‘Pau on the extreme’: Brits come out on top during dramatic five-star cross-country day

  • British riders hold the top seven spots following an action-packed Pau Horse Trials cross-country.

    Pierre Michelet’s twisty track proved hugely challenging for many today (28 October) at Pau five-star – with a reshuffle of the leaderboard ahead of tomorrow’s (29 October) showjumping.

    The pathfinder was New Zealand’s Jesse Campbell and Cooley Lafitte, who were making super progress until they came unstuck at the triple brush at the water, fence 20b. This fall led to a number of riders opting for the longer route through this combination, which was one of the most influential on course.

    Problems continued to come thick and fast, with fence 9c – the angle after the step jump out of the water – also playing an important factor throughout the day. Jesse Campbell had a fall with his second ride, Diachello, whom he had been sitting in fourth with, at fence 23. Tim Price, who had been in sixth with Viscount Viktor, had two refusals at fence 28a, to drop the pair down the leaderboard.

    Ros Canter and Izilot DHI hold the top spot overnight, following a particularly testing round owing to a hold on course and a crossing string being left up when the pair approached the final combination, which resulted in an appeal being lodged.

    Tom McEwen and JL Dublin, the overnight leaders going into the cross-country, now sit in second, following a smooth and convincing clear jumping round, with 8 time penalties.

    Tom said JL Dublin was “awesome from start to finish”.

    “It’s been quite an intense day of cross-country really. It’s caused problems here, there and everywhere. It’s been a serious test,” he said.

    One of the toughest fences at Pau Horse Trials cross-country

    Tom added: “It’s Pau on the extreme for sure. But I’m delighted, all I needed was a bit more of a straight on the way home and he would have made the time back up again. With the intensity of the first half going out to the racetrack, I felt I needed to give him a little bit of a blow before opening him back up again, then as soon as you’ve got them back into running spirit, you’re back into the park and twisting around, so it’s a balancing show.”

    Tom said the third water combination, fence 20ab is “one of the toughest he has seen this year”, and said when it came to challenges that it was an “accumulation of everything”.

    “I adjusted a couple of things because of how I felt at the time, but that’s the whole point of a Pierre course, to be able to adjust,” he said.

    Kirsty Chabert and 14-year-old mare Classic VI produced the fastest jumping clear of the day, with just 0.8 of a time-penalty, to move up into third ahead of the showjumping. The mare looked enthusiastic throughout their round, and made light work of the track that many struggled with.

    “This mare is a should have, would have, could have – and today she did,” said Kirsty, who parted company with her first horse Opposition Heraldik Girl at fence 9b earlier in the day, in a fall that Kirsty simply described as “C’est la vie”.

    “They’re actually two of the most similar rides for me, so that was really nice. They’re both go-karts and love the job. I fell off, it’s going to happen every now and again; I then watched some rounds, went off for a little snooze, had some pasta, then went again with Classic VI and she was cool.”

    Kirsty’s round was also not uneventful as she was held on course at the same time as Ros Canter and Izilot DHI following Tom Rowland’s fall with MGH Maybe A Mission. To add to the challenge, Kirsty was stopped at the same fence she had fallen at earlier in the day.

    “It wasn’t easy being stopped at nine, I thought they might have you go through nine and stop at the nice bullfinch at fence 10 but no. The offer was to go back and jump fence eight, which is the frangible rail – but I wasn’t loving the idea of doing that again!,” said Kirsty.

    “I quite enjoy cross-country schooling, so stopping and restarting maybe made me more determined and you had the crowd cheering. She’s incredible, and she means the world to me. You wouldn’t select her as an event horse, I got her as a not-good-enough jumper, and for a couple of years I spent time on the floor trying to jump water and ditches, but actually she was just terrified of people – and to stand in a big crowd like that today, she’s changed. She loves it now.”

    A beautiful day for an “unlucky five-star horse”

    Oliver Townend and Tregilder are in fourth overnight . The pair jumped clear around the Pau Horse Trials cross-country and added 7.2 time-penalties to their score.

    “He’s a very genuine horse and put himself between the flags,” he said. “It’s hard work out there, you feel like you’re on 20m circle for the first three minutes, which is difficult with a big horse – but at the same time he’s so genuine and a great galloper. I sat as still as I could for the first half, and had to ride him home for the other half, but he’s done very well.”

    Oliver said he was “thrilled” for Tregilder and his owners, the Hazeldines & Mitchell Fox Group.

    “He’s probably one of the unluckiest five-star horses in the world; he’s fallen at the second last at Burghley when we looked like we were going to be six seconds inside the time. He’s been to Burghley again and his rein broke, so it’s been a long time coming having another good result with him, but he was beautiful today,” he said.

    Piggy March and Coolparks Sarco round off the top five, following a super jumping clear in the 11-year-old gelding’s five-star debut. The pair had been moments away from setting off across country when Coolparks Sarco pulled a shoe, delaying their start as this was refitted.

    “I thought maybe I should have gone quicker, but I was quite conscious it was his first one. He felt very happy, and this will have built our experience and partnership up,” said Piggy.

    Piggy explained at the start of her partnership with Coolparks Sarco she sought advice from his former rider, and Piggy’s close friend, Nicola Wilson.

    “Nicola is a legend, and a wonderful friend. What she achieved on a horse, but even more so what she is doing off one. She is with us all the way, all the time, but she was also quite quick and told me after I had rang a few times, ‘Pig, it’s your horse now – you know what you’re doing, make him yours and get on with it’. It’s probably the best thing she did because I’m not protecting her situation with him of thinking ‘What would Nicola do?’ – I’ve got to get on with it, and that’s what we’re doing,” she Piggy.

    “He’s really exciting, and he’s a really cool horse.”

    Pippa Funnell and MCS Maverick added 13.2 time-penalties to their dressage to sit in sixth ahead of the showjumping. Kylie Roddy and SRS Kan Do jumped clear, with 8.0 time-penalties for overnight seventh.

    The only rider to make the 11 minutes six seconds optimum time in the Pau Horse Trials cross-country was US rider Boyd Martin and Fedarman B, however the pair activated a MIM clip at fence 13b, to add 11 penalties to their 31.7 dressage, and sit in eighth. Of 54 cross-country starters, there were 20 jumping clears.

    The final horse inspection will take place tomorrow (29 October) at 11.45am local time (10.45 British time) ahead of the showjumping at 2.30pm local time (1.30pm British time).

    **Update: the showjumping will now take place at 3.00pm local time (2.00pm British time). 

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