Michael Jung and fischerRocana FST Set the Stage for Rolex Three-Peat

Michael Jung and fischerRocana FST. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

History is poised to repeat itself yet again, with Michael Jung and fischerRocana FST leading after what can only be described as a day of high highs and low lows at the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event.

The 12-year-old German Sport Horse (Ituango xx X Rose II) flew around the course like she had rockets on her feet, which definitely made for a few hairy moments, but there’s no style award in eventing for a reason. Michael and Rocana completed the course with 1.6 cross country time penalties to move into first place on 38.7, which gives them a rail in hand as we look ahead to tomorrow’s show jumping.

Maxime Livio and Qalao Des Mers. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Maxime Livio and Qalao des Mers, a 13-year-old Selle Francais, were one of five pairs to make the optimum time of 11 minutes, 17 seconds on Derek di Grazia’s cross country course to move from eighth up to second on 44.6.

Zara Tindall and High Kingdom. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Zara Tindall and Trevor Hemmings’ High Kingdom, a 16-year-old Irish Sport Horse (Master Imp X High Dolly) bred by William Micklem, cruised around clear and inside the time to move from 16th up to third place on 46.6.

Despite losing both front shoes, the Blossom Creek Foundation’s Super Socks BCF, an 11-year-old Irish Sport Horse, was an absolute star for Matt Brown, coming home four seconds inside the time to move from 19th to fourth as the highest-placed U.S. combination on 47.8.

Matthew Brown and Super Socks BCF. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Mary Ann Ghadban’s Under Suspection, a 13-year-old Holsteiner (Contender X Naomagic I), impressed in her four-star debut with Hannah Sue Burnett, looking very much at home on the course to jump clear with 5.6 time penalties, moving from 11th to fifth place on 50.8.

Phillip Dutton and the Mr. Medicott Syndicate’s Mr. Medicott were cheered all the way around the course as the 18-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding stormed around his first four-star cross country course since 2014, jumping clear with 8.8 time penalties to move from ninth up to sixth on 53.6.

If you looked closely today at Phillip’s horses, you might have noticed that they all wore #TeamLeeLee FLAIR strips on their noses. She has been watching the live stream feed from back home in Pennsylvania, and we know Phillip made her proud today — the only rider in the competition to pilot three rides to clear rounds.

Phillip Dutton and Mr Medicott. #TeamLeeLee. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Holly Payne Caravella said it best when asked to give her brother Doug advice on how to tackle the course: “Ride hard.” That’s exactly what Doug did with Debi Crowley’s Vandiver, a 13-year-old Trakehner, jumping a textbook clear with 5.2 time penalties to move from 23rd to seventh on 53.8.

Phillip Dutton has a second ride in the top 10 in Tom Tierney and Annie Jones’ Fernhill Fugitive. The 12-year-old Irish Sport Horse (Lux X Barnadown Rambo) is well on his way to securing the third top-15 Rolex finish of his career after jumping clear with 9.2 time penalties to sit eighth on 53.8. (His third ride, John and Kristine Norton’s I’m Sew Ready, is just outside the top 10 in 11th thanks to a class four-star debut!)

Tim Bourke and Luckaun Quality burned up the clock with the fastest round of the day — a jaw-dropping 23 seconds inside the time — to skyrocket from 41st to ninth place on 57.2.

Boyd Martin experienced the highs and lows of Rolex cross country day firsthand. He piloted his first ride Lucy Boynton Lie’s Crackerjack, a New Zealand Sport Horse/Thoroughbred (Aberjack X Santa’s Slave), to a clear round with 8.8 time penalties, moving from 23rd up to 10th on 57.4. But Boyd also fell with his second ride, Steady Eddie, who was going guns blazing until he slipped and fell between fences at the Normandy Bank.

And that was the story line for much of the day. While 74% of the field completed the course and 46% of the finishers jumped clear, there were many heartbreaking moments for those who didn’t. Overnight leaders Clark Montgomery and Loughan Glen came to grief at the Land Rover Landing at fence 18, glancing off the incredibly narrow face of the first chevron brush at 18AB. They went on to have a second refusal at fence 27B, the second of the Horse Park Barns and the penultimate fence.

The Land Rover Landing ultimately proved to be the most influential fence on course, with 10 combinations picking up refusals there. The first combination on course at fence 4, the Mighty Moguls, also caused its fair share of trouble, accounting for five refusals, one rider fall and one horse fall.

We saw three horse falls in all, and thankfully we have no major injuries to report. James Alliston gave us a scare as the first out on course, falling with Parker at 10A, the big table at the start of the Rolex Head of the Lake, when it appeared the horse caught a hind hoof. Allie Sacksen and Sparrow’s Nio fell at 11B, the massive drop into the Head of the Lake, when the horse’s legs crumpled on landing.

We saw four rider falls in addition to the three horse falls. Daniela Mougel fell from Cecelia at fence 4C, the brush corner at the Mighty Moguls. Rachel McDonough fell from Irish Rhythm when she lost her seat after jumping into the Head of the Lake at 11B and couldn’t quite save it over the fish at 11C. Liz Halliday-Sharp parted ways with Fernhill By Night when he slipped at the Normandy Bank at fence 20. All riders are OK after their falls.

While Buck Davidson and Park Trader are recorded as having a horse fall at fence 4A, the rails in the Mighty Moguls combination, eyewitness reports confirm that the horse did not fall; only Buck fell. He subsequently withdrew Copper Beach, though he returned to ride Petite Flower as the final horse of the day.

Erin Sylvester and Mettraise. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Looking to the rest of the leaderboard, Selena O’Hanlon and John and Judy Rumble’s Foxwood High are the highest placed Canadian combination, sitting 12th on 60.6 after jumping clear with 10.8 time penalties. Erin Sylvester and Mettraise hit bang on the optimum time to move from 51st to 13th place on 60.9 and win the Land Rover Ride of the Day!

Click here to view the full breakdown on today’s scoring and here to relive all the action in EN’s cross country open thread. Samantha Clark was at the finish all day interviewing riders, and you can watch her interviews here. (Spoiler alert: Many of them are tearjerkers!)

Here are some rapid-fire stats to recap the day and set the stage for tomorrow:

  • Only five pairs made the time: Maxime Livio and Qalao Des Mers, Zara Tindall and High Kingdom, Matt Brown and Super Socks BCF, Tim Bourke and Luckaun Quality, and Erin Sylvester and Mettraise. Three of the six double-clears moved up a collective 34 places to round out the top four behind Michael Jung.
  • Of the 57 cross country starting pairs, 26 jumped clear, 16 finished with jumping faults, eight were eliminated and seven retired on course.
  • Of 18 international starters, exactly half finished with clear rounds. Nearly half (17 out of 40) of U.S. pairs finished on clear rounds.
  • Two riders rode three horses today: Jessica Phoenix and Phillip Dutton. Phillip finished on three clear rounds, adding only time penalties to his dressage scores. All of his horses are within the top 11 going into show jumping. Just one other rider finished with more than one horse on a clear round: Lillian Heard aboard Share Option and LCC Barnaby.
  • Holly Payne Caravella and Never OutFoxed moved up the most, jumping 43 places from 58th to 15th by picking up just four seconds of time penalties. Tim Bourke and Luckaun Quality moved up from 41st after the dressage to a top-10 placing with the fastest round of the day
  • Looking ahead to show jumping, Michael Jung has one rail and one second in hand above Maxime Livio. Zara Tindall is within two rails of the lead.
  • In her six four-star show jumping rounds, fischerRocana FST has jumped clear twice, pulled one rail three times and pulled two rails once. She won two of those events (Rolex in 2015 and Rolex in 2016). The event in which she pulled two rails was Pau in 2016, which Qalao Des Mers won on a clear show jumping round. The stage is set for a rematch tomorrow!

Click here to read the top quotes from the afternoon press conference, with comments from Michael Jung, Maxime Livio, Zara Tindall, Matt Brown, Erin Sylvester and Derek di Grazia. Stay tuned for much more. Go Eventing.