It was a wire-to-wire win for Germany’s Michael Jung and fischerChipmunk FRH, who set a new record for a winning score in the CCI5*-L at the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event presented by MARS EQUESTRIAN™. (See dressage report HERE and cross-country report HERE.)
The pair had been flawless all weekend, a trend that continued in the final phase when they went double clear in the show jumping to finish on an astounding score of 20.1 — the lowest winning score ever achieved in a CCI5*-L. Jung finished 11 points ahead of second placed Yasmin Ingham of Great Britain and Banzai Du Loir (31.7) and the USA’s Doug Payne and Quantum Leap (38.4). Payne, as the highest-placed American, also took home the Land Rover/USEF CCI5*-L National Championship presented by MARS EQUESTRIAN™ in front of a crowd of 22,185.
“I had a really great feeling in the warm-up, and it makes you a bit more relaxed, but the pressure is on and it was like a test for (the world championships later this year),” Jung said. “So I tried to stay really concentrated and focused with this horse. He’s amazing … I was able to enjoy every phase through this competition.”
This is Jung’s fourth win on the Kentucky bluegrass, making him second only to the legendary Bruce Davidson in wins here (Bruce has 5). It was his 11th CCI5*-L victory, which ties him with Mark Todd. Only renowned British eventer William Fox-Pitt has more, with 14.
For this victory Jung was aboard the 14-year-old Hanoverian gelding owned by Sabine and Klaus Fischer, Hilmer Meyer-Kulenkampff and DOKR, who had come together to purchase the horse for Jung to ride, and to keep him available for the German team.
“Of course you always try to do your best, that’s why you wake up every morning and go to stables in minus 20 degrees, and in the rain, and in the heat,” Jung said. “It’s a very special moment for me, and I have to give thanks for my whole team in the background — helping train the horses and bring the horses to this level. And big thanks to the fischer group so that we can keep this horse in Germany and make it so that I’m allowed to ride such an amazing horse.”
Clean rounds were few and far between, with time running tight and rails falling. Ingham added 0.8 time penalties, but it was good enough for second after USA’s Boyd Martin and Tsetserleg TSF lowered two rails to fall to fourth.
“If someone told me I’d be sitting here and in second place to (Jung), I wouldn’t have believed it,” Ingham said. “I have to thank everyone involved with Banzai, he is so special and really deserves this result. Our whole team, we couldn’t do this without them.”
The chestnut Selle Francais gelding is owned by Janette Chinn and Sue Davies, and was contesting his first five-star. Ingham is also relatively new to the level, with only two under her belt prior to the weekend.
“He has exceeded all expectations,” Ingham said. I have all the confidence in this horse. He was very professional all weekend, and it was amazing to pull it together for all three phases at such an incredible event. It was tough to get to the flights and with all the traveling, but I wouldn’t take it back for the world. We’ve been treated so well, so a huge thanks for all the volunteers that make this happen. I’m very thankful to be here.”
This was something of a bittersweet day for Payne, who experienced the highs and lows of sport all at once. He was thrilled with his result aboard Quantum Leap, a Holsteiner gelding he bought as a weanling, whose double clear round today moved him into third and into the National Championship. However, he also announced the retirement of his long-time partner and Tokyo Olympic mount Vandiver, who had a tough weekend and finished in 24th.
“This is a very tough day actually,” Payne admitted. “We bought (Quantum Leap) as a weanling from (breeder) Elizabeth Callahan, and we now have four horses she’s bred (including both of his CCI4*-S mounts Starr Witness and Camarillo). He was the start of the pipeline of horses coming in. For him to get here … he blew my expectations away and he just continues to get better and better. For an 11-year-old in only his third five-star, I couldn’t ask much more.
“I’m so thankful for the group that owns him with us (which includes, Payne, his wife Jessica and Susan Drillock),” continued Payne. “It’s incredible, to sit here and have the privilege to ride such wonderful horses and so many people come together to make that happen. I’d just like to thank them.”
While Payne is sad to see the end of his time with Vandiver, the excitement of good young horses coming along, and taking home the national championship helps ease the sting.
“It’s difficult today, how I’m feeling (about winning the national championship). It’ll sink in a few days,” Payne said. “It’s a lifetime of work, but I’m driven to always do better. Having (Vandiver) retire and having another horse step into his shoes (with) an incredibly bright future … I’d like to focus on that.”
The show jumping course, designed by Steve Stephens, garnered only six double-clear rounds, with an additional four pairs leaving the rails up and coming home with only time penalties.
Sunday awards also means a chance to recognize some additional winners. This year Ingham took home the highest-placed young rider, while Jung took highest-placed international rider. Canada’s Lisa Marie Fergusson and Honor Me took home the prize for the highest-placed sole owner. The grooms of the top three horses also got rewarded, with cash and prizes going to Lena Steger (fischerChipmunk FRH), Alison Bell (Banzai Du Loir) and Courtney Carson (Quantum Leap).
In the Dubarry of Ireland Team Challenge, the combined Germany/Ireland/New Zealand team of Michael Jung, Joseph Murphy and Jonelle Price won with a score of 133.5 over Great Britain’s team of Yasmin Ingham, Pippa Funnel, Sarah Bullimore and Leslie Law with a score of 141.2.0 and USA’s team of Boyd Martin, William Coleman, Doug Payne, and Tamra Smith with a score of 166.3.
Complete CCI5*-L results here.
In the CCI4*-S, there was heartbreak and triumph as Steve Stephens’ show jumping course shuffled the top standings, with Elisabeth Halliday-Sharp and Cooley Quicksilver emerging the winner with a double-clear round to finish on a score of 29.7. She also finished 7th on Cooley Be Cool, who left all the jumps up and adding 0.4 in time penalties to his score.
“Both of my horses jumped phenomenal today,” Halliday-Sharp said. “I couldn’t ask for more from him, he rose to the atmosphere — and I didn’t expect that many spectators for the four star, it was wonderful to have crowds back. The course was great, well-designed and it made you think about the lines. The time was tight, there’s a lot to see in that arena and you never know what the younger horses might do, but all in all it was a really great day and I’m thrilled for the owners, team and horses.”
Phillip Dutton and Quasi Cool also left up all the jumps and added 1.2 time penalties to move into second, with newly-minted American James Alliston completing his steady move up with Nemesis from 26th place after dressage to finish 3rd after jumping clean and adding just 0.4 penalties to his dressage score.
“It’s so exciting for me have a horse coming up like (Quasi Cool),” said Dutton. “A lot of this sport is all about the dream, and there are a lot of disappointments, but he looks to have the makings of a great horse. (This competition) is a great education for these horses, to have a strong cross country like that and (to be able to) show jump in atmosphere like this is invaluable. I’m excited and hopefully he will grow and really learn from it.”
Alliston is a British ex-pat who lives in California, and changed his citizenship to the U.S. this year after marrying American Helen Alliston. He and the chestnut Canadian Warmblood gelding started their weekend in 26th place but a relatively quick and clean cross country that added on 9.2 time moved them into 6th overnight, with a strong performance today sliding them into the top three.
“I’m thrilled with him,” Alliston said. “It’s a dream to come and do this. He’s only done two Advanced before, and this was quite a hard four star, but we came out from California with the trailer and decided to bring him along as company. But he’s very brave naturally, so I was hoping I wasn’t being stupid. I’m very happy, he’s a good show jumper normally but this is a whole thing with the crowds and the long course, so I’m really happy with him.”
Overall, the course proved challenging with only four double clear rounds, and only an additional eight adding no jumping penalties, just time. As the results would indicate, time was exceptionally tight.
Overnight leader Dan Kreitl came to grief early when Carmango appeared to spook and come to a near stop several strides away from the first fence, putting him down on the clock on a course where time was already tight, then added 12 more faults to seal his fate. He was also eventually awarded a stop for the first fence, dropping him to 4th.
Kreitl had won everyone’s hearts with the story of his personal struggles, including caring for an infant in the NICU and a wife stricken with cancer while holding down a full-time job in real estate, all while attempting to ride at the highest levels. Despite not having the fairytale ending hoped for, the crowd cheered Kreitl loudly and he was still all smiles and pats for his horse. Dutton even commented on it, saying, “one part of the sport that’s not fun, is that we all wanted Dan up here. He’s such a great guy and I hope we see a lot of him and his horse in the future.”
Complete CCI4*-S results here.
Further information about the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event and the Kentucky CSI3* Invitational Grand Prix is available at www.kentuckythreedayevent.com.