He's back! After not making the trip to compete at the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event presented by MARS Equestrian since 2018, Michael Jung's return to Kentucky showed everyone exactly why he’s won the five-star in the bluegrass three different times. His flawless dressage test with Klaus and Sabine Fischer, Hilmer Meyer-Kulenkampff, and DOKR's 14-year-old Hanoverian gelding FischerChipmunk FRH (Contendro I x Havanna) earned him the top spot on the leaderboard with a score of 20.1 in the CCI5*-L.
“I’m very happy with [the test]. I think that was the best I’ve ever had,” said Michael Jung. “It feels great to be back in Kentucky. It’s a wonderful place [and] I feel very welcome here. He was wonderful to ride and I’m very thankful for my team who helped to prepare the horse for this competition. Also, a very big thank you to the Fischer group that allows me to have such a good horse.”
This is FischerChipmunk FRH’s five-star debut and Jung explained the reason why he picked Kentucky for his first five-star event. “I really like [Kentucky]. I have great memories here and I feel like the horses like it also. You have perfect conditions with the all-weather arena, a nice stadium, and the cross-country is very beautiful.”
Regarding Derek di Grazia's cross-country track, Jung commented: “Tomorrow is a big challenge for us. I think there are big fences to jump, it’s a long track to gallop, it’s very hilly in the beginning so, we have to concentrate everywhere.”
“It is an absolute privilege to be back here,” said Sarah Bullimore who sits in second-place following dressage on a score of 25.7. This Bullimore's first time competing at Kentucky since 2014 and she made her return to the states this year with her homebred, Corouet (Balou du Rouet x Lilly Corinne) an 11-year-old Oldenburg gelding owned by Sarah and Brett Bullimore and the Kew Jumping Syndicate. “We don’t always get the opportunity to come here and I am not getting any younger so I grabbed this with both hands and I am absolutely over the moon to be back here. The park is just fabulous, the track, everything. And everyone just bends over backward to help you. [It’s just a lovely atmosphere and a very lovely event.”
Corouet is a homebred of Bullimore's and she explained the breeding behind the Oldenburg gelding. “I had a fabulous mare, Lilly Corinne who actually went to the European Championships in 2015. [Corouet] was our firstborn and it was nothing we had done before, but she was a fabulous mare, so why not. We used Balou Du Rouet as the sire, and it was after we used him that we found out they are a bit more tricky. He actually turned out to be quite difficult to train but, I love what he produces and Corouet is a mighty big attitude in a small package.”
Looking forward to tomorrow, Bullimore said, “I have to say I am on a tiny pony and [the course] looks quite big to me! As these guys said it is a beautiful track and Derek has done a fantastic job. All of the jumps are out there for us to go out and jump. There’s enough to do. I think you could go out there and have a fantastic ride and still come back with a 20. There are a few lines where Derek has taken you just off the line and you could have a silly 20. He’s done a really good job and it looks fantastic."
The highest placed American pair is Buck Davidson on Carlevo (Eurocommerce Caresino x Ramatuelle), a 15-year-old Holsteiner gelding owned by Katherine O'Brien. The pair scored a 27.4 to sit in third going into tomorrow’s cross-country. “He is very, very good in the first phase. He was great today,” said Davidson. “We have added some more energy to his food and to me he looks as good as he has ever looked.”
Davidson will ride three horses around di Grazia’s five-star track and Carlevo will be his final ride. “Derek is obviously very good at what he does,” said Davidson. The fences are beautifully presented and although it maybe doesn’t look as big as it did last year there were a lot of big jumps and a lot of drops. It is for sure tricky and the water at the end looks to be quite difficult. Derek is a genius at what he does. It maybe doesn’t look as scary, but there is plenty to do and plenty of places to have a silly mistake.”
Apart from Michael Jung, the top 10 are separated by only eight points. Tomorrow’s cross-country will start with the CCI4*-S going first at 9:00 a.m. EST and the CCI5*-L will start at 12:50 p.m. EST.
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Chants of “War Eagle” were heard from end to end of the White Oak cross-country course as the overnight leaders and defending champions from Auburn University tore between the red and white flags Saturday to remain atop the leaderboard of the 2023 Intercollegiate Eventing Championship at the Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC).
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