In a result that surprises no one, Germany’s Michael Jung is once again sitting atop the leaderboard at the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, presented by Land Rover. He added just 1.6 time penalties to his dressage score to lead with FischerRocana FST with a score of 38.7. He has a rail in hand over France’s Maxime Livio and Qalao Des Mers in second (44.6), and England’s Zara Tindall and High Kingdom in third (46.6).
Though he’s once again on the precipice of 4-star glory, Jung admitted he did not have his signature perfect round as his mare got a few funny distances. “I think that’s cross-country,” said Jung. “You never know what will happen. You walk the course and make a plan, but then I felt in the warm up today that Rocana was not feeling perfect with the weather. It made me nervous before the start, but on course she was galloping well and jumping powerfully.”
Jung, defending Rolex Kentucky champion and two-time Olympic champion, credits his partnership with his horses, and especially Rocana, with his ability to succeed even when things don’t go perfectly.
“[Towards the end of the course] some situations were not very clear for me and the horse, but we have a good partnership,” he said. “That is the most important thing in eventing—that you know each other and trust each other and can find your way out of difficult situations. I am very happy that we both came out happy and healthy.”
Livio also had nothing but praise for his horse and his partnership.
“I am super happy with my horse, who had a super round,” said the 29-year-old Frenchman. “He started like he starts every time-fast and strong. I tried not to fight too much at the beginning, but he never wanted to get quiet. But he did exactly what I wanted everywhere. With all (the terrain and crowds) on that course sometimes you can have a plan and not realize that plan. It happened for me (on the fish in the Head of the Lake). My last stride was too short, but it was my only bobble on the course. The horse is well, I’m very happy, the ground was superb for me and the weather was a good thing today.”
The UK’s Tindall had a rough time during her last trip to the Kentucky Horse Park, when her horse High Kingdom had to be withdrawn from competition after injuring himself in the stables right before he was set to do dressage. This time they’ve had a much better weekend, with a good showing in dressage and a strong double-clear in the cross-country to stand third.
“I had a great ride,” she said. “I was pretty happy after my dressage and to get through to my cross-country was already better than two years ago! I was happy for the rain last night, the ground was incredible. He loves this phase–he gallops great, he’s easy to turn, he’s very good at all the combinations and we did what we planned the whole way around. He kept galloping well in the heat—you are always worried and he coped really well. He finished really good too, so hopefully it will be easier for him tomorrow [in show jumping].”
The cross-country caused a considerable shakeup in the standings. Overnight leaders Clark Montgomery and Loughan Glen dropped down the order after runouts at 18ab, the first of two narrow wedges in the water at the Land Rover Landing and the second of the Horse Park Barns at 27. Kim Severson who had been third after dressage retired Cooley Cross Border after a run out at the corner at the Fox Den at 22. The Land Rover Landing proved to be the most influential fence of the day, with 10 pairs coming to grief there.
In all, only five of the 57 starters (Copper Beech/Buck Davidson and Revitavet Capato/Jordan Linstedt withdrew before the start) managed to come home double clear, and only 26 came home with no jumping penalties. The five putting in sparkling double-clears included: Livio/Qalao Des Mers, Tindall/High Kingdom, Super Socks/Matthew Brown, Tim Bourke (IRL)/Luckaun Quality and Erin Sylvester/Mettraise.
Brown and Super Socks BCF put in an impressive double-clear round to move into fourth place. As the highest-placed American, they are currently leading the Rolex/USEF CCI4* Eventing National Championship.
“I was really happy with Super Socks,” said Brown. “My only plan was to take each exercise one at a time. I started with one idea of the options out there and I realized after jumping through the Head of the Lake that I just need to trust this horse and he’ll jump anything in front of him. I didn’t give a him a great jump in and he just did it, and I thought I need to trust that my horse knows what he’s doing.
“I’ve since discovered he jumped out of both of his front shoes somewhere before the Head of the Lake,” Brown continued. “There were a few jumps where I thought I saw a good distance, but he added up. Now, knowing he didn’t have fronts, I see he was making good decisions. I thought it was hard to find good ground at the end of the day, and he was quite tired but that horse is nothing if not all heart. I asked for more and he kept giving.”