Michael Jung takes Cross Country lead at Luhmühlen

Michael Jung (GER) produced a typically brilliant performance to take the lead in the Cross Country phase at Luhmühlen, presented by DHL Paket, the fifth and penultimate leg of the FEI Classics™ 2013/2014. But celebrations will be far from his and other riders’ minds following the tragic news that the talented young German rider Benjamin Winter had died following a fall (see FEI statement here).

Winter, 25, was already lying 12th after a good first round on Wild Thing Z, when he had a horse fall with his second ride, Ispo, at fence 20, a table fence which had caused no other problems. He was taken by helicopter to Borberg Hospital in Hamburg but was pronounced dead on arrival from his head injuries.

Following a meeting between the event organisers and competitors, and at the request of Benjamin Winter’s family, it was agreed that the competition should continue at Luhmühlen tomorrow. Riders will wear black armbands for the Jumping phase and a short memorial ceremony will be held.

Michael Jung, who won the Luhmühlen CCI4* at his first attempt five years ago and again in 2012, was the last rider out on the Cross Country and was held at the start while doctors were attending to Benjamin Winter. Unaware of the tragic events and despite the hold on course, he rode with tremendous flair and accuracy, all the while giving confidence to his relatively inexperienced mare, fischerRocana FST.

Tomorrow the Olympic, World and European Champion will have to keep the cool head for which he is well known as he does not have a Jumping fence in hand over the next three placed riders

New Zealander Tim Price has risen from seventh place after Dressage to second on the smart Jumping-bred Wesko. Bettina Hoy (GER), who was visibly elated at the end of her brilliant round on Designer 10 has moved up two places to third, and Britain’s Oliver Townend, has moved up five places to be fourth on Black Tie.

There was some debate over whether Price had missed a flag on a brush arrowhead in the main arena, but by the end of the day his 20 penalties had been removed.

The next three riders are all within a Jumping fence of Price. Phillip Dutton (USA) riding the stunning 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse Mighty Nice, Bill Levett (AUS) on Improvise and Boyd Martin (USA) with the former Ludwig Svennerstal (SWE) ride Shamwari 4 have moved up from 10th, 11th and 12th after Dressage to fifth, sixth and seventh places respectively.

CCI4* first-timer Elaine Pen (NED) has dropped four places to eighth on Vira after collecting 4.8 time penalties in an otherwise excellent round but she is still in close contention.

Dressage leader Lucinda Fredericks (AUS) suffered an unlucky mishap when Flying Finish jumped into the middle of a brush oxer (fence 22) and Christopher Burton (AUS), who is third in the FEI Classics™, had a fall with Tempranillo in the Jeep water complex at 19.

Ingrid Klimke (GER), third after Dressage on Horseware Hale Bob, plummeted to 29th place after a run-out at the influential brush arrowhead in the arena (fence 10) and a second refusal when the 10-year-old gelding took a dislike to the cascading water at the log in the Jeep water complex (18b).

Five horses were withdrawn before Cross Country, including FEI Classics™ leader William Fox-Pitt’s (GBR) Cool Mountain, sixth after Dressage.

Seven competitors retired on course, and that number included Tom Crisp (GBR), whose horse Liberal died after collapsing near fence eight. Crisp explained that Liberal had set off well on the Cross Country but then didn’t feel right after fence seven and, as he went to pull up, the horse collapsed. “We’re all very sad,” he said. “It’s a tough day.”

Britain’s Chef de Mission Will Connell thanked the organisers for their prompt response to the incident. “It happened very early on the course and was nothing to do with the fence. It was one of those very sad, regretful instances that happens in life.”

A post mortem will be conducted to establish the cause of death.

Thirty-two of the 47 Cross Country starters completed, with 23 clear rounds, 10 of which were inside the optimum time of 11 minutes 24 seconds.

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