Cross-country day at the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event presented by Land Rover is one of the most anticipated days of the year for eventing enthusiasts, and the 2017 edition did not disappoint. As top horses and riders fell prey to Derek di Grazia’s unrelenting track this year, the boldest and fastest combinations nimbly climbed the ranks. Even the defending champion Michael Jung picked up 1.6 time penalties, but it was enough to sit him squarely in the lead with Brigitte and Joachim Jung’s FischerRocana FST.
Germany’s two-time Olympic champion expertly piloted his parent’s 12-year-old Wuttemberger (Intuagno xx x Rose II) mare to a clear finish, adding a handful of time penalties to take over the lead on a two-phase score of 38.7
“You never know exactly what happens. You walk the course and you still make a plan for your ride, but I feel in warm up that FischerRocana was not very perfect feeling. With the weather it makes me a bit nervous before the start, but she galloped really well and jumped everything very powerful and that gave me a good feeling,” he said noting that their ride was scrappier than ever this year.
“In the end, some situations were not very clear for me and the horse, but we have a very good partnership and I think that’s the most important thing in eventing: that you know the horse and the horse knows the rider and you trust each other,” Jung reflected.
Jung may be sitting comfortably with one rail in hand before tomorrow’s show jumping, but he’s followed by a pair who have bested him before: Livio and Encuri Livio’s Qalao Des Mers. “I think it’s boring for him to win every time,” second-placed Maxime Livio taunted at the press conference.
Maxime Livio and Qaloa Des Mer. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.
Are the two feeling déjà vu? The stage is set for a possible repeat of the results at the 2016 Pau CCI4* where two rails by Jung and FischerRocana left the door open for Livio to nab his first four-star win. “I was lucky one time, I don’t know if I will be a different time. I will try to do my job first. My horse is a superb jumper. If I do my job, he will do his job,” Livio continued.
He and the 13-year-old Selle Francais (Iolsco de Quinhon x Ucaria de Crestian) were one of five pairs to pull off a clear cross-country round inside the time today. “I am super happy for my horse,” he commented. “He started like he starts every time: very fast and very strong. I try not to fight too much at the beginning and let him go. He did exactly what I want everywhere.”
Like Jung, Livio also found himself riding on the fly to make it between all the flags. “You can have a plan and not realize exactly that plan, so it [happened] two times especially on the little fish in the lake where my stride was short because he jump too far into the water.”
Zara Tindall and High Kingdom. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.
A double clear round moved Zara Tindall and Gleadhill Stud and Trevor Hemmings' High Kingdom from 16th into third place at the end of cross-country day. The 16-year-old Irish Sport Horse (Master Imp x High Dolly) will start the final day of competition on their dressage score of 46.6.
“When I walked, a lot of people thought it was softer than last year, but I think with the terrain and the turns a lot of people got different distances in different combinations,” she explained. “Like at any four-star, you need to go out and attack it and the more you attack it, the easier it is to make those distances happen and make the time easier to get. I think [the course] was probably tougher than it looked.”
By the afternoon, temperatures reached 80 degrees, giving many riders, including Tindall, pause. “You’re always worried how they are going to cope in the heat, but he coped with it really really well. Hopefully that will make it easier for him tomorrow,” she said.
Show jumping begins at 1 p.m. tomorrow, and riders will jump in reverse order of standing.
Class is now in session with the 2017 Virtual USEA/PHC Event College!
Event College is a special series designed to educate the general public on the sport of Eventing. Tune in to learn from “professors” such as Lauren Kieffer, Max Corcoran and Jen McFall. These video classroom sessions give you a first-hand look at the competition as it happens at a CCI***. Here are the classes you can watch so far: