The French were in indomitable form on their own stamping ground at Saumur CCI3*. But the nine-strong British contingent that made the trip to the Loire Valley is holding its own with three in the top 10 after cross-country.
Oliver Townend currently lies third with his new ride Fenyas Elegance, who was last out on Pierre Michelet’s track. Exactly one fence ahead of him lies first-placed Mathieu Lemoine on his three-star debutant Bart L, closely followed by Bristol-based Astier Nicolas on his 2013 Euros partner Piaf De B’Neville.
Oliver was particularly thrilled with the chestnut mare’s dressage performance, which earned 44.9 and fourth place.
“She has a lot of ability, but isn’t good at handling pressure, so I was really proud of her,” said Oliver, who has had two weeks to get to know the 11-year-old. “She was a real professional cross-country — I didn’t know about her fitness, but she wanted to get to the end.”
Meanwhile, Andrew Nicholson had been sandwiched between Oliver and Astier on Lucy Wiegersma’s Cillnabradden Evo. But the nine-year-old just showed a touch of greenness at his first CCI3*, with a refusal halfway round. Andrew had better luck with Teseo, who moved up from 17th to eighth thanks to a fast clear.
Nana Dalton made the most of a last-minute entry to the event with Elite Syncopation (pictured below) to go clear inside the time and take seventh spot overnight, having been 10th after dressage. Sheila Jones’ 12-year-old was also contesting his first CCI3*, having “hit a wall” at Blenheim CIC3* last autumn.
“He has had a wind op and this was the first time I’ve gone more quickly,” said Nana, who also rode Abbeylara Prince into 12th. “Yogi [Breisner] told me to get on with it, and I did. He was so genuine — and I was over the moon with his dressage.”
Emily Llewellyn’s Worldy Du Hans also posted a fast clear to sit just behind Elite Syncopation in ninth, rising up from 18th in the first phase.
“He’s a jumping machine, and really quick,” said Emily. “He did everything I asked and more.”
And a British victory isn’t out of sight. Oliver is within a pole of the leaders — neither of whom have a spotless showjumping record — and just two poles cover the top six. Further down the order, dropped rails will be very expensive — one pole covers eighth to 17th.