Michael Jung (GER) is returning to the scene of his first championship victory when he contests the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event (USA) this weekend (23-26 April), third leg of the FEI Classics™ 2014/2015. In 2010, Jung, the reigning Olympic and European champion, began a record four-year run of individual gold medals when he took the world title at Kentucky on La Biosthetique Sam FBW.
Five years later and firmly established in the world’s eyes as the consummate horseman, Jung will again be thrilling American and global Eventing fans, as he is tackling the CCI4* for the first time with Sam, now a 15-year-old, plus FisherRocana FST, the game 10-year-old on which he won world team gold and individual silver medals last year.
Another former world champion is making an eagerly anticipated Kentucky debut. Zara Phillips (GBR), who won the world title in 2006 at Aachen (GER), is bringing High Kingdom, her Olympic and world team silver medallist, for a first crack at the USA’s premier event.
One rider who knows every inch of the Kentucky Horse Park is Phillips’s team mate, William Fox-Pitt (GBR). The world number one has been victorious here three times, in 2010 (on Cool Mountain), in 2012 (on Parkland Hawk) and in 2014 on Bay My Hero, his ride this year. The 12-year-old by Cult Hero is a lovely stamp of horse; the gelding was also fourth at Burghley (GBR) last year, a result that helped Fox-Pitt secure his third FEI Classics™ win.
Kentucky is a popular destination for New Zealand riders as well, but the country’s representative this time is a new face, Tim Price, who scored his first CCI4* win last year, at Luhmühlen CCI4* on the Dutch-bred Wesko.
Phillip Dutton (USA), the last American rider to win Kentucky, in 2008 on Connaught, heads a particularly strong home side. He and his compatriot Buck Davidson (USA) have three rides apiece; Dutton’s trio is Mighty Nice, Fernhill Cubalawn and Fernhill Fugitive and Davidson has The Apprentice, Petite Flower and Ballynoe Castle RM.
The 2015 running sees one of the strongest line-up for years - nearly 80 riders representing nine nations - and a thrilling competition should be assured from the moment the first combination, Colleen Rutledge and Shiraz, steps into the Dressage arena on Thursday morning.
FEI Classics™ 2014/2015 Leaderboard (after 2 out of 6 events)
1 Ingrid Klimke (GER) 15 points
2 Jessica Manson (AUS) 15
3 Andreas Dibowski (GER) 12
4 Megan Jones (AUS) 12
5 Arnaud Boiteau (FRA) 10
6 Jonelle Price (NZL) 8
7 Katja Weinmann (AUS) 8
8 Joseph Murphy (IRL) 6
9 Erin Sylvester (USA) 5
10 Kathryn Robinson (CAN) 4
11 Lauren Kieffer (USA) 2