Michael Jung gave a masterclass in cross country riding at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials to retain his lead with La Biosthetique-Sam FBW.
The German took a giant leap towards his quest to become only the second ever winner of the Rolex Grand Slam when he finished clear and inside the time on a day where the cross country course caused a number of problems.
“I’m really proud of La Biosthetique-Sam. He really is the best horse for me. With him everything feels easy so it was a wonderful day today. In my head I had many options at the difficult fences, but he made it seem easy. When I sit on him and I can feel his power and focus that’s a great feeling. He is a very good cross country horse and can do the strongest courses in the world easily. I’m in a good position but we are not at the end and we have a long day tomorrow and I hope we are lucky in the end.”
Michael’s score of 34.4 leaves him nine penalties ahead of his team mate Andreas Ostholt with So Is Et, who moved up one place from third. He said: “I’m really happy. Two times before I didn’t finish because my horses tied up. But he was really fresh into the finish. My aim was not to hurry too much in the beginning or middle part and try to play safe as possible without being too slow. I really enjoyed my ride. I had a hairy moment at the Vicarage Vee but I managed it. Otherwise I was really happy.”
She commented: “Arctic Soul is a full thoroughbred horse and he is a complete machine. He went out of the start box like a complete shot gun and jumped the first three fences like we were at Cheltenham. Luckily I was able to settle him down on the longer stretches. He has the most incredible stride and stamina – he is just fabulous. He is full of himself and pleased with himself now. Everybody kept saying to me are you going to go straight at the Vicarage Vee and I say yes, why? He has jumped it before – he is a scopey horse and doesn’t look down. I knew he would be fine. We were very late on. I kept trying to focus on the fact that he is an incredible cross country horse and we have a good partnership at this level.”
Another British rider who put in a strong performance was Oliver Townend with Armada who rose from 24th to 8th. The pair were the first out on the course and came home penalty free to finish on 46.2. Afterwards Oliver admitted that this would be the horse’s last Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials. He said: “He’s changed a lot over the years and has slowed up a bit. He realises he doesn’t have to put in so much effort over the smaller fences and doesn’t give them much air, which can be a bit unnerving, but he still managed to make it feel quite easy. I’m not sure what he’ll do in his retirement – he won’t be doing Dressage or going Show Jumping, though.”
Giuseppe Della Chiesa’s course produced 32 clear rounds with 11 combinations going under the time. And despite the class rides put in by the leaders, there were problems for some of the most fancied contenders.
The 2014 winners Sam Griffiths and Paulank Brockagh ran past the final element of the Swindon Designer Outlet Mound at fence 12, while Izzy Taylor and her first ride KBIS Briarlands Matilda retired at the KBIS Vicarage Vee. Christopher Burton and Nobilis 18 fell at the Shogun Hollow at Fence 23. Perhaps the most gutting fall of the day was Emily King and Brookleigh, who after a faultless round fell two fences from home at the Rolex Crossing.
The issues out on course saw a number of riders make massive leaps up the standings – Mark Todd and Leonidas II moved up to fourth from 17th, Jock Paget and Clifton Lush from 19th to 5th and Gwendonlen Fur from 28th to 10th. However, the biggest leap up the standings was Beanie Sturgis who jumped from 59th after the dressage to finish cross country in 19th place with Lebowski.
Ben Hobday made a remarkable comeback to four star competition. With Mulrys Error, and a passenger in the form of Willberry Wonder Pony, the pair came home clear to finish two phases on a score of 91.8 – putting them in 35th position. However, Alice Dunsdon, who was aiming to be the first rider to complete all six of the world’s four star competitions on the same horse with Fernhill Present was not so lucky. After a refusal at the Wadworth Lower Lake at fence 8, the pair were eliminated after three refusals at fence 14, the Mirage Pond.
Photographs Courtesy of HR Photography