Mark Todd: ‘Michael Jung was at his best — a normal rider would struggle to get FischerRocana FST round a three-star’ *H&H VIP*

  • I’ve just landed after flying home from Kentucky, one of my favourite events. It’s held at an amazing venue and the hospitality is incredible.

    My ride NZB Campino likes top-of-the-ground conditions, and I thought we had a better chance of getting them there than at Badminton. However, it didn’t work out like that!

    We had a bit of rain early in the week, which they said was needed, then a lot on Wednesday and Thursday nights. I did my dressage on Friday, and it went pretty well, but with a few too many little mistakes. We lay equal sixth, but it is always annoying when you know you could have done better, and Michael Jung — whom you can never afford to give too much of a head start — was well out in front.

    All sorts of weather, including tornadoes, was predicted for Saturday, but it dawned fine. Then, five minutes before cross-country started at 10am, it started raining and continued solidly until the last horse got home, and then stopped.

    Derek di Grazia’s track walked much twistier than previously, with more use of the hills. There were five water fences, most with drops into them. It wasn’t over-technical, but there were massive oxers all the way. We knew it would be hard to make the time, and that the cumulative effect of big fences on softening ground would be very tiring.

    The first half of the field enjoyed the best of the going, and the time looked gettable. Early on Phillip Dutton came home with just a few time-faults on a horse that didn’t look that fast, and Tim Price, who was fifth out, was on track to make the time when he fell at the penultimate.

    An even playing field

    The going gradually became more difficult. It was good to see people riding to the conditions — those who did go hard early on paid the price.

    I was fifth-last to go. Campino is only 27% thoroughbred, and doesn’t like soft ground. He got the time at both his CCI4* starts last year, but they were on good ground.

    I knew in the first minute that I’d be struggling to get near the time, and I just kept nudging him along. We had a couple of slightly dodgy jumps early on, but once he settled into a rhythm he went well, and he actually finished strongly and feeling bright.

    Michael Jung was at his brilliant best. I think a normal rider would struggle to get FischerRocana FST round a three-star, but she trusts him implicitly and responds all the way to his utter determination across country.

    Sunday’s track was clever. It asked questions with changes of direction and different lines. The tight time pushed riders out of their rhythm, causing mistakes. To jump on this fantastic surface makes it such an even playing field — it is the way to go for all four-stars.

    I was 12th going into showjumping and rose to seventh. The rain gods were not on my side as I had to jump in a downpour. Campino jumped very well, with just an unlucky rub at the third fence.

    I’m pleased with him, and it is nice to have one of my horses complete his Rio prep and come out of it in good order.

    Next up is Badminton. Can anyone stop Michael Jung taking the Rolex Grand Slam? We will be doing our very best to get in his way!

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 5 May 2016