Target: Lima Romeo Kilo 3 Delta Echo (LRK3DE).
Domination sequence initiated.
Target score destroyed.
Phase one: complete.
We can’t give you a direct quote from the inner workings of Michael “the Machine” Jung’s mind, but there’s a 99% chance it sounds exactly like the above in our imaginary dramatic reenactment of today’s class. It will surprise exactly no one to learn that Jung has taken the overnight lead in Lexington’s Land Rover Kentucky Three Day-Event (LRK3DE).
The 35-year-old German has captured North America’s only four-star event the last three years running aboard Fischerrocana FST. They’ve returned to the bluegrass state to vie for a fourth record-breaking title. (To be clear, they’ll be breaking their own record as the only horse-and-rider combination to win the event three consecutive times.)
“I think I always have pressure from myself,” Jung said. “When I go to the competition and I show, I want to give the people and myself the best results. So, that’s the pressure I have.”
Translation: I’m competing against myself.
If the other 45 competitors contesting this year’s LRK3DE weren’t worried before, they should be now.
Jung and his 13-year-old German Sporthorse mare didn’t just seize the lead on Thursday, they did it with their best K3DE dressage score to date—27.1 penalty points.
By way of comparison, they scored 37.1 penalties in dressage at last year’s event in Kentucky. In 2016, it was 34.4 and in 2015, 39.3.
“With Rocana, I know her. I know how I have to prepare her, and from every competition I get a bit more experience, so it makes it a bit easier,” said the German phenom. “I had two good competitions before this and she arrived here last Friday very well and she had a good feeling. Also, when I arrived I had a good feeling from her, which made the preparation much more relaxed.”
By “good competitions,” he means they won a CIC3* at Pratoni de Vivaro in March and scored a career best in dressage of 20.8 penalties at CIC2* at Kreuth earlier this month.
Chasing Jung in the standings are Boyd Martin (USA), who sits in second with the 11-year-old Trakehner gelding Tsetserleg (31.2), and Tamra Smith (USA), who’s in third aboard the 15-year-old Dutch Warmblood Wembley (32.1).
The second half of dressage takes place on Friday, followed by the first ever $35,000 1.45m FEI ranking class. Jung will not be riding in the show jumping class, despite the fact that he has at least five horses in his string that have contested a CSI3* 1.45m class or higher in the past month alone.
Maybe next year, he’ll up his spectacularly consistent game and aim for both…