Australian rider Christopher Burton has set himself up to cap a fantastic year by leading the dressage at the CCI**** at Pau, France.
Riding 14-year-old Underdiscussion, on whom he won the CIC*** in Aachen in July, Christopher scored an impressive 34.8pen with a polished, confident test.
“I actually thought I gave a few marks away, awful as that sounds!” he said. “He’s quite a complex horse and hasn’t always been straightforward, but he started his career doing dressage, which makes my job easy.”
Christopher led the dressage at Pau last year on Holstein Park Leilani, but gave away the victory with three showjumps down on the final day.
Kiwi Jonathan Paget, riding his Olympic team bronze medallist Clifton Promise, lies in second with a mark of 36.8.
“He was really relaxed and let me ride him, and when he’s like that he’s a lot of fun to ride,” he said of the New Zealand-bred thoroughbred.
The current Olympic, world and European champion Michael Jung is third for Germany with Leopin FST, scoring 38.3, while New Zealand’s Andrew Nicholson – who had to perform his test in a downpour – is fourth on another Olympic bronze medal winner, the Spanish thoroughbred Nereo, with 39.
The best member of the home team is young Astier Nicolas, fifth at his first four-star on Jhakati Du Janlie with 39.5.
And Mary King is best Brit on her silver medalist from Greenwich, 15-year-old Imperial Cavalier, who also suffered heavy rain during their test to score 39.8.
Tomorrow’s cross-country offers a serious test. The first section of the Pierre Michelet-designed track is particularly intense, with big combinations at fence four and a couple of fences later at the first water.
“There’s a lot to look at there and it’s going to make horses and riders think,” said Jonathan Paget.
Pau 2012 top 10 after dressage
1. Christopher Burton (AUS) Underdiscussion 34.8
2. Jonathan Paget (NZL) Clifton Promise 36.8
3. Michael Jung (GER) Leopin FST 38.3
4. Andrew Nicholson (NZL) Nereo 39
5. Astier Nicolas (FRA) Jhakati Du Janlie 39.5
6. Mary King (GBR) Imperial Cavalier 39.8
7. Bill Levett (AUS) Hippolyte 41.3
8. Karin Donckers (BEL) Lamicell Charizard 41.7
9. William Fox-Pitt (GBR) Bay My Hero 41.7
10. Kenki Sato (JPN) Chippieh 41.8