Micheal Jung Creates Eventing History at Badminton Horse Trials in 2016
written by Amy Bennett
In a fitting climax to the 2016 Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials, Michael Jung not only becomes the first German to win the Badminton trophy, but also becomes the second winner of The Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing and create eventing history.
In front of a packed crowd on the final day, Jung on board his mount La Biosthetique-Sam FBW gave a pure show jumping masterclass. The 16 year old bay gelding never touched a pole the entire round, and in doing so propelled Jung into the history books with the lowest ever winning score in the history of Badminton Horse Trials. Leading from start to finish throughout the entire event, the combination could be accused of making the competition look easy, but with the best winning margin for 10 years, a total of 9 penalty points ahead of his nearest rival, it just goes to show how much class this pair have.
Ever the Mr Cool, Jung was surprisingly composed at the press conference, but according to him it will take some time to become accustomed to the title of Badminton and Rolex Grand Slam champion. “I need the time to realise that I have done it, but it is a very special moment for me and it’s a very big occasion,” he said of his win. “We always said that this was a normal competition, it wasn’t for the grand slam and it’s not special, it’s not Badminton,” Jung smiled. But in the same breath he was keen to impress just how grateful he was for his support team, “it’s not just me on my horse, that’s a win for the whole team. Its very important to say thank you to all the people who help me and allow me to ride so many great horses,” he said modestly.
It could also be reasonably argued that winning the Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing is probably more prestigious than any of the other Olympic or World Championship gold medals, “I think this is really special, just one person has won it before which says that its really difficult to have all three in a row,” Jung agreed. “You win one competition but then you start again from the beginning at the next and chance coming second,” which just gives you a glimpse into the brain of a champion – not even third place enters his mind as a possibility, let alone not even completing the competition!
Having won the £80,000 Badminton prize, Jung added to his earnings the $350,000 (£242,557) cheque that accompanies the Grand Slam trophy. He also takes home a 3/4 size replica of the trophy and a one off bespoke made Rolex watch to add to his ever-growing collection. Not a bad day in the office some might say!
But now that “Sam” has taken Jung to Olympic and Grand Slam glory, will he be calling it a day after Rio? “I always joke a bit that maybe the last competition is Tokyo for Sam, but he is in super form at the moment so we are really not thinking about when he might finish, but very much looking forwards with such a special horse.” I can hear every Sam super-fan breathing a collective sigh of relief.
The top three final result did not alter from the standings after cross country day as both second placed Andreas Ostholt and third placed Gemma Tattersall also jumped clear rounds to maintain their positions. Both horses have been prone to having the odd pole down, so clearly all parties rose to the occasion to secure a place in the final three.
Best of the Brits, Tattersall was evidently delighted with her best four star result to date and choked back tears as she spoke of her mount Arctic Soul, “What a fabulous horse I ride, he was still racing over fences at 6 years old so it’s a testament to his amazing ability and trainability to come and be 3rd at Badminton, its truly amazing.” As a result of this, Arctic Soul & Gemma also won the Retraining of Racehorses prize for the highest place former racehorse.
As Gemma entered the arena she was seen asking for quiet from the crowds, “Arctic soul doesn’t like loud noises, he’s really scared of clapping it makes him nervous, and when he’s nervous that’s when he can make mistakes,” she explained, “I wanted the crowd to be as quiet as possible when I went in so that I could keep his attention on me and trust me that everything was going to be ok and that he could still do his job.” Evidently the plan worked and the horse jumped his best round over coloured poles that I have witnessed.
Ever the superstitious eventer, Tattersall is not wanting to count those chickens just quite yet, but surely her Rio call up is ringing in her ears already? “Listen getting to Rio is beyond my dreams it’s something that I’ve been aiming for certainly in the last few years and prepping this horse for, and it is my absolute dream to get there,” she reasoned, “I’m just going to keep working really hard, try and keep my horse in one piece and if it pulls of then it pulls off, if not then I’ll have to go to the next one [Olympics]!”
The ever smiling Andreas Ostholt must be getting sick of playing second fiddle to the ever mighty Jung, but he was jovial in his response to being questioned about how it felt to be sat there next to his German compatriot, “maybe I won’t translate that response!” he joked. “I think it will take a while to realise that I am sitting here, my expectation certainly wasn’t to always be here [in second place]. After two unlucky times here at Badminton my aim was to finish in a nice way with my horse, so to finish second is more than I could wish for – I am one of the happiest men alive today!”
One would hope that Andreas and his mount So Is Et have secured their ticket to Rio, but with an ever increasing pool of talented German eventers to choose from it is always hard to judge, “hopefully I have played a card here that the selectors cant ignore and I will get selected,” he said. I have a suspicion that he might just be right, with a double clear around a seriously tough Badminton track, they might just have done enough to prove their mettle.
Eventual fourth placed Sir Mark Todd propelled himself up the leader board from 17th after dressage with his seasoned campaigner Leonidas II, and lead the strong New Zealand charge thereafter. Fellow countrymen Clarke Johnstone with Balmoral Sensation, who was spun at the vet inspection that morning but accepted upon representation, and Jock Paget took fifth and sixth places behind Todd respectively. Paget finished third here last year with this mount, Clifton Lush and also retired his stable mate, 2013 Badminton winner Clifton Promise here after the conclusion of the competition.
Tina Cook and Star Witness recorded the fastest cross country score of the day and then went on to produce a classy show jumping clear in the arena. When seven riders ahead of her each had show jumping penalties, she slowly but surely made her way up the leader board to finish eventual seventh. Izzy Taylor and Allercombe Ellie were less than a penalty behind filling 8th spot and taking the best mare prize with them at the same time.
Ninth place went to the smallest horse at the event, Portasize Just A Jiff with his Irish rider Camilla Speirs, this combination have amazingly represented their country at both Junior, Young Rider and Senior levels. New Zealander Jonelle Price took the final spot in the top ten with her World Championships partner Classic Moet, with her unconventional jumping style, the mare took out the middle element of a treble combination just four fences from home but gave an otherwise impressive performance.
Beanie Sturgis of Great Britain and her mount Lebowski gave an impeccable double clear and rose a total of 48 places from 59th after dressage phase to eventual 11th and took home the Glentrool Trophy – awarded to the highest climber of the competition, it is also dubbed the “crap at dressage trophy” amongst the riders!
With another vintage year over ahead of an Olympic Games, it is safe to say that The Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials is back at it’s best, hosting a moment of history with the awarding of the Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing Trophy that was an honour to witness. It may have been a foregone conclusion for some, but it doesn’t make it any less of an achievement. Ladies and gentlemen…I give you Machine Jung!