The New Zealand rider, who topped the dressage standings with a new CCI5* personal best of 22.1, added nothing to his first phase score to strengthen his position ahead of the final day.
The combination set out to tackle Pierre Michelet’s intense, twisting course looking cool and focused. It was hard to believe watching that this was the first time the Cardenio 2 son had seen a five-star track, as his intelligent face lit up to answer every question ahead of him.
The 12-year-old gelding, owned by Sue Benson, showed an impressive burst of speed on the final galloping stretch around around the 10th minute, devouring the ground and showing his scope and athleticism right to the end of the long track.
“The allocated time was easier to achieve than we thought,” said Tim, adding he was able to come home quicker than anticipated.
“I just thought the horse would be a little more tired with the rigours of the course behind him and I’d be nursing him home a little bit more. The ground was very good and it was just a smooth round.”
Tim also praised the course designing and the way Mr Michelet got both the horse and rider to think.
While Tim and Falco made the course appear a breeze, the shake-up of the leaderboard below their lofty position tells a different story.
The tightly bunched dressage standings meant that any time-faults were costly. On the flip-side, those combinations who came home inside the optimum time of 11 minutes 50 seconds were able to power up the leaderboard.
Ireland’s Padraig McCarthy, also riding a horse making her debut at this level in Fallulah, rose from fourth to second with an expertly judged round, stopping the clock bang on the optimum time. The Fidertanz mare, owned by Amanda and Nicholas Boyle, Diane Brunsden and Peter Cattell, is less than a fence behind the leaders on a score of 24.9.
Kevin McNab and Scuderia 1918 A Best Friend inched up the standings with their confident round, putting the memory of the costly 20 penalties from 2020 to bed. The Australian combination hold third overnight on their dressage score of 26.2.
Oliver Townend and the experienced campaigner MHS King Joules were among the big upward movers after cross-country, rising from 14th to fourth with their faultless round.
First-timers Bubby Upton and Cola’s spectacular five-star debut cross-country performance resulted in their rise from 17th to the provisional lead for a solid chunk of the day. At the end of the afternoon, the pair hold fifth ahead of tomorrow. Bubby was making her debut at this level with two horses. Her second ride, Cannavaro, seventh after dressage, ran out at the angled brush combination at 5b and the 22-year-old rider opted to save him for another day.
Time-penalties mean Jonelle Price and the tiny powerhouse McClaren have slid from second to provisional sixth, but are within touching distance of the top. The combination added 4.4 cross-country time-penalties to their dressage of 24.4.
Quick cross-country rounds mean seventh to ninth are all filled by combinations that held 20th to 22nd places after dressage.
Tom McEwen, winner here in 2019 aboard Toledo De Kerser, looks to have another exciting prospect on his hands with CHF Cooliser. The 11-year-old chestnut mare, owned by Vicky Bates and David Myers, made short work of her first five-star cross-country track to finish four seconds inside the time for provisional seventh.
David Doel enjoyed an excellent day at the office with two clean time and jumping sheets across country. The highest placed of these is Galileo Nieuwmoed, who heads into the showjumping in eighth place.
Alexander Bragg and King Of The Mill are in provisional ninth, while French national champion Maxime Livio, the top performer for the home side, rounds off the top 10 with Vitorio Du Montet.
A stop at 27b – an angled brush on a mound – dropped William Fox-Pitt and Little Fire, third overnight, out of contention.
Izzy Taylor and Fonbherna Lancer, 10th overnight, took a heavy fall at the combination at fence 29. H&H will provide an update on the pair’s condition when news is available.
View the full Pau Horse Trials cross-country results
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