Michael Jung sailed into the lead after dressage at Pau CCI4* in the south of France this morning (14 October), riding his 2015 European gold medallist FischerTakinou.
The German is less than four penalties ahead of part-time farrier Alexander Bragg, who sprung a surprise when piloting Zagreb into second to lie best of the British contingent overnight.
FischerTakinou (above), a nine-year-old chestnut gelding, was the only horse from a field of 49 to break into the thirties, scoring 39.3.
“Takinou is a very talented horse and good in the dressage. He always concentrates the same whether he’s at home or in the arena,” said Michael.
The chestnut won Aachen CICO3* in July and was Michael’s first choice for the Olympics, but then the horse picked up an infection as the result of a tick, which is why Michael rode La Biosthetique Sam FBW in Rio instead.
“Takinou was very ill — his temperature was really high and his blood count was bad — but he’s better now,” said Michael, who also occupies fourth spot with his Rolex Kentucky CCI4* winner FischerRocana FST.
The mare was sent to the holding box at the first trot-up on Thursday morning, but passed on re-inspection.
This is the only CCI4* title in the northern hemisphere that Michael hasn’t won yet. He came close last season — finishing second to France’s Astier Nicolas — and he would like to add it to his already impressive record.
An unexpected result
In contrast to the other horses in the top four, Zagreb (above) is bidding to record his first CCI4* completion. The 12-year-old made his debut at Burghley last month but was eliminated when he and Alex parted company on the cross-country.
“He’s improving on the flat all the time and is more composed in the flying changes now, which are damaging to the marks if you don’t get them right,” said Alex, who trains with Adam Kemp in this phase.
This has put Alex on target for the best result of his career. He started eventing in 2004 and has three-star form, but his placings are mostly outside of the top 10 and last month’s Burghley was his CCI4* debut.
When asked whether he expected to be so well placed after the first phase, Alex replied: “We all have our dreams and aspirations. I just wanted to do an accurate test, so I’m pretty happy right now.”
Fellow Brits Nicola Wilson and One Two Many lie third.
“I know he’s capable of a good test; he’s got lovely movement and is expressive,” said Nicola. “I’m pleased with how positive he stayed, consistent and level from start to finish.”
Belgium’s Karin Donckers lies fifth aboard Fletcha Van’t Verahof, ahead of Jock Paget (Clifton Signature) for New Zealand and the home side’s Maxime Livio (Qalao Des Mers).
There are two more Brits inside the top 10. Laura Collett (Pamero 4) and Kirsty Johnston (Opposition Detective) lie eighth and ninth respectively, ahead of the sole American raider Boyd Martin on Cracker Jack.
It has been a wet two days in Pau, and there is much talk about how well the ground will hold up ahead of tackling the cross-country course tomorrow.
Come back to horseandhound.co.uk later today to find out what rider’s think about Pierre Michelet’s track.
Don’t miss the full Pau report in next week’s Horse & Hound, on sale 20 October.