Watching Michael Jung and La Biosthetique Sam FBW mic-drop a double-clear Badminton cross country round today, we may well have been watching history in the making.
All will be revealed in time, of course, but Michael and Sam couldn’t be in a better position at the conclusion of today’s competition. The pair has two rails in hand heading into show jumping, a cushion Michael is surely grateful for with the Rolex Grand Slam at stake.
Their performance today looked like a romp in the park and apparently felt like one, too. “It was very, very easy,” Michael reflected. “He gave me a very, very good feeling. I was proud of him.”
Michael said that when he walked the course he had options in his head, should a variable like footing or weather change. But, he says, “In the end for me and my horse it was really easy going.”
You can watch his full post-cross country interview below:
Not everyone had such an effortless go-round. Today’s course showed no mercy toward competitors and the leaderboard looks dramatically different now than it did this time yesterday.
Emily King and Brookleigh, who were 2nd after dressage, seemed to be having a textbook round and everyone was gutted to see them have a fall just two fences from home. In their absence, previously 3rd Andreas Osholt and So Is Et moved into 2nd on a clear round with 5.6 time penalties.
“I really enjoyed my my ride,” Andreas said. “I had a hairy moment at the Vicarage Vee — I was on top and saying, ‘Not today! Not today!’ Luckily, I managed it. I am getting old but not too old to stay on the horse!”
Great Britain’s Gemma Tattersall and Arctic Soul made a massive jump up the scoreboard from 16th to 3rd thanks to one of 10 double-clear rounds we saw today.
Gemma said it was the perfect course for her full-blood Thoroughbred. “He went out of the start box like a shotgun and jumped the first fences like he was at Cheltenham,” she said. “He’s just got the most incredible speed and stamina.”
Gemma was one of the last rides of the day but tried not to get rattled by the problems happening on course. “Everyone kept saying, ‘Are you going to go straight at the Vicarage Vee?’ and I said, ‘Yes, why?’ It’s been a very long day today but I just kept trying to focus on the fact that’s he’s s an incredible cross country horse.”
Rounding out the top five are two Kiwis: Mark Todd and Leonidas II, who moved from 17th to 4th, and Jonathan Paget and Clifton Lush, who moved from 19th to 5th.
Today was 100% classic Badminton, a true cross country test that made dressage seem like a distant memory. “Survival of the fittest” was the sorting hat of the day, with run-and-jump virtuosos Libby Head and Sir Rockstar being among the beneficiaries.
Despite it being just their second four-star, the pair was in absolute command of Badminton’s gauntlet and came home clear. You can check out our post-ride interview with her here.
Libby and “Rocky” are, unfortunately, the last Americans standing at the conclusion of today’s competition. The Apprentice couldn’t have been in better hands than those of Buck Davidson; unfortunately, it just wasn’t their day.
“Dirk gave me his all today,” Buck posted on his Facebook page. “He jumped best ever. Woodge and Leo were awesome. Sorry for the Martins. I felt like Dirk was getting past an acceptable point of tiredness. He is totally fine. Libby Head was awesome today. Glad that Boyd is fine after his tough fall. No excuses. We tried and it didn’t come off. It’s Derby day in the USA too bad we didn’t make it Badminton Day.”
After taking the long route at the Vicarage Vee (successfully, excepting a little hesitation to gallop across the bridge afterward!) they had a glance off at fence #23, Shogun Hollow, and then pulled up just short of home at fence #28, Alexander’s Silver Birch.
Boyd Martin and Cracker Jack looked on-point…
…but sadly were among the many who fell victim to the Vicarage Vee.
“I came around the corner and rode it to my plan, but I don’t think I gave Crackers a good enough chance to read the fence,” Boyd said. “In the last stride or two, it seemed like he didn’t quite understand it and then he panicked a bit at the end.”
“It was a tough fence, and if I had my time over again I would have steadied him more on the turn to give him time to read the fence a bit further out. I made the mistake of being too gung ho through the turn, and he didn’t understand it.”
Also, he fell on his “good side” thankfully, so no concerns about the collarbone — just a bit stiff and sore. Crackers walked away fine as well. “To be quite honest, it’s a bitter pill to swallow when you go overseas to compete and come up short. Today that’s what happened and it stings,” Boyd said.
Cracker Jack will be staying in Europe in the care of Jock Paget while Boyd returns to the U.S. to compete at Jersey Fresh. Boyd says that Luhmühlen is being considered as a re-route option next month.
“I’d like to thank the USEF and Land Rover for partially funding this trip, and Lucy Boynton for supporting us through the highs and lows. Kristin Marella, Crackers’ groom for the trip, has been there every step of the way for Crackers.”
One more North American combination, England-based Canadian Kathryn Robinson and Let It Be, came home clear with 53.2 time. They took the option at the Vicarage Vee and had a careful, confidence building go-round. This is their first crack at Badminton and it’s great to see them have a successful go-round under their belt!
Several fences proved to be quite influential on course today, notably the Vicarage Vee and the Mirage Pond. In total, seven pairs had falls at fence 21, the Vicarage Vee — three falls of rider and four horse falls. We saw a total of seven refusals at the Vee.
The Mirage Pond, while not unseating anyone enough to land them in the pond, caused a lot of refusals, much to the surprise of many. Commentators surmised that perhaps the ‘surprise’ factor of the water following the first house had an effect. Other refusals at the B element could be chalked up to an awkward jump out of the water and a resulting lack of impulsion.
In all, we saw eight refusals and four eliminations on refusals or retirements at the Mirage Pond, fairly mixed between the A and B elements.
As far as falls are concerned, there were seven horse falls and four rider falls. Two of the horse falls came at the penultimate question, the Rolex Crossing, which was an angled two stride of big logs.
75 combinations left the start box today, with 48 completing for a percentage of 64%. Of those who completed, 64% came home sans jump penalties and 21% made it inside the time.
Here’s a look at some great moments from a dramatic day:
Top 20 after cross country:
Much more to come!