Michael Jung rides Fischerchipmunk FRH. FEI/Libby Law Photography
German giant Michael Jung swaggered to the top of the individual standings with a superb performance from Fischerchipmunk FRH as the dressage phase drew to a close at the FEI Eventing European Championship 2023 at Haras du Pin (FRA).
As expected, the individual leaderboard got a good shake-up, but it was four of reigning world champion Yasmin Ingham’s British compatriots who ousted her from overnight pole position, before Jung overtook them all with a ride that earned a sensational leading score of 19.4 going into the cross-country challenge.
His advantage is narrow, with a whole tribe of Brits breathing down his neck. Ros Canter and Lordships Graffalo are in second (21.3), Tom McEwen is in third (22.0), Laura Collett and London 52 are in fourth (22.4), while Ingham (23.4) has dropped to fifth, ahead of Tom Jackson and Capels Hollow Drift in sixth place (25.7).
The team classification shows the British out in front on a tally of 67.1, with Germany in second on 76.3 and Belgium in third on 90.9. Switzerland and The Netherlands share fourth place with 93.1 on the board, while France (94.4), Sweden (98.9), Italy (99.1), Austria (103.5), and Ireland (105.5) are lining up behind them.
None of the leading pack are feeling complacent about their results so far. All talk is about the challenge that will be presented by Pierre Le Goupil’s cross-country track.
McEwen was first to overtake Ingham. The world number two rider produced two big second-place results – at the CCIO4*-NC-L in Boekelo (NED) last October and at the CCI5*-L in Kentucky (USA) in April 2023 – with the 12-year-old JL Dublin since taking up the ride last year.
“He’s simply stunning on the flat!” he said. “He captures the eye, he swings through, and bar the tiniest few things, he was absolutely excellent. I was delighted; I thought the changes were a serious highlight and as per usual that extended trot – if we could do five more of those we’d be in the lead by a little way!” he pointed out.
Collett and London 52, Olympic team gold medallists in Tokyo and three-time 5* winners, then slotted in behind her compatriot, but Jung set a whole new target when third to go of the final tranche of competitors, and despite a powerful challenge from Canter, he couldn’t be budged from the top of the scoreboard.
Analysing his test, he said, “The highlight was definitely the entire canter-work. However, we lost some points in the walk which could be better. Overall, it was one of the best tests we’ve ever done!”
Over the moon
Canter said she was “over the moon with Walter” – Lordships Graffalo’s stable name. “It’s been a long wait for me this last two days… when I got on today, I felt better that I had a job to do at last! Looking back at old videos of Walter in the spring building up to Badminton, I can’t believe how much he has come on since then; he’s truly an amazing horse and I’m very lucky to have him!”
All the riders know that their dressage scores may pale to insignificance, because the cross-country track cannot be underestimated. Jung described it as “big but fair,” adding that “every question needs to be clearly understood by the horses.”
McEwen said, “I think they’ve built a beautiful track – not what I was expecting, but a stunning track, but you have to be on it the whole way around, stay on your game, feel where you’re going, and judge where you are at.”
Collett said, “Dimensionally, it’s very big; there’s no real let-up for the horses energy-wise, and of course, the ground is going to play a massive part. (The weather) is probably not what we were all expecting going to France. You are going to have to be on your A-game; the first water is a serious test and it comes very early.”
And it has been raining.
Canter said, “The weather and the ground is something we the Brits have had to cope with a lot this year… we’ve ridden on this going so many times, that hopefully we can stay in our bubble and concentrate on our job. The first water is a very big drop in, so it will be interesting to see how they read that. I think it’s more the undulations, the twists, and the turns that are going to create the challenges at the jumps.”
German team member Sandra Auffart is lying individually eleventh after scoring 28.6 with Viamant du Matz. If there is anyone who knows about riding the cross-country track at Haras du Pin in less than ideal conditions, it is the multi-medalled three-time Olympian who took double-gold here at the FEI World Equestrian Games in 2014 with Opgun Luovo. She is not intimidated by the challenge of the cross-country track.
When asked if there was any comparison to the course she tackled so successfully nine years ago, she replied, “Yes, it’s a bit similar here and there, with the last water and again the last hill. I remember every bit of the cross-country from 2014, so I think that’s a little advantage! The first water is also a bit similar, with a drop down the curved line to the skinny one in the water. It’s a tough question at the beginning, but the course is interesting and it’s very exciting!”
Result after Dressage: https://results.worldsporttiming.com/event/162.
by Louise Parkes