William Fox-Pitt with Stunning and Polly Stockton riding Oscar got Britain off to a great start in the inaugural World Cup Final to claim equal third place on a score of 38.7 after the dressage.
The overnight joint leaders are Australia’s Megan Jones on the part-bred Irish Draught Kirby Park Irish Hallmark, making their European debut, and Sweden’s Linda Algotsson with her recent European Championships individual silver medallist Stand By Me. This home-bred Swedish Warmblood was so fit and fresh on his return from Punchestown that Linda decided to let him take his chance in Pau.
These two have a lead of a mere 0.7 of a penalty over the two British riders and since Pierre Michelet has produced a big, technical and tough cross-country track, no one is under the impression that this will be a dressage competition.
“Although it is not as long, I think it is slightly more difficult than the Europeans two years ago,” said William, who hopes that the time will prove sufficiently tight to give Stunning the chance to shine at his favourite phase.
“I never thought his dressage would be as good as this,” he added. “He’s becoming less tense every half-season.”
As for Oscar, his excellent marks included several nines, which Polly found “exciting”.
Next best of the British contingent are James Robinson and Comanche in 15th place on 48.5, with Julie Tew and Sir Roselier (50.0) in 19th and Clare Chamberlayne on Headley Kingdom (52.8) in 27th.
Results after dressage
=1, Linda Algotsson (Stand By Me) SWE 38.0;
=1, Megan Jones (Kirby Park Irish Hallmark) AUS 38.0;
=3, Polly Stockton (Oscar) GBR 38.7;
=3, William Fox-Pitt (Stunning) GBR 38.7;
5, Didier Courreges (Hiawata Borealis) FRA 41.7;
=6, Eddy Sans (Ecile) FRA 43.0;
=6, Marie Christine Duroy (Crazy Love) FRA 43.0;
8, Michel Bouquet (Elegant du Brule HN) FRA 43.9;
9, Serve Well (Andreas Dibowski) GER 44.1;
10, Sam Griffiths (Serve Well) AUS 44.6.