great expectations, but any chance of her pressing Jung in tomorrow’s finaleevaporated with a run-out at the flowerbed in the coffin at fence 24c.
Marilyn Little, third after Dressage, also had a bitter disappointment. Somehow, she arrived 53 seconds late into the start box, but this problem became irrelevant when she parted company from RF Demeter on landing over the table fence at 22.
Elisabeth Halliday-Sharp decided to withdraw Fernhill By Night, third after Dressage, because the horse had sustained a minor injury that had required stitches just a few days before the start of the competition.
Boyd Martin summed up a challenging, but exciting day: “This is the pinnacle of the sport and it’s not meant to be easy – but I wouldn’t to do it every weekend!”
Photo: Red Bay Group LLC/FEI