Multiple British five-star first-timers impress on testing Pau Horse Trials cross-country day

  • British five-star first-timers impressed on their top level debuts with assured performances over the testing Pau Horse Trials cross-country course, with high-class rounds highlighting the strength in depth of talent rising through British eventing.

    Bubby Upton, 22, is the highest placed first timer ahead of the final phase – holding sixth place overnight aboard her multiple youth medal-winner, Cola, on their dressage score of 28.5.

    “He was simply phenomenal,” she told H&H. “He’s proved himself time and time again across country that he is an absolute weapon, but it was amazing to go out there and for me to be able to do him justice and to show that at this level.

    The pair were drawn third to go and were the first combination home inside the time over Pierre Michelet’s CCI5* Pau Horse Trials cross-country course.

    “It was all a little bit of a blur – you didn’t quite realise till the end of the day how tough the track really was,” she said. “He was a little bit shell shocked leaving the blocks with the rowdy French crowd and was backing off a fraction at the start, so I just had to be extra positive. But that suits his way of going and I don’t really have to take a pull with him.

    “He gave me a dream ride and I just couldn’t be more proud of him.”

    She added she is still “kicking herself” for the mistake she made on her second ride, Cannavaro, explaining she was slightly off her line at the angled brushes at 5ab meaning the horse didn’t see the question. The 14-year-old gelding, in seventh after dressage, ran past 5a and Bubby pulled up to save him for another day.

    But the fact Bubby is competing at all – let alone jumping a stylish clear across country on her first attempt at this level – is all the more impressive given she broke her back and collarbone in a schooling fall less than three months ago.

    She credits the Injured Jockeys Fund (IJF) for making her five-star dream a reality.

    “Without the IJF, I wouldn’t be here,” she said, adding without their help her projected recovery time would have meant she would still be lying in bed.

    “I guess I do have to keep remembering that as well when I want to beat myself up about my mistake on my other ride. It also makes it even more special on Cola.”

    Kylie Roddy and SRS Kan Do, owned by the Fox Family, impressed with a quality performance, adding just 5.6 time-penalties to their sub-30 dressage to hold 19th position overnight on a score of 34.7.

    “It’s been a long time for me trying to get to this level, so it feels surreal in one respect, but totally achievable in another – the horse gave me all he had and more,” Kylie told H&H.

    “He went a bit spooky at the first five fences, a little bit rabbit in headlights. But once he jumped fence five, he really got stuck in. By the time we were out on the racecourse, he didn’t feel like an old campaigner by any stretch of the imagination, but he was really focused and with me and answering everything that I asked him to do.”

    She added she has always been confident that the 11-year-old Irish gelding was an “out and out five-star horse”.

    “He’s got such engine and such class about what he does when he jumps. He’s not really the easiest on the flat but when he starts jumping he [is amazing].

    “I call him the beast, because he is an absolute beast. He’s got more gears than any other horse I’ve ever ridden and you can land and go or land and wait. He’s 17hh and I’m 5ft2in and he lets me ride him – he’s just lovely.”

    Kylie added “George” can be a grump in his stable – “his stable is definitely his bedroom, he’s a teenage boy and you’re not allowed in unless you knock at the door and ask politely” – but he is an “utter professional” once she is on board.

    “His personal life and his professional life are two very separate entities!” she said.

    Teenager Alice Casburn has already impressed among the senior ranks on multiple occasions this season. The 19-year-old and her long-term campaigner Topspin finished second at both Blair CCI4*-L and Little Downham CCI4*-S in recent weeks. Their accomplished Pau cross-country round cemented the pair as ones to watch for the future.

    Alice and the 13-year-old gelding, owned by Caroline Casburn, have climbed from 41st to 22nd position with their clear cross-country jumping round, adding 8.4 time-penalties to their first-phase score of 36.2.

    Phillipa Cross and Scoop De Ferbet also jumped clear across country and are in 29th position ahead of the showjumping.

    Thursday’s dressage leaders, Ailsa Wates and Woodlands Persuasion, who held pole position after the first day with William Fox-Pitt and Oratorio, were unlucky to pick up 20 penalties at the second part of the mound to brush combination at 27ab in an otherwise tidy round.

    View the Pau Horse Trials cross-country results

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