Germany’s Ingrid Klimke holds a slender lead in the CCI4* after a bold cross-country at the Luhmühlen International Horse Trials on Saturday.
“Escada was super fit and she jumps so big that she goes over the top of the hedges,” said a delighted Klimke, who remains on her dressage score of 32.7. “She loves it so much that we were flying. It was an incredible feeling.”
If she stays in the lead to take the win, it will be Klimke’s second FEI Classics 2014/2015 victory.
New Zealand’s Jonelle Price, whose husband, Tim, won here last year, is now within touching distance of her first CCI4* victory after providing a masterclass of cross-country riding on the quick grey mare Faerie Dianimo. They are now second, only 0.1 of a penalty behind Klimke going into Sunday’s jumping finale.
Price overcame an anxious moment when she was mistakenly held in front of the very last fence, but she managed to keep her focus amid the adrenalin high, and completed the course penalty free.
“I had a beautiful round until then with no nervous moments,” said Price. “Dianimo felt much more experienced than she did at Pau last year [where they were fourth].”
Michael Jung (GER) and his old friend La Biosthetique Sam FBW proved exemplary pathfinders, making the big track look a breeze, and are now in third place.
However, proving that even Olympic champions can have an off-moment, Jung retired the fourth-placed fischerRocana FST when the gallant mare floundered on landing in the water at Meβmer water complex and was unable to make the step out onto the bank.
The price of one jumping rail covers the top five riders. The accomplished Australian Christopher Burton, twice a winner of Adelaide (AUS), moved up two places to fourth on Graf Liberty, a 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse having a first CCI4* run.
Mark Todd (NZL) had a superb round on NZB Campino and is now fifth and in with a great chance of adding the Luhmühlen CCI4* to his illustrious CV after competing here for more than 30 years. And fellow Kiwi Jesse Campbell, in his first four-star competition, is sixth on Kaapachino.
Mark Phillips’ revamped track proved a triumph, producing committed riding and confident horses from the star-studded field. There were 21 clear rounds from the 35 cross-country starters, 14 of which were inside the optimum time of 11 minutes 10 seconds.
These included two from British riders Coral Keen on the Fleetwater Opposition-sired Wellhead Fare Opposition, now in 11th place, and Willa Newton on Newmarket Vasco One, 15th, plus Dirk Schrade (GER) on the experienced Hop and Skip, 13th, and Sweden’s Johan Lundin (Johnny Cash), 18th.
The top 11 combinations remain on their dressage scores. Dressage leader, newcomer Julien Despontin (BEL), was visibly thrilled with his clear round, only his second at this level, on Waldano 36. He showed admirable stickability when the horse slipped on leaving the arena, but 22.4 time penalties has dropped him to 19th place.
New Zealanders Andrew Nicholson (Qwanza) and Blyth Tait (Xanthus lll), who was achieving his first CCI4* cross-country completion since 2004, were both going brilliantly when they had frustrating run-outs just two fences from home at fence 28, the Ariat three angled horse-shaped brush.
Clark Montgomery (USA) successfully appealed against elimination for jumping the wrong side of a flag at fence 28 and he is now in seventh place overnight on Loughan Glen.
An angled corner at fence 9 proved the most influential obstacle. Finnish rider Elmo Jankari (Duchesse Desiree), 11th after dressage, ran out here, as did New Zealand rider Fraser King (Nadal), who now represents The Netherlands, experienced Irishman Joseph Murphy (Electric Cruise) and Australian triple Olympic gold medallist Andrew Hoy on Algebra, the 17-year-old grey he has taken over from Nathalie Blundell (AUS).
Lizzie Brown (NZL) and Henton Attorney General, 10th after dressage, retired after a refusal going into the six-effort Meβmer water (fence 17), the centrepiece of the whole course, while Karl-Steffen Meier (GER) suffered the only fall of the day, a soaking in the water when Sunny Side First tripped on landing there.
The FEI Classics has been dominated since its inception in 2008 by British riders, with the notable exception of Andrew Nicholson (NZL) in 2013, but it now looks as if the Germans are about to take over; Klimke has the chance to build up a commanding lead and Michael Jung could be close behind by Sunday.
“Escada is a neat jumper and I will just aim to keep her calm in the warm-up,” said Klimke, who won Pau last year and finished second at Badminton on Horseware Hale Bob last month. “I have never won here before, although I had chances with [FRH Butts] Abraxxas, so it would be nice.”
Andreas Ostholt and So is Et produced an exceptional round to take the lead in the CIC3*. He had been third going into the cross-country. Dressage leader Pia Münker is second on Louis, and Jonelle Price rode eight year old gelding Cloud Dancer to third place.
Ostholt said: “I was impressed by Mark Phillips’ course right from the start and it rode brilliantly. There were a few challenges which my horse coped with amazingly. Even though I felt a little under the weather, my horse supported me all the way and I was grateful for that. The time proved to be very tight, which was a little unexpected. I’m extremely happy with my horse today and it’s definitely down to his amazing talent that we are in the lead today.”
Münker also had a good ride: “Riding this three star course was so much fun. I truly enjoyed my round. Louis gave me a brilliant feeling and we managed to take the direct route at every jump. I am extremely proud of him.”
Jonelle Price said Cloud Dancer was “exceptional”. “It was his first event in this format and he gave me a very good ride. Even though he is a fairly inexperienced horse, he coped well with all the challenges in front of him, I am very happy. I am eager to see how he will be performing in the show jumping.”
Results after CIC4* cross-country
1 Ingrid Klimke/FRH Escada JS (GER) 32.7 + 0 = 32.7
2 Jonelle Price/Faerie Dianimo (NZL) 32.8 + 0 = 32.8
3 Michael Jung/La Biosthetique Sam FBW (GER) 34.2 + 0 = 34.2
4 Christopher Burton/Graf Liberty (AUS) 36.4 + 0 = 36.4
5 Sir Mark Todd/NZB Campino (NZL) 36.5 + 0 = 36.5
6 Jesse Campbell/Kaapachino (NZL) 36.8 + 0 = 36.8
7 Clark Montgomery/Loughan Glen (USA) 37.1 + 0 = 37.1
8 Andreas Dibowski/FRH Butts Avedon (GER) 40.5 + 0 = 40.5
9 Niklas Bschorer/Tom Tom Go 3 (GER) 40.7 + 0 = 40.7
10 Rebecca Howard/Riddle Master (CAN) 42.5 + 0 = 42.5