Sweden’s Linda Algotsson, winner of the inaugural eventing World Cup final on Stand By Me last year, has set herself up for a repeat victory on his half-sister My Fair Lady. She holds a slender 0.9pen lead over Germany’s Kai Ruder (43.7pen) after the dressage phase at Pau, France.
Linda, who has foregone her teaching career to ride full-time, planned to defend her title on her European silver medal-winning ride Stand By Me, until he pulled a muscle in the field a week ago. Both Swedish warmbloods are homebred and Linda’s sister Sara is lying ninth on another member of the family, Robin des Bois.
Ruder’s elevation is less expected; the 33-year-old from northern Germany runs an eventing and show jumping yard in northern Germany, but has been absent from the national team since the Sydney Olympics. His mount, the 11-year-old New Zealand Thoroughbred Kyneally Bay, has only been competed lightly, and finish second at the Bialy Bor CCI*** in Poland this summer.
“It’s a big course and tricky,” said Ruder of Pierre Michelet’s technically demanding cross-country track. “There are lots of combinations and I think it will be hard to get the optimum time. In fact, maybe no one will get it, which will make the competition more interesting. I think things will change tomorrow. But I am feeling positive.”
World Champion Jean Teulere, who did not qualify through the World Cup series but was awarded a wildcard, is third with 45.2pen on the experienced Bambi de Briere, a ride he acquired from compatriot Rodolphe Schedrer last year. Bambi is a former Punchestown winner and was fourth individually in the Sydney Olympics.
“I am pleased,” said the ever-modest Teulere. “He is not always quiet and easy to ride in the dressage, so this is good for him.”
If anyone achieves the optimum time tomorrow, it will be the fourth-placed New Zealand Olympic pair Matthew Grayling and Revo (45.4), who are renowned for their dashing cross-country performances. His compatriot, Andrew Nicholson, the runner-up last year on Fenicio, is languishing in 31st place after an explosive test on Flush Banker to score 59.8.
A tightly bunched and truly international top 10 sees Belgium fifth (Karin Donckers on Gormley, 46.7), Finland sixth (Piia Pantsu on Ypajo Karuso), Britain eighth (Pippa Funnell and Viceroy, 47.4), and Australia 10th (Matt Ryan on Bonza Puzzle, 49.4).
Pippa was disappointed with Viceroy’s lacklustre performance in the sweltering Indian summer conditions. “He doesn’t feel right,” she said disconsolately, although, if he sparkles tomorrow, she is hardly far off the pace.
Leslie Law, meanwhile, is delighted with his first competitive appearance on new ride Coup de la Cour, who produced an attractively soft test to lie 14th on 51.1.
“There’s a few things to sort out over the winter, but he’s a lovely horse and has been so well produced [by Rebecca Gibbs]. I’m really lucky to get him; he’s come along just at the right time and is right behind my two grey horses [Shear H20 and Shear L’Eau], which is perfect.”
Leslie has cross-country schooled Coup de la Cour, but “not over anything as big as fence 4!”
After an innocuous start, this complex will come as a shock; a massive ditch and hedge perched on top of a mound, creating an “into space” feeling, followed by an angled narrow brush at the foot of the mound.
A juxtaposition of massive tables and accuracy testing combinations, many on man-made mounds, are a trademark of Michelet’s but his courses, if attacked positively, usually ride well.
Britain’s other two riders, Polly Stockton on David Tolley’s one-day specialist Sir Lancelot (54.3) and Zara Phillips on Ben Walden’s Springleaze Macaroo (56.1), are lying 18th and 23rd respectively.