German rider Michael Jung held on to his impressive lead to win the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event on Sunday for the second time in a row.
The Olympic gold medalist was in first place after the cross country competition aboard his mare Fischerrocana FST on a rainy Saturday, and the rain held off long enough Sunday for him to claim the stadium jumping portion — and the entire event.
Second place went to Lauren Kieffer aboard Veronica; Maya Black on Doesn’t Play Fair finished third. The two female riders beat out Rolex veterans Boyd Martin and Phillip Dutton after a tough stadium jumping course that allowed relatively few clear rounds. Even Jung had one rail down in the Rolex Stadium.
“I am not the man for so many words, but the big thing I have to say is thank you to all the people who help me,” Jung said at the post-competition news conference.
Only two riders — Bruce Davidson and Kim Severson — had previously won consecutive Rolex championships on the same horse, officials said.
Kieffer said she and other American riders were looking toward the Rio Olympics this summer.
“I think it’s important to notice the U.S. dominated the leader board,” she said. “We’re working hard to raise our game, and it’s starting to show.”
Rolex Kentucky, one of the few annual four-star or Olympic-level eventing competitions in the world and the only one in the Western Hemisphere, was a selection event this year for riders hoping to make their country’s team for the Games.
Jung is one step away from the “Grand Slam of Eventing,” awarded to a rider who wins the Rolex Kentucky, Badminton and Burghley competitions. Jung won the Burghley event last fall, and Badminton takes place this coming weekend in England. Only 16 riders have won the honor. Fischerrocana will get a break; Jung is riding a different horse — La Biosthetique Sam — in the Badminton trials.
Jung said he tries to view every competition as normal, despite high stakes.
“I do it normal every time,” he said. “It’s important to win, but it’s important to have a good feeling for the horse and have a good ride together.”
Despite less-than-wonderful weather all weekend, plenty of people came to watch. Rolex officials said the crowd numbered 25,545 at the Kentucky Horse Park on Sunday, with a four-day total of 82,110.