Jung ensures thriller Badminton showdown

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La Biosthetique - Sam FBW leaves a leg behind but powers on with Michael Jung.
La Biosthetique – Sam FBW leaves a leg behind but powers on with Michael Jung. © Mike Bain

The huge crowd at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials roared home Michael Jung, cheering loudly at the finish of the cross-country to show their appreciation of a true horseman.

Although the Olympic, World and European champion has retained his lead on La Biosthetique Sam FBW after the first two phases, he will need all his famous reserves of calm on Monday. He does not have a fence in hand over New Zealander Jock Paget, who was immaculate on Clifton Promise and lies in second place.

Andrew Nicholson and Nereo.
Andrew Nicholson and Nereo. © Mike Bain

The two Rolex Grand Slam contenders, William Fox-Pitt (GBR) on Parklane Hawk and Andrew Nicholson (NZL) on Nereo, have moved into closer contention in third and fourth places, still separated by just 0.2 of a penalty after faultless performances.

Badminton,  the fourth leg of the HSBC FEI Classics,  is the world’s oldest and richest CCI4* and attracts more than 150,000 spectators on cross-country day, the most 30-year-old Jung has encountered in his career so far. “There are so many people here and they lift you over the fences,” he said happily. “The atmosphere is fantastic. I have wanted to come here since I was a young boy, so to be in this position feels amazing.”

Afterward, Jung described coming up to the finish as “Amazing!  The spectators help on the last jumps – they lift you over the last fences and it’s wonderful when you gallop the ten minutes through the course as everywhere are spectators – it’s really special.”

Jung, who had a refusal at the skinny brush at the top of the Savills’ Staircase (fence 22) on his first ride Leopin, also had a nervous moment on Sam. The 13-year-old gelding twisted over the imposing timber into Badminton’s famous Lake (fence 9) and landed facing in the wrong direction for the two small brush fences which came next, with Jung close to completely losing his reins.

The crowd gasped loudly, but somehow Jung, showing amazingly quick reactions, managed to set his horse back on track. “I gave him time to find his balance again and it was fine,” he said, apparently not at all fazed by this near miss.

“The good thing is that the water was in the beginning and not in the end so he was fresh enough to manage … the rest of it was really perfect,” Jung said.

The pair finished 14 seconds inside the optimum time of 11 minutes 13 seconds, despite taking a long route at the Staircase this time.

Paget, who was also clear on Clifton Lush, said afterward: “I was grateful to have another great horse to ride around this morning to help set me up for the horse that has such great dressage. Luckily for me, I am on two great gallopers and jumpers – two New Zealand thoroughbreds so they know their job.”

Of his chances in the final phase, Paget said Clifton Promise was careful, “but I have never yet finished on my dressage score in a three day. But he is very careful and it wouldn’t surprise me if he jumped clear.”

Jung’s Olympic teammate Sandra Auffarth was equally impressive on her Badminton debut and she is now in fifth place on Opgun Louvo, having added just 1.2 time penalties.

Stefano Breccarioli (ITA) produced the ride of his life on the elegant Apollo VD Wendi Kurt Hoeve, having clearly benefited from the advice of his mentor Andrew Nicholson, and he is now in sixth place with six time penalties, his best cross-country result at CCI4* level.

Jonathan Paget and Clifton Promise.
Jonathan Paget and Clifton Promise. © Mike Bain

“I am very happy,” said Brecciaroli excitedly afterward. “I was trying very hard. The competition is so exciting, and the atmosphere fantastic. I’m feeling very proud to be at the top of the leaderboard with Olympic champions.”

Sam Griffiths (AUS) has moved up three places to seventh, ahead of Nicholson on Avebury, the only rider with two horses in the top 12.

Hugh Thomas’s course jumped exceptionally well, with 69 clear rounds and more than 25% of the field – 25 riders – finishing inside the optimum time thanks to the perfect going.

“The ground is superb and the course felt lovely to ride,” said Nicholson, who coped with the hazard of Nereo losing a shoe and being chased by two different dogs during his round on Avebury. “It helped sharpen Avebury up. He probably thought I’d arranged it on purpose!” he joked.

Not everyone made the track look quite so easy, however, and there were some high-profile mistakes. Kristina Cook (GBR) gave notice that the new HSBC Market Place complex (fence 21) would be influential when Du Novo News ran out at the second open corner, and William Fox-Pitt with first ride Oslo and Mark Todd (Ravenstar) also had problems here.

Dirk Schrade (GER), third after dressage on King Artus, retired when the horse refused at the rails into the Lake (fence 9), while fellow Germany Kai Rüder (Le Prince des Bois) and Britain’s Zara Phillips (High Kingdom) both ran past one of the small brush fences in the Lake.

The latter seems to be perpetually unlucky at Badminton and is yet to better her 16th place in 2008. “I made a mistake and you pay the price,” Phillips said. “It’s frustrating after all the hard work, but he’s such a great horse.”

Pippa Funnell, who had done such a fantastic job to bring Redesigned back to top level after three years on the sidelines, had an even more frustrating run-out, at the top of the Savills Staircase. It cost her fifth place at this stage.

Susanna Bordone (ITA) was unseated when Blue Moss hit the rails going into the Shogun Hollow (fence 18) and Bettina Hoy (GER) was unshipped when Lanfranco TSF twisted over the final element of Huntsman’s Close (fence 7).

Mary King (GBR) continued unawares after Kings Temptress took out the flag at the open corner at the Rodney Powell Products Farmyard (fence 13), but the Ground Jury reviewed the CCTV footage and decided that she had not jumped between the flags so she was stopped.

William Fox-Pitt and Parklane Hawk.
William Fox-Pitt and Parklane Hawk. © Mike Bain

The New Zealand riders were solid, with Nicholson, Paget and Caroline Powell riding both their horses to clear and inside time. Megan Heath and St Daniel were clear but picked up six time faults, while Lucy Jackson and Animator II were also clear but bagged 11.6 time.

Jackson withdrew her other horse Willy Do before the cross country because he “didn’t feel right”, and it wasn’t a course to head out on in that state. It was also her last start on Animator II who is to be ridden by a daughter of Animator’s owner.

Mark Todd, who at 57 is the oldest competitor this year at Badminton, was clear on Major Milestone with just 0.4 time but had an unfortunate run-out aboard Ravenstar, in his first four star start.

Monday’s showjumping will bring with it something special for Powell, when her superstar Lenamore, who retired earlier this year, will be honoured at a parade in the main arena. The combination hold their record seven consecutive completions, which saw them just once outside the prize money.

Ireland’s Aoife Clark moved into 12th place overall from joint 16th place after dressage, Clark rode a textbook round, coming home on the Irish Sport Horse Master Crusoe with no jumping faults and just 0.8 time faults.

Sam Watson finished the course with a completely clean sheet on the Irish Sport Horse Horseware Bushman, hoisting him 17 places into 24th position.

Michael Jung and La Biosthetique Sam FBW.
Michael Jung and La Biosthetique Sam FBW. © Nigel Goddard/KSDigital Photography

With Badminton first-timer Peter Hannigan suffering elimination after a fall, the remaining five Irish riders completed with Elizabeth Power in 29th – up from 49th – Sarah Ennis in 44th, Joseph Murphy in 59th, Jim Newsam in 64th and Michael Ryan in 68th.

William Fox-Pitt, who timed his cross-country round to perfection on Parklane Hawk, finishing one second inside the optimum time after opting for a cautious route at fence 21 this time, conceded that he may be facing an uphill task in his pursuit of Grand Slam glory in the jumping phase.

“He was class around there and a pleasure to ride – he’s such a galloping machine. As I’ve said all along, I’d wished for the ground to be soft and muddy so then he would have done the time when some of the others wouldn’t as he’s such a good galloper – he’s bred to race.

“He felt fantastic at the end and I knew I had to be quite close to the time and I know that I am exactly four points behind Michael.

“There’s no way it’s going to be a normal day at Badminton with so much at stake,” he said cheerfully. “Even if I jump clear on Parklane Hawk – and that certainly isn’t guaranteed – I’m still relying on others to make mistakes, and that isn’t very likely either. Especially as this chap [Michael Jung] doesn’t make many!”

Reporting: Kate Green; Diana Dobson; Colin McLelland; Rolex.

Results after Cross Country
1 Michael Jung/La Biosthetique Sam FBW (GER) 36.0 + 0 = 36.0
2 Jonathan Paget/Clifton Promise (NZL) 39.7 + 0 = 39.7
3 William Fox-Pitt/Parklane Hawk (GBR) 40.0 + 0 = 40.0
4 Andrew Nicholson/Nereo (NZL) 40.2 + 0 = 40.2
5 Sandra Auffarth/Opgun Louvo (GER) 41.3 + 1.2 = 42.5
6 Stefano Brecciaroli/Apollo VD Wendi Kurt Hoeve (ITA) 36.8 + 6 = 42.8
7 Sam Griffiths/Happy Times (AUS) 43.3 + 1.6 = 44.9
8 Andrew Nicholson/Avebury (NZL) 45.0 + 0 = 45.0
9 Ingrid Klimke/Butts Abraxxas (GER) 44.2 + 0.8 = 45.0
10 Tiana Coudray/Ringwood Magister (USA) 43.3 + 2 = 45.3

Images below © Mike Bain 

Images below © Steph Freeman

 

 

 

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Jonathan Paget and Clifton Promise.
Jonathan Paget and Clifton Promise. © Libby law/ESNZ

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