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British rider on track for first CCI5* win at Pau: ‘My horse was unbelievable’

Tom McEwen holds on to his lead in the final CCI5* of the European eventing season at Pau after today’s cross-country (Saturday, 26 October), during which temperatures soared to 27 degrees.

The British rider and his 2018 World Equestrian Games team gold medallist, Toledo De Kerser, were almost foot-perfect around Pierre Michelet’s tough, intense track and finished just two seconds over the time allowed. This means they have added 0.8 of a penalty to their dressage mark of 24.9, and have a 3.1-penalty lead over second-placed Alex Bragg and Zagreb.

“Usually I don’t get that excited about things, but I was about this round,” said Tom, who had a run-out at fence seven on his first ride, Figaro Van Het Broekxhof. “It was a long wait until the end of the day.

“Toledo was unbelievable. He started off very keen, and then the round got smoother and smoother.”

The 12-year-old, owned by Fred and Penny Barker, Jane Inns and Ali McEwen, was selected for the European Championships but fell over at home and scraped his side, so this run at Pau is an important step towards selection for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

“I wouldn’t want to be sitting on any other horse going into tomorrow,” said Tom.

Alex and Phillip and Sally Ellicott’s Zagreb, eighth after dressage with 28.8, were the only pair to make the time, coming home three seconds under the optimum of 11 minutes 15 seconds to hold second.

“The horse was fantastic from start to finish,” said Alex. “Watching the first few riders, I realised you had to be on top of the clock — the circular combinations meant you wouldn’t be able to make it up.

“He doesn’t have the biggest stride considering he is a big horse, but he has a lot of experience and I don’t have to waste time setting up and through the combinations; that probably saves two seconds per fence.”

In third is Australia’s Chris Burton with Claire Poole and Rebekah Burton’s 13-year-old mare Quality Purdey. They added two time-faults to their dressage of 27.8 and rose three places with an elegant, confident round.

“I’m so proud of her — I’m so lucky to have the ride on her,” said Chris. “She got a little bit tired towards the end, as they all did — Pierre Michelet did a very good job of slowing us down.”

Quality Purdey broke a pedal bone at Aachen last year: “She’s defied all the odds to come back. She steals my heart,” admitted Chris.

Britain’s World Equestrian Games individual gold medallist Ros Canter, who gave birth to her daughter Ziggy three and a half months ago, dropped one place from third to fourth on Zenshera with six time-faults.

A delighted Ros said: “I am absolutely over the moon, to be honest. I was quite nervous this morning, wondering if I was doing the right thing, but I think that was my best round here so far. I didn’t have a single bad jump; he is such an honest horse.”

Shane Rose and Virgil made the long trip from Australia to compete at Pau, and were rewarded with a clear round with 1.6 time-faults and fifth place. This was a rise of nine places from their dressage spot.

“I was a bit slow, but he was great. I probably went out a bit more conservatively than normal as no one had gone close to the time when I set out,” he said.

His countryman Kevin McNab is sixth on CCI5* debutant Scuderia 1918 Don Quidam, a place ahead of New Zealand’s Tim Price and Ascona M.

Tim picked up 16.4 time-faults on the “feisty” grey mare, a winner at this level at Luhmühlen in June. Sadly, his second ride Wesko, in the runner-up position after dressage with a mark of 25.6, stumbled going into the final water and unshipped Tim.

The next-best British rider is Gemma Tattersall, 13th on Jalapeño, who picked up 20 penalties for a run-out at 24b. She had been third after dressage. Gemma also had a run-out on Chilli Knight, who is now in 20th position.

Good clear rounds pushed Sarah Way (the 15.1hh Dassett Cooley Dun) and Izzy Taylor (Call Me Maggie May) up from 40th and 37th after dressage to 14th and 15th respectively. Ginny Howe and Undalgo De Windsor were also clear, rising from 41st to 18th.

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The only rider with three horses at Pau was Sweden’s Ludwig Svennerstal, who failed to complete with all three. Salunette fell at fence 16, Ludwig tipped off Balham Mist at fence 15 and he retired El Kazir SP after a run-out at 7b.

Check back online tomorrow for more from Pau. Full report in next week’s Horse & Hound (dated 31 October).

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