Michael Jung got his Rolex Grand Slam bid off to a superb start today at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials, sitting at the top of the leaderboard after the first day of dressage to the surprise of very few.
Jung was the first rider in the competition to break the 40pen barrier, producing a flowing and consistent test with La Biosthetique Sam FBW. It wasn’t a particularly flamboyant test but thishugely experienced 16-year-old made all the movements look simple, and the judges rewarded him with a score of 34.4pen.
“I had a wonderful feeling today,” said Michael, who thanked the team at his home who had kept Sam in work while he was busy winning Kentucky last week. “Winter has come back at home and we had a lot of snow, so Sam has not had normal preparation. Yesterday I was nervous as I hadn’t done enough work with him. But in the end, he worked very well.”
Jung is 3.8pen clear of his compatriot Andreas Ostholt, who is second with So Is Et. It is exactly the position Jung would want to be in – as the reigning Burghley and Kentucky champion, he has the valuable Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing bonus prize in his sights if he is able to retain his lead until Sunday’s conclusion. But he is keen to remain calm ahead of Saturday’s cross-country.
“I would like to ride him as if it’s a normal competition. If you give a horse too much pressure, he’ll feel something is different,” Jung explained.
Andreas Ostholt made his return to Badminton for the first time in five years. With a score of 38.2pen, he was the only other rider to finish on a sub-40 score.
“I have not scored in the thirties for two years, so it’s a good feeling,” he said.
Francis Whittington is the best of the Brits so far with a score of 40.0pen on the 12-year-old Hasty Imp. However, he is remaining pragmatic about his chances with two phases to go.
“I came with no expectations. I’ve been in this situation before and it can all change overnight. With Hasty Imp it was a case of doing the best we could do, we came here this week with the view that we’re here to have fun and enjoy it, but in the end we pulled out a great test, the best that he’s done.”
Tomorrow’s dressage gets underway tomorrow at 9.30am, with Britain’s Ben Hobday first into the arena on day two.