Michael Jung leads after the first day of dressage at the Rolex Kentucky Horse Trials.

Riding his parents Brigitte and Joachim’s FischerRocana FST, last year’s world silver medallist, the German scored 39.3 for a smooth, fault-free test.

“She was wonderful to ride and it was one of her best tests,” said Michael. “She was very concentrated and relaxed, so I could ride everything to my plan.”

Michael Jung FischerRocana FST Rolex Kentucky 2015

Michael Jung and FischerRocana FST at Rolex Kentucky 2015. Picture by Julia Shearwood

British hopes of a top placing were concentrated on Francis Whittington, with Catherine Witt’s 2014 Blenheim winner Easy Target, who can also produce a test in the 30s. But it didn’t happen today, with a final mark of 47.6 for fourth place, leaving Francis bitterly disappointed (watch video interview, above).

“He was working brilliantly out there and was ready about 20 minutes earlier,” said Francis. “I thought he’d need that bit of time to settle down, but he came in [the warm-up], knuckled down and got straight on with it.

“He was getting heavier in the shoulder, went in there too flat, lost expression and energy in the canter step and flunked the first two [flying] changes. It’s not what we had in mind.”

Francis’ fellow Brit Nicola Wilson lies eighth on 51.8 with Jo and James Lambert’s Watermill Vision, a four-star debutant who showed some of his inexperience by cantering out of the initial halt.

“That took me totally by surprise — he’s not done that all year,” she said. “It’s a shame as he did a lovely entry and halt, but then I said ‘Come on Vis’, trying to give him confidence, and he went straight off into canter.

“He knew he’d made a little mistake and held his breath after that into the medium trot, but the further he went the more he started to work with me and gain confidence. Hopefully there is much more to come in this phase with him.”

US-based Brit James Alliston is well down the leader board with his own Parker, who scored 64.6.

“Dressage is challenging for him, but he’s a good jumper,” said James, who rides the horse in a double bridle. “It’s hard to get him on the bit and the double bridle makes him a bit softer.”

James also rides Tivoli tomorrow, when Nicola comes forward with Annie Clover, as well as William Fox-Pitt (Bay My Hero) and Zara Phillips (High Kingdom).

At the top of the leaderboard American rider Laine Ashker holds second on a mark of 44.2 with her own Anthony Patch, who was held at yesterday’s trot-up. But Laine explained she was not too worried.

“I know he’s sound, although he is 16 so perhaps they saw a little stiffness,” she said. “That horse is my heart and soul and if he was even 95% instead of 100% I wouldn’t bring him. He doesn’t owe me or the sport anything. So I was quite calm and collected coming back — they’d either pass me or not.”

Phillip Dutton, who has three horses in this year’s field, lies third on Thomas Tierney and Ann Jones’ Fernhill Fugitive (47.3) and sixth with Fernhill Cubalawn (50.9), owned by Thomas Tierney and Simon Roosevelt.

US-based Swedish rider Jennie Jarnstrom provided some drama today when her ride Cape Town reared repeatedly in the arena and was eliminated.

Cross-country course photos

Results

More updates from Kentucky online all week. Full report in H&H magazine next week, out Thursday, 30 April.