Despite a day of drama and hastily altered plans, Britain has increased its lead in the European Three-Day Event Championships and now has four show jumping fences in hand over the competitive French team. Belgium is in bronze position, the latter two teams being the only nations to get four riders home.
Britain’s tactic of appointing Leslie Law as trailblazer proved inspirational and, as conditions deteriorated in persistant Irish drizzle, he was the only rider to achieve the optimum time all day, a feat which has left him fourth and within a sniff of his first individual medal.
World silver medallist and team number two Jeanette Brakewell was kicking herself after an error at the penultimate of six water fences, this caused a number of problems. The step up to an island in the water topped by a narrow house fence proved a lottery, as horses landed in the water either flat-footed or too onward bound and were unable to make the distance. Her horse Over To You, who hadn’t put a foot wrong until that point, missed at the bank and fell, which meant elimination.
This placed heavy pressure on Pippa Funnell and William Fox-Pitt, who were both under team orders to take the long route at this complex, and this caused them to add 9.6 and 6.4 time penalties respectively. The three team horses will need to trot up sound at the final inspection for Britain to stay in the hunt.
There are four British riders in the top 10 – after Leslie, Pippa is fifth, Mary King, who rode as an individual, seventh, and William Fox-Pitt eighth – but the clear leader is still the 23-year-old French rookie Nicolas Touzaint, who, like his compatriots, rode boldly straight through the bogey water complex.
Nicolas goes into Sunday’s final show jumping phase with two rails in hand over the 1999 silver medallist Linda Algotsson, left to “do her own thing” after the Swedish team was decimated by two falls. Belgium’s Karin Donckers is in bronze position, but the cost of a rail covers those placed second to seventh.
Susanna Bordone, the youngest rider, rode with maturity to lie sixth, though the Italian team has been eliminated. Their first horse, Down Town Brown ridden by Fabio Fani Ciotti, was taken to the nearby veterinary hospital at Troytown after a nasty fall at the Euro fence, but was later reported to be all right.
Ireland has risen to fourth and in reach of their goal of Olympic qualification, thanks to a wonderful pathfinding performance by the experienced Sue Shortt, but they suffered tragedy when Austin O’Connor’s ride Horseware Fabio was killed in a freak fall when he head-butted the steep uphill steps at 15.
Ireland’s two best-placed riders came unstuck also; Sasha Harrison had a stop in the influential water and Jonty Evans retired after stops.
Belgium, Ireland and Germany are in line to qualify for the Olympics. Germany’s chances of glory evaporated when the dressage runner-up Bettina Hoy was the only rider to refuse at fence 6, a “telescope” trakehner type fence, and former British Young Rider Stefanie Thomson was unseated at a corner fence.
In total 47 riders completed the cross-country with 28 clear rounds.
Teams: 1, Great Britain, 135.6; 2, France, 152.2; 3, Belgium, 176; 4, Ireland, 235.4; 5, Germany, 312.2; 6, Austria, 359.
Individuals: 1, Nicolas Touzaint/Galan de Savagere (FRA) 31; 2, Linda Algotsson/Stand By Me (SWE) 40.8; 3, Karin Donckers/Gormley (BEL) 42.4; 4, Leslie Law/Shear L’Eau (GBR) 43.2; 5, Pippa Funnell/Walk On Star (GBR) 44.4; 6, Susanna Bordone/Ava (ITA) 44.6; 7, Mary King/King Solomon, 45.6; 8, William Fox-Pitt/Moon Man (GBR) 45.4; 9, Heidi Antikatzides/Michaelmas (GRE) 48.2; 10, Enrique Sarasola/Dope Doux (ESP) 49.6.