All change at the top after influential Luhmühlen cross-country delivers significant leaderboard shake-up

  • Switzerland’s Felix Vogg and Colero top the Longines Luhmühlen Horse Trials cross-country results after an eventful morning at the German five-star (12 to 19 June).

    Felix, who turns 32 tomorrow (19 June), and his established championship ride rose from fourth after dressage with a quick round over Mike Etherington-Smith’s influential track to take the provisional lead on their dressage score of 29.

    “He really did what I wanted him to do,” said Felix. “I don’t know if I did four or five strides at the first water – I think I did four, but I walked it on five. But everything else was really perfect.”

    The 14-year-old gelding, who Felix partnered at the Tokyo Olympics and the 2018 World Equestrian Games, finished strongly, coming home eight seconds inside the optimum time of 11 minutes.

    Felix added the horse tends to recover well, explaining that at Baborowko CCI4*-S, which he won in May, Colero was a handful in the final showjumping phase.

    “The showjumping and prize-giving are probably the most difficult phase,” he said. “Not because he can’t do it, just because his nerves are there a little bit more.

    “He spooked a bit around the arena, he was a little bit surprised, but at the first water – not at all. I think you really need that experienced horse, because [that water fence] comes quickly out of the dark and with all the people there, it’s difficult.”

    A classy clear from two-time Luhmühlen winner Tim Price and five-star debutant Vitali, who finished sixth in the CCI4*-S here last year, lifted the pair from 10th place after dressage to sit second overnight. The New Zealand combination are 0.1 of a penalty behind Felix and Colero.

    This sparky gelding, owned by Alexander and Joseph Giannamore and his ride, looked every inch a top-level performer.

    “He’s super at the fences, it’s just a case of encouraging him to stay in a big stride between the fences and to fight his way home,” said Tim. “They need to learn that balance of starting a bit steady and then building it as they go round.

    “He was tidy at all the fences, except for one that I messed up – the ditch/brush [fence 28 – the Nord-Pool Jump] – that was me.

    “I’m so excited. I’ve got two first-timers, who have just gone clear and close enough to the time. My other ones are getting a bit older so it’s nice to have a fresh pair.”

    Tim is in provisional 12th with his first ride, Spartaco, who he co-owns with wife Jonelle, adding 8.4 cross-country time-penalties to their first-phase score of 31.4. The pair were third to start and the first pair home, following horse falls by pathfinders Tom McEwen and Braveheart B and Ireland’s Michael Ryan and Barnahown Clown.

    Dressage leaders Bubby Upton and Cannavaro, owned by Bubby’s mother Rachel, looked positive through the early stages of the course. They had a sticky moment at the Meßmer water, where the 14-year-old gelding threw a huge jump over the drop fence off the island at 13b, recovering to clear the final brush element and the watermill at fence 14. But the German five-star fairytale was not to be for Bubby this year. The pair had an awkward jump at fence 16a (LVM Wellenbahn), rails on top of a mound, before Cannavaro stumbled and fell on landing from the drop at 16b. Both horse and rider were quickly on their feet, and Bubby went on to ride cross-country jumping clears on her two four-star rides (Jefferson and Clever Louis) this afternoon.

    Oliver Townend is best of the British riders in third with the Chamberlaynes’ homebred Dreamliner, adding nothing to their dressage score of 29.6. The world number one is also ninth with Lukas, jumping clear inside the time to sit eighth ahead of tomorrow’s showjumping.

    “They are both 18hh and quite slow, but beautiful horses and incredibly genuine. I’m very lucky to have Lukas for my new employers, team Caunton, and very good for the Chamberlaynes who bred Dreamliner – it’s a long way to a five-star, but they’ve got one,” he said.

    “Whatever happens tomorrow, [the Chamberlaynes] have bred a horse who has got to five-star, which takes some doing. Dreamliner is a bit of a hunter, to tell you the truth, but it takes all sorts and at the end of the day not many horses get to five-star and not many go round inside the time as easily as he just has.

    “It’s more to do with the brain and the character. I try and give them as smooth ride and as much help as possible, but they’ve obviously still got to give me a little bit back and he definitely did that today.”

    Badminton re-routers Kirsty Chabert and Classic IV, and Kylie Roddy and the Fox family’s SRS Kan Do both climbed the leaderboard with their fault-free cross-country rounds. Kirsty and the 13-year-old mare, owned by Carole Somers and John Johnston, are in fourth on 31.1, with Kylie and the 12-year-old “George” in fifth on 31.4.

    Luhmühlen Horse Trials cross-country results: past winners back on song

    Former winners Jonelle Price and the Faerie Dianimo, who Jonelle co-owns with Trisha Rickards and Jacky Green, tasted redemption after their fall here last year. The 17-year-old Dimaggio mare, who won here with Jonelle in 2018, belied her veteran status, attacking the course with enthusiasm, to come home one second inside the time.

    The USA combination of Lauren Nicholson and Vermiculus are in seventh, with a couple of expensive time-penalties dropping them from second after dressage. This little horse operates with such felicity, his neat ears pricked on each question ahead, and his clever brain an asset through the technical questions. But that neat footwork – dropping to trot on several occasions in the water complexes, adds time, and the pair couldn’t quite make those seconds up elsewhere.

    Lauren said the track had a very different feel to other five-stars, such as Badminton and Burghley, adding it “felt more like a racecourse”.

    “I was pretty annoyed the whole way around because I couldn’t make up that five seconds,” she said.

    “I knew I needed to have a minute coming out of the Coffin [fence 27] and I couldn’t quite make up that time. He’s not the type you can sprint across a gallop stretch and make up five seconds, once you are down on the clock, it is very hard to make it up on him.

    “He’s such a machine across country, he’s so fun. I’ve ridden him since he was three, so I know him inside out. I’m just thrilled to have a good round for his owner, Ms Mars, and I’m so appreciative that she sent us here.”

    Faults were generally spread across the 30 fences. The first water at fences 4 and 5abc caused a fair share of the problems. Germany’s Sophie Leube and Jadore Moi, seventh after dressage, were among those to pick up 20 penalties here, with Sophie opting to retire a fence later.

    It was not Tom McEwen’s day. The Olympic medallist fell at the middle part of the three upright gates at fence 11 (Gatter) with his pathfinder, Barbara Cooper’s Braveheart B, who caught a leg and is none the worse for his fall.

    His second ride, Fred and Penny Barker’s Bob Chaplin, ninth after dressage, looked to be growing in confidence all the way round, when a dog on an extendable lead ran out onto the course ahead of the corner at fence 29a (Kombination “Close to Home”).

    This put the genuine grey off his line, meaning that in his honesty, he attempted to jump the high part of the brush. Bob stayed on his feet, but Tom hit the deck.

    Ireland’s Cathal Daniels had a mixed day – his spicy chestnut mare Rioghan Rua, owned by Frank and Margaret Kinsella, and with whom he won individual European bronze here in 2019, skipped round making the course look like a Pony Club track. His second ride, Jo Breheny’s homebred LEB Lias Jewel, who finished ninth here in 2019, misread the white oxer at fence three and fell.

    In all, 24 of the 36 competitors completed and of these 22 jumped clear. There were four horse falls, two rider falls, and nine made the time.

    The final veterinary inspection is 8.30am local time (7.30am UK time) tomorrow, with the showjumping starting at 10.15am local time (9.15 UK time).

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