Tag Archive: Michael Jung

  1. Germany’s Michael Jung sets his cap at the Rolex Grand Slam

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    German master Michael Jung has put himself firmly on course to land eventing’s richest prize after retaining the Rolex Kentucky title in emphatic fashion.

    Jung, the reigning Olympic and European champion, will arrive at Badminton this week for a full-blown assault on the £240,000 Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing, which is awarded to any rider that wins consecutive Burghley, Kentucky and Badminton crowns.

    But it’s so difficult to win the prize that Great Britain’s Pippa Funnell is the only rider to have previously achieved it, although others like Andrew Nicholson, Oliver Townend and William Fox-Pitt went close.

    Jung’s victory margin in Kentucky aboard Fischerrocana FST was an astonishing 13.3 penalties as he destroyed the field with a dressage score of 34.2, just 0.8 cross-country time faults and then four faults in Sunday’s final showjumping phase.

    The nearest anyone got to him was American Lauren Kieffer, riding Veronica, on a score of 52.5, followed by her compatriots Maya Black (Doesn’t Play Fair) and Phillip Dutton, who claimed fourth and fifth places aboard Mighty Nice and Fernhill Cubalawn, respectively.

    It was Jung’s fifth four-star crown of his career, and while Badminton promises to be a much closer contest with an array of realistic title challengers, 33-year-old Jung is clearly the man to beat after becoming the first back-to-back Kentucky champion on the same horse since Kim Severson in 2004 and 2005.

    Jung, who boosted his bank balance by £75,000, said: “I have to thank all the people behind me and my horses. It’s a success of the whole team. Every horse in my stable had a part in it.

    Watch Michael Jung ride the country-course at Rolex Kentucky

    “I think always the same thing when I go a championship or a four-star event. I say to myself ‘this is a normal competition’. I try not to change anything. It’s important to win, but it’s important that you have a good feeling for the horse and that you have a good ride.

    Jung’s genius came to the fore during a demanding cross-country test when heavy rain and muddy conditions tested every combination, but he guided his 11-year-old bay mare through an exemplary round, jumping clear just two seconds over the optimum time on the Derek di Grazia-designed course.

    “It was a really great feeling,” Jung added. “She was really concentrated from the start box, and I knew we could gallop. I gave her more time in the beginning of the course, and at the end she had a enough power so that she could go faster.”

    “In the cross-country, you need a fighting horse, and she’s a really fighting horse, because not everything on the cross-country is perfect. You have to know your horse, like I do with her, because we’ve been together for many years.”

    Reflecting on the challenge he set, Di Grazia said: “You are always a little bit nervous about the weather. We ran in the rain last year, and the footing held up well, so I thought we’d probably be okay. Still, I will take my hat off to the riders, because they produced some great rounds.”

    A total of 40 combinations went clear cross-country, but none without time faults, while five horses were eliminated and three were retired on course.

    Attention now switches quickly to Badminton, where Jung will ride his London 2012 Olympic gold medal winner, 2010 world champion and last year’s Burghley king La Biosthetique Sam.

    Image: Michael Jung and Fischerrocana make history with their victory at the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, third leg of the FEI Classics™ 2015/2016, by Red Bay Group LLC/FEI

  2. Double gold for Germany at the FEI European Eventing Championships

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    Michael Jung’s grin as he soared over the final show jump and crossed the finish line said it all. In sealing victory for Germany at the Longines FEI European Eventing Championships with a clear round in the showjumping he equalled the record set by Ginny Elliot in 1989 of winning three individual European Championship titles on three different horses.

    The defending champion’s performance on a horse that only has only a fraction of the experience of others in the field was nothing short of remarkable. He finished on his dressage score of 33.5 to win individual gold by nearly 10 penalties.

    “FischerTakinou is a young horse, but he’s a top horse, and he has shown today that he has the quality for the next big championship,” said Jung, who received his medal from Her Majesty The Queen, who was presenting the prizes.

    When Germany’s Yorkshire-born team trainer Christopher Bartle was asked whether he thought Her Majesty might have something to say about an Englishman training the winning German team, he retorted: “I think you’ll find there is quite a lot of German blood in the royal family!”

    Sandra Auffarth and her brilliant partner Opgun Louvo added to their extensive championship medal tally with individual silver.

    “I think we will have a party tonight,” she smiled. “To be part of such a great team is an amazing feeling.”

    The third counting team member, Ingrid Klimke, finished fifth with Horseware Hale Bob.

    Thibaut Vallette, a colonel in the French army, led his country to team bronze and collected the same colour medal in the individual competition.

    “This is my first team championship appearance, so I really didn’t expect this result,” admitted Vallette, who has ridden beautifully all week on the spring-heeled Qing du Briot ENE HN. “The main objective was to qualify the team for the Rio Olympics [both France and the fifth-placed Swedish team succeeded], so for me this is a double victory.”

    Britain has suffered mixed fortunes all week, but hung on to the team silver medal with all but one of its three remaining members jumping clear rounds.

    “Didn’t the girls do brilliantly,” said William Fox-Pitt, who failed to complete yesterday’s cross-country on Bay My Hero, but was there to support the remaining all-female trio.

    Nicola Wilson had a lucky escape when One Two Many crashed through an oxer, but both Pippa Funnell and Kitty King jumped classy clears on their relatively inexperienced horses.

    “Persimmon’s been fantastic all week and he couldn’t have jumped better today,” said a relieved and delighted King. “I knew he could do it so long as I didn’t mess up.”

    There was disappointment, though, for individual Izzy Taylor, whose one fence down on KBIS Briarlands Matilda dropped her from individual bronze to sixth place, but it was still a performance to take heart from.

    “Of course I’m disappointed, but there have been a lot of positives this week and I’ve very much got my eye on Rio next year,” said a philosophical Taylor. After all, her cross-country round was many people’s idea of the performance of the day.

    Image: Michael Jung during the dressage test at the FEI European Eventing Championships, by Jon Stroud, courtesy of the FEI

  3. Germany dominates on gruelling cross-country day at Blair Castle

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    The rain fell unrelentingly on Blair Castle today and produced thrills and spills galore on cross-country day at the Longines FEI European Eventing Championship in Scotland.

    Ian Stark’s track proved as influential as predicted and, as the day went on, a gripping competition unfolded, characterised by some exceptionally gritty, bold riding in less than ideal conditions.

    Germany still lies in first place and the reigning champions look unstoppable, with a 47-penalty lead going into tomorrow’s final showjumping phase.

    Having won Burghley last week with FischerRocana, Michael Jung produced yet another masterclass of inspired cross-country riding on the youngest horse in the competition, the eight-year-old FischerTakinou, to finish on his dressage score of 33.5, clear and inside the time.

    “He is a fast horse with a lot of thoroughbred blood. I set out quite slowly and helped him a bit, but then, towards the end, I said to him, ‘go faster’ and he did, which was a wonderful feeling,” said Jung.

    Overnight leaders Sandra Auffarth and Opgun Louvo dropped down the order with 11.2 time penalties, while Ingrid Klimke and Horseware Hale Bob provided the third counting score for Germany, finishing just over the 10 minute 14 second optimum, having gone round in some of the worst conditions at the end of the day.

    “The only ‘moment’ we had was at rail and ditch combination [fences 23 and 24ab], where he chipped in a half stride and I tipped forward. Luckily, he galloped away from the fence and it was OK,” said Klimke. “He finished full of running having really enjoyed himself. He’s so smart and bold; such a good fellow!”

    The Brits retained their silver-medal position despite suffering mixed fortunes. Pathfinder Kitty King rode to orders and brought the classy 10-year-old Persimmon home clear with 8.4 time penalties, having taken one long route at the third water, the First of Forth Crossing.

    “I’m so relieved because I was feeling the pressure this morning,” said King, who revealed that the team physio has been acting as her “psychiatrist” and “listening to all my worries.

    “It was a good fun track to ride and it’s great to feel that I haven’t let anyone down,” she added.

    The pressure was on after the next rider out, Nicola Wilson, had an uncharacteristic error when One Two Many glanced off at the second of the corners in the arena, but former double European Champion Pippa Funnell pulled a fantastic performance out of the bag with the relatively inexperienced Sandman 7 to boost the home side’s morale. The nine-year-old visibly grew in confidence all the way round and their clear with 9.6 time penalties left the pair 10th on the individual leaderboard.

    “I was very conscious of not over-facing this lovely young horse but I knew I couldn’t go quietly because of the team,” said Funnell. “The horse was really classy and I’d love to think we could go to Rio.”

    Anchorman William Fox-Pitt, usually the lynchpin of British championship efforts, saw his fortunes tumble still further when Bay My Hero followed a below-par dressage test yesterday with two run-outs at the narrow triple brush at fence 17.

    “I can’t blame him. He’s a genuine horse who never normally runs out, but he wasn’t going on the ground, which was deep and holding by the time I went,” said a despondent Fox-Pitt, who retired the gelding at this point.

    Individuals Izzy Taylor and Gemma Tattersall were the two standout performers in the British camp, finishing clear and inside the time – the only two riders to do so other than the overnight leader.

    “She’s a very good cross-country horse and she was superb the whole way round,” said Taylor. “I was a little bit down on my minute markers and I didn’t want a few sloppy time penalties, so I pressed for home at the end and she responded.”

    Wills Oakden, flying the flag for the Scots, produced a superb — albeit slow — clear, but there was disappointment for Holly Woodhead, whose dreams were shattered when DHI Lupison slipped and stopped in the first combination at fence 4. Sarah Bullimore and Oliver Townend both racked up 20 penalties apiece, while Francis Whittington was forced to call it a day when a tiring Easy Target stopped at the influential Haggis, Neeps and Tatties fence (at 21ab and 22). The middle element of this fence had already been removed after three horses in a row fell while negotiating the haggis at the top of the steep precipice.

    France, currently lying in the bronze medal position, enjoyed a successful day, posting three clear rounds. Their best-placed rider is championship first-timer Thibaut Vallette, who rode an accomplished round on Qing du Briot to lie fourth individually.

    The Netherlands, Sweden and Spain lie fourth, fifth and sixth, but there was disappointment for Ireland, Belgium, Switzerland and Russia, which failed to get three riders home.

    1. Michael Jung (GER) and fischerTakinou on 33.5
    2. Sandra Auffarth (GER) and Opgun Louvo on 42.6
    3. Izzy Taylor (GBR) and KBIS Briarlands Matilda on 44
    4. Thibaut Vallette (FRA) and Qing de Briot ENE HN on 45.2
    5. Kitty King (GBR) and Persimmon on 45.3
    6. Ingrid Klimke (GER) and Horseware Hale Bob on 46.6
    7. Gemma Tattersall (GBR) and Arctic Soul on 47.3
    8. Dirk Schrade (GER) and Hop and Skip on 48.3
    9. Laura Collett (GBR) and Grand Manoeuvre on 48.6
    10. Pippa Funnell (GBR) and Sandman 7 on 50.6

    1. Germany on 122.7
    2. Great Britain on 169.3
    3. France on 179.7
    4. The Netherlands on 209.3
    5. Sweden on 247.8
    6. Spain on 253.8

    Michael Jung and FischerTakinou jumped clear and inside time during cross-country, helping shore up Germany’s lead at Blair Castle, by Jon Stroud, courtesy of the FEI

  4. The FEI European Eventing Championships facts and figures

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    * The first European Eventing Championships were held at Badminton in 1953. Britain won team gold and the individual title, with Major Laurence Rook taking top honours.

    * Britain’s run of team success was ended in 1962 when Russia were crowned European champions at Burghley.

    * British teams have won all nine of the Europeans held on British soil since 1962.

    * Germany are seeking a double hat-trick at Blair Castle in Scotland this week — three successive team gold medals and a hat-trick of individual titles for their star rider Michael Jung.

    * If Jung triumphs at Blair, he will become the first rider to win three successive European crowns since Britain’s Ginny Leng between 1985 and 1989.

    * Blair title favourites Germany are the reigning Olympic, World and European team eventing champions.

    * The British team failed to obtain a medal in Malmö two years ago — the first time it didn’t win anything since 1993.

    * British star William Fox-Pitt will chase his 20th major championship medal this week — his glittering collection includes six European team golds.

    * The cross-country course at Blair Castle has been designed by Ian Stark, who won 16 major championship medals during his eventing career, including six European team gold with Great Britain.

    Image: Michael Jung will be defend his team and individual title at the Longines FEI European Eventing Championships at Blair Castle in Scotland this week, by Kit Houghton, courtesy of the FEI

  5. Who will win the FEI European Eventing Championships at Blair Castle?

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    Eventing history will be made this week when Scotland stages its first Longines FEI European Eventing Championships at the spectacular Highlands setting of Blair Castle.

    But will the script remain unaltered and German domination of the sport be underlined less than 12 months before all routes lead to Rio and next summer’s Olympic Games?

    Blair is set to provide its unique challenges — not least a cross-country course designed by British Olympian Ian Stark that will make maximum use of undulating, rolling terrain — and home advantage could be important for a 12-strong Great Britain squad led by former world-number-one William Fox-Pitt.

    Eventing’s power-shift in recent years has been graphically illustrated through results at the Europeans. Whereas it used to be a tale of British domination — eight successive team titles between 1995 and 2009 — this is no longer the case.

    The last two championships have proved to be German property, with team gold secured in 2011 (Luhmühlen) and 2013 (Malmö), while star rider Michael Jung has claimed a European individual gold medal double, and it would be no surprise if he was joined on the podium this time around by his colleagues Ingrid Klimke and Sandra Auffarth.

    Klimke is in the form of her life and fresh from an emphatic three-star triumph at Aachen, while Auffarth arrives in Perthshire as reigning world champion and Jung, just three days ago, won his first British four-star when he captured the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials crown, although at Blair he rides one of his lesser-known horses in FischerTakinou.

    France, Sweden, Holland and Ireland will be among the other teams determined to have their say in proceedings, but it is difficult to look beyond the German dream machine as potential winners, despite a healthy British mix of youth and experience having been selected for Blair.

    “We are going with a lot of confidence,” Klimke said. “It is quite something that we have come so far as a team (reigning Olympic, World and European champions), but it is also even harder to stay there! You only have to look at some of the surprising results at Burghley to see that anything can happen.”

    Britain have not been beaten on home soil in a European Championship since Russia triumphed at Burghley 53 years ago, and they are likely to mount a strong title bid, given the presence of riders like Fox-Pitt, Nicola Wilson, Pippa Funnell, Oliver Townend and Kitty King.

    “It makes a nice change to be on home soil,” said Townend, who was part of the 2009 gold medal-winning British team in Fontainebleau, France.

    “Blair is a great venue and it is very testing, with a very tough cross-country course. It is a big week, and we are all looking forward to it.”

    Townend rides Fenyas Elegance at Blair, while much will also be expected of riders like Fox-Pitt, who is aboard his 2014 Kentucky four-star winner Bay My Hero, an in-form Wilson on One Two Many and renowned dressage star King on Persimmon.

    Meanwhile, two remaining Rio Olympics qualification places are up for grabs this week, with France and Sweden among those nations yet to have booked their places in Brazil.

    Centre of attention, though, will be Stark’s cross-country course, and he said: “I have tried to create a course that reflects the heritage of Scotland and provides a true test of horsemanship.

    “I have used the hills as sympathetically as possible. Riders who attack the course, but who ride intelligently and conserve their horses’ energy for the later combinations, should enjoy a thrilling ride.”

    Dressage takes places on Thursday and Friday, with cross-country on Saturday being followed by Sunday’s showjumping finale.

    Great Britain squad: Laura Collett (Grand Manoeuvre), Sarah Bullimore (Lilly Corinne), William Fox-Pitt (Bay My Hero), Pippa Funnell (Sandman 7), Kitty King (Persimmon), Wills Oakden (Greystone Midnight Melody), Gemma Tattersall (Arctic Soul), Izzy Taylor (KBIS Briarlands Matilda), Oliver Townend (Fenyas Elegance), Francis Whittington (Easy Target), Nicola Wilson (One Two Many), Holly Woodhead (DHI Lupison).

    Derby House Post predictions: Team – 1 Germany, 2 Great Britain, 3 – France, 4 – Ireland, 5 – Sweden, 6 – Holland.

    Individual – 1 Ingrid Klimke (Horseware Hale Bob), 2 William Fox-Pitt (Bay My Hero), 3 Sandra Auffarth (Opgun Louvo), 4 Michael Jung (FischerTakinou), 5 Nicola Wilson (One Two Many), 6 Thomas Carlile (Sirocco de Gers).

    Image: William Fox-Pitt nd Bay My Hero at the 2015 Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event in Lexington, Kentucky, by StockImageServices.com, courtesy of the FEI

  6. Reflections on the Burghley Horse Trials

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    Who knows wether memories of the BUrghley Horse Trials simply fade as the years pass or are updated each Septemberbut each year the competition always seems the best one yet.

    This year, after a fabulous four days of exciting competition, we were privileged to see another great partnership win the Land Rover Perpetual Challenge trophy: Michael Jung, the first German to win Burghley, and his long-time partner Sam.

    With his immaculate record, Jung was always a favourite for the title, although his chances took a dramatic and literal dive when he and his first ride Fischerrocana went floundering in the Lake just 40 seconds into their round.

    Despite what must have been an unnerving experience, as well as a painful one — he was left with a considerable limp for the rest of the weekend — one has to admire and respect his determination to get back to the top of the leader board. He will also have earned many more admirers not only through his mannerly and positive attitude but also because of his (not previously seen) self-deprecating good humour over the episode.

    That the pair is pure class was proven when under the most stressful of situations, having no option but to go clear in the showjumping (who would have bet on Ringwood Sky Boy leaving all the fences intact?), they jumped a superb, faultless round.
    Sam and his stable-mate Fischerrocana now have a week’s holiday at the Yorkshire Riding Centre, home of the German team trainer and former British Olympic rider, Christopher Bartle, who has encouraged the Germans to come and compete in the UK more often. Jung is currently travelling the long road to Blair Castle for the FEI European Championships, where he will be aiming for a third successive individual European championship title.

    Where are our four-star horses?

    Considering the Brits were the biggest proportion of the field — 45 against 29 others representing eight nations — it was disappointing to see just six of them in the top 20, especially as there were 10 Antipodeans. This statistically translates to 13% of the British and 71% of the Australians and New Zealanders making the top 20. Looking at the completion rates, 57% of the British contingent completed, against 92% of the entries representing down under — their sole casualty was Andrew Hoy.

    Of course, there is the matter of the European Championships, which takes 12 of our riders, but even so Burghley is four-star as opposed to the Europeans being classed as three-star. So are our riders getting short of four-star horses?

    Kristina Cook was the highest placed Brit — I don’t expect she saw that coming — with her four-star debutant Star Witness, who not only survived a hairy moment at the Trout Hatchery but showed his mettle on the final day when jumping a great clear. Looks like Cook could have another team horse in the making.

    At 26, Wiltshire-based Georgie Spence was the highest-placed British rider under 30 years old, in 12th place with Wii Limbo. The pair, who achieved their third consecutive four-star completion, produced a great double clear and the horse looked fab throughout and even at the final horse inspection powered Spence down the runway.

    Blood to the fore

    That Burghley is a course for the experienced (rider) and favours the thoroughbred (horse) was yet again proven this year — even in perfect ground conditions. Rider success at four-star nowadays comes through experience while the undulations of the 11min 12 second course of 48 jumping efforts requires a horse with stamina and speed.

    Interestingly, seven of the top 20 horses were thoroughbreds and all were bred for the track. Just one was ridden by a Brit (Cook again) who is from a racing background. Perhaps the fact that the British seemingly no longer ride thoroughbred horses is a reason or the reason, why the British didn’t do well at Burghley.

    Image: Michael Jung and La Biosthetique Sam won the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials (GBR), sixth and final leg of the FEI Classics™ 2014/2015, by Trevor Meeks, courtesy of the FEI

  7. Michael Jung wins Burghley Horse Trials

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    Olympic champion Michael Jung was left to reflect on what he described as an “amazing” feeling after winning the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials.

    Jung became the event’s first German champion in its 54-year history after delivering an ice-cool showjumping clear round aboard his London 2012 gold-medal-winning ride La Biosthetique Sam.

    Jung, leader after cross-country, knew he could not afford a mistake as New Zealander Tim Price left all the fences up with Ringwood Sky Boy to stand just 1.5 penalties behind the German master.

    But Jung, as he has done so often during his stellar career, produced the goods when it really mattered as he captured Burghley’s £63,000 top prize two years after being denied victory at Badminton, when he had the final showjumping fence down.

    The ultra-consistent Price had to settle for second, while Australian Christopher Burton completed a superb weekend’s work by finishing third on his recently crowned Gatcombe British Open champion TS Jamaimo — and fourth aboard Haruzac.

    Price’s wife, Jonelle, riding Classic Moet, was fifth, meaning that that New Zealand’s most celebrated eventing couple left Lincolnshire boasting a combined prize fund of £61,000.

    “It is amazing,” said Jung, whose attention will now turn to the FEI European Championships at Blair Castle in Scotland from next Thursday, when he will defend his individual title, and Germany the team crown.

    “Burghley is a very big competition with a big tradition — it is a very famous event — and to win here is absolutely perfect.

    “It was a very good showjumping round. The horse felt very powerful during the warm-up — he gave me a very good feeling — and that helps a lot when you go into the arena.

    “To be at Burghley and ride two horses on the cross-country was amazing. It is a wonderful place, and to win this competition is one of the highlights in my career.”

    The highly-fancied combination of Mark Todd and Leonidas II finished sixth, just in front of Frenchman Cedric Lynard and Cadeau du Roi, with 2009 European champion Tina Cook the leading British rider in eighth spot on Star Witness. Badminton 2014 winners Sam Griffiths and Paulank Brockagh were ninth, and six-time Burghley winner William Fox-Pitt was 10th aboard Fernhill Pimms.

    Fox-Pitt will now spearhead the British medal challenge at Blair Castle aboard Bay My Hero, but with Fernhill Pimms, his enviable string of horses now includes another four-star performer.

    “I am delighted with him,” Fox-Pitt said. “Hopefully, he will come out next year a stronger horse, and I am really looking forward to it. He has been absolutely fantastic here.”

    Cook, meanwhile, is likely to aim Star Witness at Badminton next year, and she added: “He is only a 10-year-old, and you never know when they go into an arena like that whether they might freeze or have an unlucky pole down, but he went in there and made it feel really easy.

    “I wanted to bring him here to see if he could move up (the leaderboard) after dressage, and he did that.”

    Burghley results: 1 – Michael Jung (La Biosthetique Sam) 40.0, 2 – Tim Price (Ringwood Sky Boy) 41.5, 3 – Christopher Burton (TS Jamaimo) 45.0), 4 – Christopher Burton (Haruzac) 47.6, 5 – Jonelle Price (Classic Moet) 48.9, 6 – Mark Todd (Leonidas II) 50.5, 7 – Cedric Lynard (Cadeau du Roi) 50.8, 8 – Tina Cook (Star Witness) 52.6, 9 – Sam Griffiths (Paulank Brockagh) 57.7, 10 – William Fox-Pitt (Fernhill Pimms) 58.6.

    Image: Michael Jung and La Biosthetique Sam during the cross country at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials, sixth and final leg of the FEI Classics, by Trevor Meeks, courtesy of the FEI

  8. The ups and downs of Burghley Horse Trials

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    Is there another sport that puts so many obstacles, literal and metaphorical, in the way of actually completing a competition as horse trials? Maybe the clue is in the word trial, as in the definition ‘a painful and difficult experience’.

    At the beginning of every event, three day or one day, one knows that some riders, owners and grooms will go home disappointed, devastated even, while others go home on cloud nine, thrilled and elated, and will re-live the moment for days and weeks to come.

    The agonies and ecstasies of Burghley are still playing out and, boy, what an emotional roller coaster of an event it has been.

    In the last two hours alone, Emily Lochore went through joy, completing the challenging cross-country with Hexmaleys Hayday, a not very easy horse of unknown breeding that she bought as a four year old with no expectation of four-star events. Success was followed by anxiety — worrying whether the horse was ok — and then relief when he passed the final horse inspection, although the lovely-moving Hayday, who doesn’t like crowds, never looked like he was going to be a casualty of the veterinary panel. Still, the relief was palpable.

    At this stage, riders start to relax, as there is just the matter of a few coloured fences to jump over. For Lochore, though, it suddenly went awry at fence three, the gate, when, on a wrong stride, Hayday skidded into the gate and slipped over. Lochoreended up sitting on the grass, eliminated. Gutted doesn’t even come close to explain how you feel when you leave the main arena on your feet.

    Others who have felt the pain and disappointment, too. Local rider Willa Newton produced one of the fastest rides of the day yesterday and moved up the leader board from 62nd -after dressage to 16th. This morning the horse was withdrawn.

    Jeanette Brakewell rode one of the more professional and tidiest rounds yesterday and was then eliminated at the final horse inspection.

    First-timer Kirsty Short missed a fence on cross country and was eliminated.

    Oliver Townend could be in the lead, was it not for a surprise lurch to the left at the island fence in the trout hatchery in an otherwise foot perfect round.

    William Fox-Pitt must have been rueing the time taken over a cosmetic fence repair, during which the pair lost their mojo and Fox-Pitt, like Short, forgot the fence, although, he corrected his mistake at the cost of time penalties that dropped him from the top spot to unlucky 13th.

    Michael Jung made an expensive error of judgement and ended up floundering in the water, his first fall at an international competition since 2010. He is also in physical pain as Fischerrocana landed on his leg.

    To offset these, we do of course have the opposing tales of delight and joy. So far at Burghley some of these are anyone who is in the top ten but particularly Tim and Jonelle Price who could even hit the record books as a husband and wife one and two! Also, Christopher Burton, who has both his rides in the top five, an impressive achievement.

    American Lynn Symansky achieved the lifetime ambition of competing in the UK at Burghley and jumping a clear cross-country round with her OTTB (off the track thoroughbred, as I learnt this week) Donner.

    British first-timer Charlotte Brear jumped clear on the lovely, honest and willing Manor Missile, a half-bred shire and an unlikely four-star candidate in modern eventing. Brear is also one a few non-professional riders in the field and Manor Missile is her only horse.

    And of course Michael Jung who, as he planned after his first mishap, went to the top of the leaderboard after a fabulous round, if two seconds too slow, aboard his reliable partner Sam, with whom he won his first event in 2006 and subsequently won World (2010), European (2011) and Olympic titles (2012).

    The pair has in fact achieved 20 first places together on their journey to Burghley. Can they make it 21?

    Image: Tim Price and Ringwood Sky Boy during the cross country at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials, sixth and final leg of the FEI Classics, by Trevor Meeks, courtesy of the FEI

  9. Sam proves the perfect partner for Michael Jung at Burghley

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    It was a day of ups and downs at the Land Rover. Burghley Horse Trials, not least for world-number-one Michael Jung.

    As anticipated, he does sit at the top of the leaderboard, albeit with his Olympic-medal partner Sam rather than his dressage leader Fischerrocana, who rather surprisingly gained a big E when she stumbled and fell into the water at the Lion Bridge, having jumped just the first three fences.

    New Zealand husband and wife team, Tim and Jonelle Price, sit in second and third after producing two of the faster rounds of the day, and Australian Christopher Burton is in fourth and fifth, with fellow countryman Bill Levett in sixth.

    Shropshire-based Oliver Townend, the highest placed British rider in ninth, set the standard with a confident trailblazing round on Drumgurrihy Blue, who, despite not being built for speed, came home clear with just 5.6 time penalties.

    It was a cheering performance from the former winner, as many anticipated getting anywhere near the time would be difficult, due to the change in the direction of the course, which meant an early uphill climb to the Cottesmore Leap rather than the freewheel down Winners Avenue, as has been the case for many years.

    After Burton and his first ride Haruzac also gained just a handful of penalties, despite trailing tape from a hind boot all the way round, there was huge anticipation for overnight leader Michael Jung. His first ride round Burghley however lasted just 40 seconds before Jung was floundering in the Lake. He was the only casualty of the day here.

    “It was a stupid mistake,” said the German and with good humour adding, “After the fall, my brother said to me, come on now you have to start fighting as you have already gone up a place and are now in sixth place on Sam.”

    And fight back he did, with a great performance and masterclass of riding on veteran partner Sam, who gave his all, especially in the second half of the course, to come home just three seconds over the time, shooting them up five places. He could even have gone inside the clear but for a rather understandable more cautious approach into the Lake at Lion Bridge.

    “Sam is really assured and confident. I know him really well and we have much experience together,” said Jung. “I was a bit slow at the beginning and when I began to try to make up the time he just fought all the way”.

    Jung’s path to the top was made easier after a huge mistake by six time former Burghley winner William Fox-Pitt. The British favourite, who was in equal first overnight, was going well with Fernhill Pimms when he was held for a considerable time, initially due to a fence repair and then to let the following rider through. Once re-started, William then decided to take the long route at the Land Rover Discovery Valley but, in doing so, forgot one fence and had to double back to rectify his error, thus accruing a great many time faults.

    “I just had a mental blank and I am very sorry to have let the horse down in such a way,” said Fox-Pitt, who is now well out of contention in 13th place.

    Tim Price’s route to the top was not also without its challenges, not least with a lucky route through the Trout Hatchery after Ringwood Sky Boy hit the first element and lurched over three fences. Then, towards the end of the course, the New Zealander felt several sharp stabs on his chest. It transpired he had a wasp down his shirt.

    “To be honest it didn’t affect my cross country. Sky Boy has a long stride and struggles with the more difficult fences but fortunately he is also very honest and has a lot of scope.”

    Wife Jonelle and Tricia Rickard’s little mare, Classic Moët, reproduced the fast and clear form they showed at last year’s WEG and again came home clear well inside the time.

    ” She is a fast one and I have to keep up with her,” said Price, who is the world number three. “I was not sure how it was going to ride but I was pleasantly surprised and the mare was faultless.”

    Burton and TS Jamaimo, who, like Haruzac, is a thoroughbred, also produced a flawless clear and came home with two seconds to spare.

    It all came down to the final rider Oli Townend and his veteran partner Armada, who were in with a chance of going ahead of Jung and Sam.

    His opportunity for another Burghley win disappeared, however, with a run-out at the island fence in the middle of the Trout Hatchery and Townend came home understandably annoyed with himself and also upset.

    Just 1.5 penalties separates the the top two for tomorrow’s showjumping and final phase although Sam has the better record over coloured poles. It is therefore still quite possible that the winner will also be the best first timer.

    Image: Michael Jung and Sam by Ian Patterson, CC BY 2.0

  10. Fox-Pitt and Jung are neck and neck at Burghley Horse Trials

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    Two of the most successful riders in eventing history — British star William Fox-Pitt and German master Michael Jung — will lead the way into Saturday’s Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials cross-country action.

    The pair could not be separated after dressage reached its conclusion on Friday, with Fox-Pitt and Fernhill Pimms matching Jung and Fischerrocana FST on 34.2 penalties to set up a thrilling weekend’s action. The German rider is also equal seventh aboard La Biostethique Sam, along with countryman Niklas Bschorer and Tom Tom Go 3.

    Australian Sam Griffiths and the ultra-consistent Happy Times lie third on 36.8, with Andrew Hoy and Rutherglen fourth, while 2009 Burghley champion Oliver Townend is equal-fifth aboard Armada with current top New Zealand challenger Tim Price, riding Ringwood Sky Boy.

    Nine combinations posted dressage scores of under 40, which is believed to be unprecedented in Burghley’s long history, but there are likely to be significant leaderboard changes after a cross-country examination that Townend describes as “the toughest Burghley I’ve seen.”

    Former world-number-one Fox-Pitt, who has won 14 four-star crowns during his stellar career, delivered a serene dressage test on his four-star debutant, and was understandably delighted afterwards.

    “Fernhill Pimms is very able in the dressage — he has done some fantastic dressage tests during his career,” said Fox-Pitt, who is chasing a seventh Burghley title this year.

    “I certainly hoped he would do well, and I am very excited that he did a test like that in this kind of company.

    “Saturday is a big day. He might be up for it and be brilliant, or he might be green. It is nearly a championship course.

    “The questions are there in front of you, so it is about getting into a good rhythm, reading your horse and reading how he is feeling. It’s a long way round.”

    Townend and the brilliant cross-country exponent Armada would appear to be in a very strong position, given their dressage score of 38.7, and the Yorkshireman has two other rides in Dromgurrihy Blue and Samuel Thomas II.

    “Everyone knows that Armada is a very good cross-country horse, touch wood,” Townend said.

    “It is the toughest Burghley I’ve seen. Badminton two years ago, with the rain also, was fairly huge, but this is the biggest Burghley in my memory. I am looking forward to it.”

    Price, meanwhile, backed Townend’s assessment, adding: “No matter how good a horse you are sitting on, a course like this one on Saturday is so demanding that you need to be good and the horse needs to be on form.

    “There is a magical feel when you arrive at Burghley each year — then you walk the course and it gets very serious and very real.”

    Image: Burghley House by Jason BallardCC BY 2.0


  11. Fox-Pitt and Jung battle it out at Burghley Horse Trials

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    Even the dressage, quite often a formality at these events, is getting exciting at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials. While there are just another 10 left to enter the arena for the first phase there is plenty of opportunity for some more changes to the leader board as there have already been this morning.

    Michael Jung and Fischerrocana still sit at the top but have been joined, on exactly the same score, by British favourite William Fox-Pitt and his Burghley debutant Fernhill Pimms. Sir Mark Todd, Sam Griffiths, Tim Price and Frenchman Cedric Lyard have all also helped rearrange the overnight top ten.

    The question now is will Jung and his Olympic veteran partner La Biosthethique Sam overtake the leading score and give him the sole lead again? We will know in just 90 minutes.

    Meanwhile, while the action has been hotting up in the main arena, ring two is hosting the Dubarry Burghley young event horse finals. This morning was the turn of the best five-year-olds and at the end of the class it was Tiana Coudray who held the Dubarry Boot trophy. The British-based American had a convincing win with her own and Dr Liz Williams’ Irish Sport Horse mare Cavilier Crystal. The pair led from start to finish and along the way was awarded the best score in the jumping phase, as well as the top mark for suitability and potential from final phase judge Jane Holderness Roddam.

    Second placed Treworder also looked a top horse in the making, which is just what his breeders, Vin and Elizabeth Jones, had in mind six years ago when they put the mare Welton Lady (a BYEH winner in 1996) in foal to the German eventing stallion Grafenstolz. The 17hand Treworder, who also won the prize for the best British-bred, grew in confidence around the jumping course, a mix of coloured poles followed by cross-country fences, and really showed his mettle with a ground covering gallop in the final phase.

    BYEH regular Nicky Roncoroni made the top three again, this time with Monbeg Medlar, another to have been bred in Ireland who gained high marks for conformation and type.

    It was a high quality top ten and as Jane Holderness Roddam said after ” I would quite happily have taken any of them home.”

    Right now, the four-year-olds are taking centre stage in Ring Two and Michael Jung is warming up Sam. While I know the four-year-old final always attracts a great number of young horse and breeding enthusiasts, I have a feeling that it will be standing room only round the main arena as everyone is becoming riveted by this exciting competition that is unfolding right now.

    Image: William Fox-Pitt by Russ Harner, CC BY-SA 3.0

  12. Michael Jung leads overnight at the Burghley Horse Trials

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    German master Michael Jung is off and running — with the potential of more to come on Friday — in his quest for a first British four-star title at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials.

    Jung, the reigning Olympic champion, wasted no time making an impression as the showpiece Lincolnshire event got under way on Thursday.

    Riding Fischerrocana FST, Jung had a dressage score of 34.2 penalties, which left him well clear of the field after half of a 74-strong entry had completed their tests on day one.

    With his London 2012 gold medallist La Biosthetique Sam waiting to take centre-stage on Friday, Jung could hardly have made a more purposeful start.

    “I am very happy with that,” he said.”My horse was very quiet and concentrated.

    “You try every time when you go into the main arena to get the best dressage score, but with horses, it is not always the same. I am very happy when it works.”

    Leading the chasing pack is twice Burghley winner Andrew Hoy, whose 37.8 score on Rutherglen left him well-placed overnight, while Jung’s countryman Niklas Bschorer followed up a strong dressage performance at Badminton earlier this year to hold third spot on Tom Tom Go 3.

    And there was a fine four-star debut for 29-year-old Rosalind Canter, the Lincolnshire-based rider who emerged as leading British contender on day one, following a score of 40.2 aboard Allstar B.

    “I am over the moon,” she said. “I was nervous as I went in, but my horse is so steady and trustworthy in the dressage and a good horse to have for your first four-star.”

    A trio of Australian riders are bunched just behind Canter, with Christopher Burton and Haruzac fifth, while Sam Griffiths (Paulank Brockagh) and Paul Tapner (Vanir Kamira) share sixth spot, just ahead of Pippa Funnell and Redesigned.

    Reflecting on her dressage performance, Funnell said: “I am really pleased, although maybe a tad disappointed that the score wasn’t better.

    “He is not an easy horse, but he loves the cross-country. He is so chilled and relaxed at home, and then suddenly he can turn the switch and he turns into a raging monster!”

    Attention will soon switch to Captain Mark Phillips’ cross-country course, with riders seemingly united in believing it is one of the toughest tests ever presented at Burghley.

    “It is certainly one of the biggest courses that I’ve seen for a long time,” Funnell noted. “It’s uphill all the way, although all the questions are very fair and straight in front of the horses.”

    Competition for Burghley’s £63,000 first prize looks set to crank up a gear on Friday, with a host of top pairs launching potential title challenges.

    Among the starters are a highly-fancied combination of Mark Todd and Leonidas II — Todd is bidding for his first Burghley win since 1999, when he triumphed on Diamond Hall Red — together with Oliver Townend and Armada, William Fox-Pitt and Fernhill Pimms, Jonelle Price and Classic Moet, and Nicola Wilson with Annie Clover, in addition to the genial Jung.

    Michael Jung and Fischerrocana on the first day of the Burghley Horse Trials, by Nixon Photography, courtesy of Burghley Horse Trials

  13. Andrew Hoy and Georgie Spence are hot to trot at the Burghley Horse Trials

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    There are occasions when I find myself wondering: if the Martians landed now, what would they make of horse trails and how would they work out what was happening?

    The First Horse Inspection at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials, for example, would be a fine conundrum. On one side, you have a covered stand full of seated people in sludgy-coloured, waterproof jackets. In the middle, you have a runway, flanked at the top by several smartly suited people, some of whom are wearing bowler hats and clutching clip boards. And on the other side is a collection of more randomly dressed people, who spend a lot of time moving about and chatting. Then, every minute or so, a horse is presented down the runway at a smart trot, the man in a bowler doffs his hat and the people in the waterproof jackets clap. The horse rushes off — and then they announce a prize for the best dressed person that was leading a horse. So nothing to do with the horse at all then……

    Fortunately, those of us at Burghley know exactly what is going on. But it’s sometimes fun to look at the trot up from the outside in.

    What’s clear, though is that, if you want to get ahead, you should get a pair of blue suede shoes and matching pocket handkerchief — it worked for Andrew Hoy, who was judged the best turned out male at the trot up.

    Georgie Spence was the best-dressed female in a fetching pale blue frock coat (Moloh at a guess) and knee-length suede boots. Hats off also to American first-timer Laine Ashker, who presented in a cool green cocktail-style dress, to the French for their fetching red trousers and blazers, to Charlotte Agnew, who always looks delightful irrespective of what she is wearing (on this occasion, an attractive white top and black skinnies), to Emma Svennerstal, delightful in a short fairy skirt, and to Coral Keen, who had to wear coral, of course. To my mind, while there really isn’t a dress code and the ‘best dressed’ is just a bit of fun, jeans don’t really cut it, even if they are teamed with a waistcoat and bow tie.

    And so to the serious stuff

    The good news is that all the horses passed the inspection, although not without a few heart-stopping moments for a handful of riders; Matthew Heath, Simon Grieve and Willa Newton were all made to suffer as they had to represent but all got through. Phew.

    After a few last minute withdrawals including One Two Many (Nicola Wilson) presumably going to Blair and, sadly, The Deputy (Jonelle Price), there will therefore be 74 combinations on the start list although Oli Townend is riding three of them, having been given permission to start all three entries. He will be in for a few busy days.

    And the winner is…

    The best-looking horse has got to be Fischerrocana. Michael Jung‘s mare looked terrific and was definitely the pick of the paddock for this correspondent. Her coat shone, with lovely dapples and she is a great mover without being over the top. Her handler also shone for a while but bright red, when he suddenly realised his fly was down. He valiantly struggled to rectify the issue whilst at the same time trotting a horse up in front of the Ground Jury at Burghley, and all those people. He managed both. I told you he was good.

    Now the competition starts for real, though, with Oliver Townend paving the way on Drummgurrihy Blue and first in the dressage arena.

    Image: Georgie Spence and WII Limbo at the trot up by Nixon Photos, courtesy of Burghley Horse Trials

  14. Who will win the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials?

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    Will the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials be a one man, two-horse race this year? There is a distinct possibility that Burghley’s ‘best first timer’ award could go to the event winner. That’s because Germany’s Michael Jung, who is the reigning Olympic and European champion, world-number-one and general super-rider (not to mention international showjumper), is making his much-awaited Burghley debut this year, a week before he defends his European title at Blair Castle.

    Jung has to be a front runner for the Land Rover Perpetual Challenge trophy, especially as he brings both La Biosthethique Sam, his 2012 Olympic-gold-medal partner and the mare Fischerrocana FST, with whom he won Lexington CCI4* in the spring and individual World silver last year.

    While I am sure Jung has assiduously done his homework and watched every video possible in his preparation for the event, Burghley will nonetheless be a new experience for all three, who will never have encountered a track quite like Mark Phillips’ course, which makes full use of the undulations of Burghley Park. It is a fair bet however that he will sit at the top of the leader board — in first and second — at the end of dressage.

    It is perhaps not just Burghley that Jung would like to add to his impressive CV as he currently lies second in the FEI Classics series behind his compatriot Ingrid Klimke, who is not entered. Points here will turn into euros as Burghley is the sixth and final leg in the 2014/15 series and the outcome will decide who banks the biggest cheque.

    Jung will of course have world-class opposition and much of it with Burghley experience. British favourite (and world-number-two) William Fox-Pitt has the advantage of having ridden round the Park for over 20 years and has a record six wins to his name. It is expected that his more experienced entry, Bay My Hero, will head to Blair, leaving William with four-star debutant Fernhill Pimms to fly his flag, which could be a big ask.

    Former winner Oliver Townend, who is having a good year, not only has his four-star veteran Armada but also the choice of Dromgurrihy Blue, who perhaps has the disadvantage of being this year’s Burghley pathfinder, as well as newish ride Samuel Thomas.

    Popular Yorkshire lass Nicola Wilson has two very good chances to spring her first Burghley and four-star win with either Annie Clover or One Two Many and former winner Pippa Funnell has three entries (Mirage D’Elle, Redesigned and Second Supreme) and, as she showed at Badminton, is having a bit of a renaissance at the level.

    As always, the Antipodeans will provide a strong challenge. Five-times winner Sir Mark Todd, (at 59 the elder statesman of the field) rides Leonidas, with whom he was fourth at Badminton, while fellow New Zealander Tim Price (Ringwood Sky Boy) is always a solid performer, as is his wife Jonelle (The Deputy), and both have good proven Burghley cross-country horses, although perhaps not the best showjumpers.

    There are also a handful of good Australians. Sam Griffiths and Paul Tapner are both big-time four-star winners, while Christopher Burton, the newly crowned British Open Champion, could bag another four-star win with TS Jamaimo, with whom he won the Adelaide four-star in 2013. Murray Lamperd and Under the Clocks went well here last year, although they may be a bit rusty, as the pair has been in different continents for most of the year.

    Pinning down a winner is not easy but I expect to see Jung, Burton, Fox-Pitt, Wilson Todd, Townend and Tapner in the final reckoning.

    However, there will be one significant rider missing from the final line-up this year: Andrew Nicholson who is recuperating from his fall and subsequent operation. The New Zealand veteran, who pulled off the incredible achievement of winning here for the last three years with Avebury, as well as totalling a record 33 completions, has by my reckoning missed just one Burghley (1992) since his debut in 1991. He will be much missed by competitors, spectators and media alike.

    Image: Michael Jung (GER), pictured here on La Biosthetique Sam at Luhmühlen CCI 4* in June, will make his Burghley debut this year. Burghley is the sixth and final leg of the FEI Classics™ 2014/2015. Picture courtesy of Eventing Photo/FEI

  15. Michael Jung wins Rolex Kentucky Three-Day (and a new watch)

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    Michael Jung of Germany and Fischerrocana FST have won the 2015 Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, presented by Land Rover. Jung is returning to Germany today sporting a new Rolex watch.

    Their (dressage!) score of 39.3 trumped Tim Price of New Zealand on Wesko (40.3) and Jung on his second mount, La Biosthetique Sam FBW (44.7).

    Fischerrocana, 10, was first of the three top-placed horses to enter the show jumping arena and completed an absolutely faultless round. When Jung returned 14 horses later on Sam, 15, he brought down two poles. Still, Tim Price needed to be foot-perfect to win the $100,000 winner’s prize.

    Price also lowered fence 10 thus settling for second place of $44,000. Jung also earned $36,000 for third place.

    Jung blames himself for being too relaxed on Sam. He says that the he felt more pressure from himself than from the atmosphere.

    Price, 36, says he tried not to think about what was on the line as he cantered toward the start of the course designed by Richard Jeffery.

    “You just kind of put that to one side and think of what you want to concentrate on in the ring. My horse is really good in the ring, and I think the crowd really did help me,” he says. “I came down after the triple bar [fence 9] and rode a slightly bad line to fence 10, which I think was about the same as Michael did.”

    Jung blames himself for being too relaxed on Sam. He says that the he felt more pressure from himself than from the atmosphere.

    “I think you always have pressure on yourself whenever you compete. This is why you train at home and why you’re always thinking about how you can do better,” he explains. “After my first round I was maybe a little bit more relaxed, but then I was a little bit too fast to the triple combination.

    “Fischerrocana needs more gallop and more speed to the fences, and I didn’t concentrate enough on how to ride Sam, because he wasn’t the only horse I was riding here.”

    Britain’s Zara Philips was forced to withdraw from the horse trials just before her dressage test on Friday after her horse, High Kingdom, kicked out in his stable and split the skin on his off hind on the outside of the pastern.

    Jung, 32, had only ridden at the Kentucky Horse Park once before, when he won the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games on Sam. He then won the Olympics on Sam two years later, but Sam suffered a slight injury prior to the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in France, so he rode Fischerrocana to the individual silver medal and the team gold medal there.

    But he says that Fischerrocana hasn’t replaced Sam as his No. 1 horse.

    “Sam is a good friend. I think no horse is better than him. Sam is my favourite. He’s a very special horse.”

    The combined team of Germany, New Zealand, Australia and Ireland won the Dubarry Nations Team Challenge, scoring 145.6 penalties. The USA was second (250.2), with Great Britain third (1,103.7) and Canada fourth (2,131.9).