Will We See Michael Jung at Kentucky and Badminton in 2018?

Michael Jung and fischerRocana FST at Kentucky 2017. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

With the 2018 season’s first CCI4* just 62 days away, speculation is ripe as to which horses and riders we will see competing at the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event and Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials.

With World Equestrian Games team selection on the line, riders will be looking to prove themselves early in the season, including reigning FEI World No. 1 Michael Jung. Will he return to Kentucky with three-time winner fischerRocana FST in pursuit of a record fourth consecutive victory? Will 18-year-old double Olympic champion La Biosthetique Sam FBW, who is now retired from championships, return to Badminton in the hopes of repeating his 2016 win?

German team trainer Hans Melzer shared some insights into competition plans for the season as we look ahead to WEG. Most of Germany’s top combinations who are already qualified for WEG will forgo a spring CCI and aim for the German National Championships Meßmer Trophy CIC3* at Luhmühlen in June instead.

Our friends at Buschreiter.de have published season plans for many of Germany’s top riders as they aim for WEG, which will take place Sept. 12-16 at Tryon International Equestrian Center. Reigning European champions Ingrid Klimke and Horseware Hale Bob will plan to contest Kreuth CIC2* in April, Wiesbaden CIC3* in May, Luhmühlen CIC3* in June, Aachen CICO3* in July and Strzegom CIC3* in August.

Other top German riders will likely follow the same plan, with the notable exception of Michael Jung. “We are expecting most riders to compete in the CIC*** Meßmer Trophy,” Hans told Luhmühlen in an interview. “Only Michael Jung is considering taking La Biosthetique Sam to Badminton and fischerRocana to Kentucky instead.”

The reigning queen of Kentucky, fischerRocana FST is already the only mare in history to win the same CCI4* three consecutive times. If she returns to Kentucky again in 2018 to defend her crown and wins, she would become the only horse in history to win the same CCI4* four consecutive times.

As to whether fischerRocana FST will also reprise her role as Michael’s WEG mount — she won individual silver at the 2014 WEG in Normandy in her CCI4* debut — the 13-year-old mare is undoubtedly a front-runner.

Hans also confirmed that two of Michael’s top mounts will return to action this season following recovery from injuries: 2015 European Champion fischerTakinou and Lennox 364, who qualified for WEG with a fifth place finish at Saumur last year.

“Outside of the Olympic squad we have a number of promising horse-rider combinations who stand a chance to compete at the WEG. They will compete in Luhmühlen’s CCI4*, as this could provide them with the necessary qualifications for Tryon. Felix Etzel, Marina Köhncke, Jörg Kurbel, Anna Siemer and Falk-Filip-Finn Westerich are candidates to take this route,” Hans said.

“It’s certainly possible that one or more of these riders could be selected, as Sandra Auffarth, Bettina Hoy, Michael Jung, Ingrid Klimke, Andreas Ostholt, Kai Rüder and Josefa Sommer only have one horse each on this level. At the moment, Andreas Dibowski is the only one who has got three horses which could be contenders for the games.”

Michael has ridden on every major team for Germany since making his senior team debut in 2009 — and won an individual medal at each one. His slot on the team seems all but guaranteed; the question remains which horse he will ride at Tryon.

We hope to see Rocana at Kentucky and Sam at Badminton! Go Eventing.

[Luhmühlen on the way to the World Equestrian Games and the European Championships 2019]