Britain on verge of double European gold after anchorman’s outstanding cross-country display

  • Ros Canter and Lordships Graffalo stormed round the European Eventing Championships cross-country with the fastest round of the day to take the lead. The pair looked like they were riding in a different competition to their rivals, as they coasted home 9sec inside the 8min 18sec time to take their dressage score of 21.3 forward to the final showjumping phase. They never looked out of third gear, yet stopped the clock some 15sec quicker than Sarah Ennis and Grantstown Jackson, the second-fastest.

    Ros and “Walter” had the experience of heavy going when winning Badminton in the spring, and set out on a big, open stride. A season honed in British mud stood them in very good stead, as they produced a copybook round. It was a beautifully balanced performance, with Ros hardly looking like she was out of a canter.

    “It was tough going, and I had a near whoopsie at fence two [a table] that sharpened us both up,” said Ros. “The ground was hard work but Walter is unbelievable in his stamina and desire to travel through ground like that. He is so rideable; he lets me keep travelling, lets me balance him and when you balance him he has energy. I think he’s the best horse in the world when it comes to doing something like this and I feel very relieved I was able to give him a nice ride.”

    Ros put Walter’s speed down to his unique way of going.

    “He’s very efficient; he’s a very careful horse, but he never balloons, he never goes green,” she says. “So he always lands travelling. He’s extremely polite which is unusual for a horse that travels at speed. He gallops low, but when you sit up, he bunches up and his head comes up – it’s the best of both worlds.

    “That is where he is just amazing. I’ve never sat on a horse that travels so efficiently, and is so rideable and brave. He measures and reads each jump so beautifully, he just seems to know how much he’s got to give everything. He really does make my job easy because hand on heart, I am not usually the fastest rider on the course.”

    Ros’ outstanding round was a major fillip to the British team, after Laura Collett incurred penalties for a flag, and Yasmin Ingham had a run-out. However, such was the influence of Pierre le Goupil’s track that Britain retain the gold medal position they held at the start of the cross-country day, with pathfinder Kitty King also in silver individually.

    German challenge falters in European Eventing Championships cross-country

    There was a big shock when the dressage leader and three-time European champion Michael Jung had a fall before the final water (fence 24). His ride, FischerChipmunk FRH, crumpled on landing over this big hedge and dashed his hopes of securing a fourth European crown.

    The British and German teams had been holding gold and silver medal positions for much of the day, and despite Michael’s elimination Germany retain silver, just 0.2 of a penalty ahead of France, whose consistent performances from all four riders moved them up to bronze. Germany’s Sandra Auffarth and Viamant Du Matz looked foot-perfect across the country to hold third spot (with just six time-faults) ahead of showjumping.

    Final French team pair Gaspard Maksud and Zaragoza are renowned for their cross-country speed and lived up to their reputation with a brave round for 9.2 time-faults. Their dressage mark of 33.1 was some way short of their best, but their cross-country prowess came to the fore on a day when the first-phase scores were rendered largely irrelevant.

    “The going is so deep, such hard work,” said Gaspard, who had the disadvantage of going late when there was no fresh ground. “My mare is a galloper and I have never felt her tired like that. I was holding her the whole way round and then after the last water I said, ‘come on’, but I made her wait before the final combination. She was galloping well to the last and tried extra hard; she’s just brilliant.

    “It’s big jump after big jump and it’s hilly and you’re always turning so it’s a hell of job. You have to dig very deep – I’m puffing as much as the horse!”

    The 10-year-old mare relishes a tough test and she did France proud to move up from 33rd to ninth. His compatriot Stephane Landois (Ride For Thais Chaman Dumontceau) lies fifth (from 23rd after dressage). Other leaderboard climbers include Sarah Ennis, the superb pathfinder who added just 2.4 time-faults. This moved her up from 54th on Grantstown Jackson into sixth.

    Switzerland’s Felix Vogg was another to enjoy a relatively quick round with the light-footed Colero, his 2022 Luhmühlen Horse Trials winner. They added 13.6 time-faults to make headway from 11th to eighth.

    Team standings after European Eventing Championships cross-country

    1 Britain: 98.7
    2 Germany: 126
    3 France: 126.2
    4 Ireland: 136.4
    5 Switzerland: 147.9
    6 Belgium: 166.2

    Individual standings

    1 Ros Canter and Lordships Graffalo, GBR: 21.3
    2 Kitty King and Vendredi Biats, GBR: 30.8
    3 Sandra Auffarth and Viamant Du Matz, GER: 34.6
    4 Stephane Landois and Ride For Thais Chaman Dumontceau, FRA: 40.6
    5 Sarah Ennis and Grantstown Jackson, IRL: 41.2
    6 Christoph Wahler and Carjatan S, GER: 41.5

    Horse & Hound has a team of reporters covering all the action at the Europeans in Haras du Pin. To keep reading on our website after five articles, readers will need to buy a subscription. Visit horseandhound.co.uk/join to buy a Horse & Hound website unlimited subscription or, for great value, visit magazinesdirect.com/XHH-brandsite for a combined magazine and website subscription. If you are already a magazine subscriber, the cost to upgrade your subscription to include full website access is minimal – call 0330 333 1113 to find out more.

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