Luhmühlen trophy proves a perfect birthday present as two-time Olympic rider secures first five-star victory

  • Felix Vogg ended Switzerland’s +70-year wait for a five-star title with a birthday win, topping the Longines Luhmühlen Horse Trials results with his Tokyo Olympic campaigner Colero.

    Felix, 32, and the 14-year-old gelding owned by Vogg Jüren, delivered a masterclass in all three phases to win on their dressage score of 29.

    “You have to have him as your friend. He can be [laidback] like a dog, or he can be a total princess,” said Felix, who finished sixth at Kentucky with the horse in 2019. “If you keep him happy and confident, he tries his heart out for you.”

    Felix’s birthday last year was saddened by his ride at the 2021 event, Cayenne, sustaining an injury. Today’s result is a memorable birthday for the right reasons.

    With less than one fence splitting first to seventh, Felix and Colero had no margin for error when they cantered into the ring, last to go. The time over Marco Behrens’ testing course was also proving influential, with just two of the previous 20 riders keeping a clean sheet on both faults and time over the coloured poles.

    “I knew I had to jump clear, I knew that yesterday because it’s not normal that six would knock a fence down, so I knew I had to go clear,” said Felix. “He can jump fantastically and he showed that today.”

    The result is a first time a Swiss rider has ever won the German five-star, and the first Swiss victory in any CCI5* since Captain Hans Schwarzenbach and Vae Victis lifted the Badminton Horse Trials trophy in 1951.

    Felix hails from a background steeped in eventing. His grandfather, Roland Perret, rode at the 1956 Olympics and was later chef d’equipe of the national team. He has ridden on Olympic and World Championship squads alongside his brother, Ben, and many of his other family members are involved in the sport.

    “When I rode into the arena, I just focused on keeping calm and tried to blank out everything else,” he said.

    He added, philosophically: “I knew he could do it, even if he didn’t do it. I think that took the pressure off. I wasn’t nervous at all because I knew even if he didn’t jump clear, he had a top placing and that’s already more than I could ask for him.”

    Britain’s Kirsty Chabert scored the biggest result of her career, finishing second on her talented, opinionated, mare Classic VI. The pair’s fault-free performances in both jumping phases was rewarded with a climb up the leaderboard, from 11th after dressage, to fourth after cross-country, and ending as runners-up.

    “She’s always been a beautiful mare, and she is extremely quirky,” said Kirsty, who has Calvaro F.C. mare, bred by Olympic gold medal-winning showjumper Peter Charles, since the horse was five years old.

    “She’s not a fan of multiple things – farriers, vets, men – she’s very comfortable in her own team, but for her to accept somebody in to trust them is the hardest thing. She’s a mare, so it all comes on her terms.”

    Kirsty added: “She is a very good jumper, so if she has a fence, I have to put my hands up and accept full responsibility for it.

    “I stayed away and didn’t watch anybody. I tried to just stick to my plan with her, which is to ride her like a go-kart, like a pony. That’s how she likes to be ridden and she answered everything.”

    Jonelle Price and her 2018 winner and 2015 runner-up Faerie Dianimo added 0.4 of a showjumping time-penalty to their score, which they could afford, finishing third on a total of 32. The result was poetic justice, following their cross-country fall here last year, and means they now have a full house of Luhmühlen podium results on their CV.

    “She’s just had a few unlucky years – in 2019 [before] Burghley she had a reaction to a jab in her neck and she just wasn’t right, then last year we had a stupid crash, so she actaully hasn’t been off form, we just haven’t had a clean run,” she said, adding the 17-year-old mare, who she co-owns with Trisha Rickards and Jacky Green, only does one five-star a year.

    “It’s a bit of a relief and a pleasure for her because she’s been a phenomenal mare. She competed in the CCI4*-L as an eight year old, won the eight- and nine-year-old championships there as a nine-year-old, so she’s been a pretty special mare.

    “She’s not very big. Standing beside her she is probably all of 15.3hh. She is petite and wears pony tack. You will be in the warm-up and you’re surrounded by all these younger horses, who are jumping the moon. And we sort of tip-toe down to my 1.10m vertical. But I know her so well I know that she’s going to go into the ring and fight for me – well, fight for herself. She doesn’t really care about me!”

    The USA has enjoyed a strong week across the board, headed by Lauren Nicholson on the Vermiculus and Liz Halliday-Sharp with Cooley Quicksilver, who took fourth and fifth place respectively with double jumping clears.

    “He tried his guts out,” said Lauren, who was riding Jacqueline Badger Mars’ 15-year-old gelding in his eighth five-star start. “He is better with more atmosphere, he can get bored easily, so I think the ring and the jumps really suited him.

    “I’ve had him since he was two and David always said, ‘nobody is going to notice him until he does a five-star’, because he was a very naughty young horse.”
    Liz, who is riding at Luhmühlen for the first time in four years, said this was the biggest track the 11-year-old “Monster”, owned by the Monster Partnership, has ever jumped.

    “What an amazing young horse he is, he has blown my mind. He felt really fresh today, really on the job and fought for me the whole way,” she said. “He has always been our weird, wiggly horse – but my goodness, he’s just come fifth in a five-star. I actually think he is good enough to finish really far up here.

    “He’s come on so far in just six months from Pau. He’s a different horse.”

    British combinations filled the next three places. Kylie Roddy and Fiona Kashel, who both contested their first five-stars within the last eight months, now have top-10 finishes at the level.

    Kylie and the Fox family’s SRS Kan Do clipped a rail at the big white oxer at fence seven, putting them sixth in the final standings on 35.4.Fiona and WSF Carthago, owned by Frank Breach, jumped clear, adding 0.8 of a showjumping time-penalty to their two-phase total to finish seventh on 37.3.

    Oliver Townend and Sir John Peace’s Lukas, who Oliver had brought here first and foremost as a fact-finding mission, finished eighth on 38.

    Two-time former winner Tim Price rounded out the top-10 with his two five-star debutants. Spartaco, who he owns with Jonelle, jumped clear, collecting 0.8 of a showjumping time-fault to finish on a score of 40.6 for ninth place. Vitali, with whom he was in second overnight, clipped the first part of the doubles on a related distance at fences five and six, and the middle part of the Longines treble at fence 11 to finish 10th.

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