Michael Jung will attempt to make history this afternoon at Badminton as he vies to become the second ever rider to secure the Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing.
The German has two fences in hand as he contests the final phase of the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials with La Biosthetique Sam FBW after a textbook performance in yesterday’s cross-country phase gave him a 9pen lead.
But the pressure is really on because if he pulls it out of the bag today he will not only lift the Badminton trophy but will scoop a $350 000 cash prize a place in the history books.
In 2001 Rolex was inspired to link the three foremost eventing competitions in the world into a Grand Slam to reward a series of remarkable achievements from the world’s top athletes.
Badminton – the British horse trials on which the modern sport of eventing was founded Kentucky – the premier US event and Burghley – the East of England’s showpiece event form the competition.
Having won both the 2015 Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials and the 2016 Rolex Kentucky Jung is tantalisingly close to achieving his goal.
Following in Pippa’s footsteps
Since its inception in 2001 only one rider has risen to the challenge – Britain’s highly decorated team member Pippa Funnell.
In April 2003 she rode Primmore’s Pride to victory at Rolex Kentucky beginning her Rolex Grand Slam campaign.
A week later this time riding double European champion Supreme Rock Funnell was crowned Badminton winner. A few months later Funnell reigned supreme at Burghley riding Primmore’s Pride again immediately joined the ranks of sporting greats and became a Rolex Testimonee.
Since then two of the three legs of the Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing have been won by four different riders: Australia’s Andrew Hoy Britain’s William Fox-Pitt and Oliver Townend and New Zealand’s Andrew Nicholson. But none have been able to complete the set.
Townend famously broke the top off his shoulder cracked his sternum and broke four ribs when he took a terrifying tumble as he attempted to bag the Grand Slam in Kentucky in 2010.
Pressure is on
Speaking after he stormed into the lead in the dressage phase Jung admitted the he is feeling the heat.
“It is always in my mind [Rolex Grand Slam] and the pressure is on but this is normal like in every competition – when I go to any big competition like a 4* I try to win for sure ” he said. “I am always looking step by step – the dressage is over but now we are concentrating on the cross-country and then we will look to the next day.”