McClaren kicked off proceedings yesterday as first to go down the centre line and he made a fine debut for the judges with a polished performance which was generally mistake free and a pleasure to watch. The scores were somewhat of a mystery as he ended up with a 31 and, as Jonelle said, they were a “bit hard on the little fella” as it was a really smart performance. As things panned out it didn’t really matter but it was annoying at the time!
Vitali fared much better and his polished test with Tim which included super changes scored a 28. Still a way off judges favourite Micky Jung and Chipmunk on a 21 but good enough to make Tim smile.
The afternoon saw the 5 star run and with just 24 starters and an empty grandstand it was a sad sight to a normal Luhmuhlen. The temps were well into the mid thirties and there were lots of sweaty riders in their tailcoats but good old Ringwood Sky Boy ( Ozzie) pulled out all the stops for a 29.2 which had him in the lead for much of the afternoon. Jonelle and Faerie Dianimo (Maggie May) looked truly on song for one of their best tests since Burghley in 2018 but then Maggie May, genuinely one of the most unspooky horses in the world, decided there was something in the corner preceding A and gawped at it, stood stock still, and would only deem to pass it at a wary walk. That spook affected about three movements and dropped the score out of the twenties into a 32.2 and was baffling. The last time Maggie May spooked in an arena was when she was at the 4 year old championships at Osberton and someone shot an umbrella up at the side of her arena. There were no tantrums, no throwing balls out of prams, no unrequired changes or passage half pass. Just the damn spook!
Ascona M ( Ava ) was on her best behaviour throughout the test apart from the rein back where she halted with her head in the air, shot backwards and got the better of Tim before completing the canter work with a smug look on her face. It cost her the lead as she slotted into 2nd with 29.1 which left Tim in 2nd and 3rd and Jonelle some three marks adrift in 10th.
Today dawned hot and was getting hotter. It was already 27 degrees when Tim and Ozzie set out as No.2 and as Ozzie was showing his phenomenal experience in negotiating a tough track he came to the second water at 13 and inexplicably totally misread the skinny brush which was adorned with much greenery in the shade. It wasn’t really a run out more of a drive by but, just like Maggie May in the dressage, Ozzie doesn’t run out. We have witnessed Ozzie breasting brush, leaving legs, scrambling through the Lower Trout Hatchery in the early days but never, ever running out. He picked it up at the third attempt but Tim retired him and walked home. Possibly it was something to do with the positioning in the shadow as several of the next few horses also misread it before it started jumping better later in the morning.
Not to be put off by the ever gathering clouds of doom ( metaphorically speaking as it was getting hotter and hotter on the track) Jonelle and Maggie May set off at a blistering pace and stormed round looking every inch the mega stars that they are. As they went brilliantly through the third water Jonelle was thinking to herself “job done” or there about when a big wide table that they tackled on a super stride suddenly saw Maggie May heading to the dirt and Jonelle sustained a full on head first smack into the very hard ground. I cant really explain what happened as the fence was being shot from a distance away and it happened so quickly…whether she caught a leg on the side or clipped the back of the table is not really clear but you have to go all the way back to Saumur 7 years ago to find a fault in Maggie May’s xc record and it was a really sad end to what had been a blazing round with Jonelle and Maggie May looking back to their total best.
All eyes now on Tim and Ava and as Ava fought him all the way down to the first fence it was obvious she was not going to give him an easy time. It was mid thirties now and with the track dipping in and out of the woods the light was changing constantly and despite balloting her early fences Ava was determined to attack her fences whilst Tim was equally as sure he wanted to stay alive so had no option but to fight back. Fighting in heat over a 5 star track isn’t really much of an option and by the third water it was pretty clear Ava was running out of juice. She massively left a leg at the last combination which Tim did incredibly well to stay in the plate, had no chance of making the B let alone the C and he, being the amazing horseman he is, instantly put up his hand and retired.
Three 5 star winners and not one of them home. Maggie May is absolutely fine apart form a bit of skin off her nose ( she is mortified about that) and Jonelle reports that she is pretty battered but will be fine in a couple of days. McClaren was withdrawn from the 4S whilst Tim battled on.
Senza Fine had an early 20 before knuckling down and completing the rest of the track just a bit off the pace to ensure a completion and Vitali saved the day by going clear with 1.6 time to lie in 6th place overnight. Normally 4S’s SJ before XC but not in Luhmuhlen so he is the sole survivor through to tomorrow.
6 horses and 1 through to Sunday. You couldn’t have made this weekend up if you had tried… if you wrote it before hand it would seem like a nightmare but if its going to go tits ups then maybe we have got our crap weekend out of the way before Tokyo. Rio was where it really all went wrong and we threw away the Gold and WEG wasn’t our greatest week out either ( we bypassed the prize giving and hit the bar since we were not a part of it!) so here’s hoping that this time we have got the rough week out of the way!
A (very short!) report on Vitali’s showjumping will follow tomorrow.