Michael Jung (GER) and his wonderful mare FischerRocana FST were in a class of their own at the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event (USA), third leg of the FEI Classics™ 2015/2016, where their flawless performance has put them at the head of the leaderboard after the Dressage phase.
Last year’s winners have a 5.3 penalty lead over the evergreen American combination of Alison Springer and the 17-year-old Arthur, runners-up in 2012.
“FischerRocana did a wonderful test, very concentrated and nice to ride,” said Jung, the reigning Olympic champion, who has revealed that his first choice for Rio is his 2015 European Champion FischerTakinou.
“I think FischerRocana likes it here. She travelled very well and she likes the stadium. I think it’s a great competition for her. She is a beautiful mare.”
Springer was last of the 71 competitors into the stadium and had a packed home crowd on the edge of their seats. Her big liver-chestnut gelding is always a magnificent sight in this phase yet few riders can match Jung for sheer fluidity and accuracy.
“Arthur was awesome,” said a breathless Springer afterwards. “One walk section and a couple of flying changes perhaps weren’t great. but it’s just emotional to be here after so many years together. I’m blessed. And tomorrow I’m going to have to ride as dynamically as that German!”
Aside from Jung, Sir Mark Todd (NZL) - who is handily placed in equal sixth place (with Hannah-Sue Burnett on Harbour Pilot) on NZB Campino on 43.2 - and Canada’s Jessica Pheonix, 10th on Pavarotti (44.7), make the top of the scoreboard after Dressage a sea of American flags.
Marilyn Little produced a smart test to lie third on RF Demeter on a score of 42.5, ahead of Elisabeth Halliday-Sharp, fourth on Fernhill By Night.
Another Fernhill horse, Fernhill Fugitive, is in fifth with Phillip Dutton, who has three horses in the top 20, with the handsome Mighty Nice in 11th place and Fernhill Cubalawn in 19th. Dutton is dedicating his performance this weekend to Mighty Nice’s late owner Bruce Duchossois, a great supporter of US Eventing, who died recently.
The 12-year-old Irish-bred gelding is now owned by a syndicate who banded together to keep the horse with Dutton.
Dutton’s former pupil Boyd Martin is also three-handed, with Shamwari 4 the best placed in ninth. The horse is also owned by a syndicate, comprising some 20 people. “I love the chaos and they’re all good friends,” said the always affable Martin. “I’m lucky to have the best horses money could buy.”
Jung, Martin and Springer all mentioned that they thought course designer Derek di Grazia’s Cross Country track looked more difficult and twisty than last year and suggested that it would require considerable mental concentration.
Seventy-one horses go forward to the Cross Country phase, with Dutton the first on course, on Fernhill Fugitive, at 10am (local time). With marks so closely bunched - there are 26 riders with sub-50 scores - it promises to be a thrilling day.
All the action will be on FEI TV (www.feitv.org) and live results on http://rk3de.org/results.
Results after Dressage
1 Michael Jung/FischerRocana FST (GER) 34.4
2 Alison Springer/Arthur (USA) 39.7
3 Marilyn Little/RF Demeter (USA) 42.5
4 Elisabeth Halliday-Sharp/Fernhill By Night (USA) 43.0
5 Phillip Dutton/Fernhill Fugitive (USA) 43.1
6= Mark Todd/NZB Campino (NZL) 43.2
6= Hannah-Sue Burnett/Harbour Pilot (USA) 43.2
8 Lauren Kieffer/Veronica (USA) 43.9
9 Boyd Martin/Shamwari 4 (USA) 44.6
10 Jessica Pheonix/Pavarotti (CAN) 44.7