By Nancy Jaffer
Shortly after completing his victory gallop on FischerRocana FST at the Rolex Kentucky CCI4* yesterday, Germany’s Michael Jung was on his way to Great Britain for the final leg of the Rolex Grand Slam at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials.
Michael’s second consecutive Kentucky win, which follows his first-place performance at Burghley last year on La Biosthetique-Sam FBW, puts him just one title away from taking the $350,000 (£240,000) Rolex Grand Slam, the bonus awarded to any rider who can win the world’s three premier four-stars consecutively.
The trophy has been won only once, by Pippa Funnell in 2003, but Michael’s impressive three-phase sweep at Kentucky could portend that it’s time for the prize to be awarded again.
Asked how he will prepare Sam for Burghley in the next few days, Michael replied, “I will work with him and ride with him like a normal competition. It is a very big competition, it is tough, and it’s a very important competition, but you need a normal ride, you have to give the horse a normal feeling for the dressage, like just a practice dressage when you ride at home. Then your horse is really relaxed and is concentrating on you. I think if you give him too much pressure… then come the mistakes.”
Richard Jeffery designed a demanding course for the showjumping phase in the Rolex Arena at the Kentucky Horse Park. No rider in the top 18 managed to go double-clear, including Michael. He dropped a rail in the double combination, but otherwise was fault-free to finish on 39.2 penalties, raising his right hand in triumph as he sped around the ring before the official presentation.
Michael was a mile ahead of second-place finisher Lauren Kieffer of the US on Veronica, who had no jumping penalties but a single time-fault added to her total of 52.5 penalties. Maya Black, like Lauren a 28-year-old on the rise, dropped a single rail for a total of 53.9 penalties. Kentucky was an Olympic selection trial for the US, and both young women now have a better shot at making the team for Rio.
- Pippa Funnell wins the Rolex Grand Slam
- Michael Jung widens Rolex Kentucky lead with fast cross-country
- Rolex Grand Slam prize money increased to $350,000
Veteran Phillip Dutton, the last American to win Rolex when he did it in 2008 on Connaught, was standing second aboard Fernhill Fugitive before showjumping. But five knockdowns and a time-penalty plummeted Fugitive to 13th. Phillip did finish fourth and fifth on Mighty Nice and Fernhill Cubalawn, however.
California-based British rider James Alliston wound up 27th with four rails down and two time-penalties on Parker. Panda Christie, the only rider to ship over from Britain for the competition, finished 53rd of 54 who completed the event. Her ride Little Leo dropped two rails and had five time-penalties.