William Fox-Pitt heads into the cross-country phase at Les Etoiles de Pau CCI****, France, in joint-first place on Catherine Witt’s dual four-star winner Parklane Hawk.
We’ve seen it before. The four-star dressage leaderboard looks settled with a German at the top and a few Brits in the shake-up. Then William Fox-Pitt comes along as the final rider and slots into first place.
“Parklane Hawk did a very good test — he made two little mistakes, but he was very calm,” said William.
This time, he has to share the lead with German rider Ingrid Klimke (Horseware Hale Bob, pictured right) — the pair being the only riders to break the 40pen barrier with 39.3pen.
William — who is also lying fifth on last year’s winning partner Seacookie TSF — is joined by three other Brits in the top 10. Nicola Wilson’s four-star debutant One Two Many produced a personal best of 41.2 to take fourth place, with Pippa Funnell (Redesigned) eighth and Francis Whittington (West Side) ninth.
Looking ahead to Pau cross-country
William, who has won two of the last three renewals of this event, said he is expecting two very different rides over tomorrow’s cross-country course.
Seacookie knows his way round Pierre Michelet’s flat racecourse track and is an “easier ride”.
“I hope he has good memories from last year,” said William of the 15-year-old Helikon gelding. “When he is confident, he can do anything — but he can be a worrier.”
Parklane Hawk has had a chequered season — falling at Badminton and missing Burghley — but is on form now.
“Parklane Hawk is a galloper and very strong,” he added. “He is very fast in a straight line, but this course is twisty, especially around the two water fences. He’s a fabulous horse, but this is a different test to Burghley and Lexington [where he won].
“It will be difficult to make up time because you have to save some energy for the second water. It’s a very serious course, with many opportunities to run out or refuse.”
The course features the infamous “fish” (pictured right) — which caused trouble at the World Equestrian Games — twice.
“When you have to do a fence twice like this, horses can lose interest,” said William.
Ingrid’s compatriot Andreas Dibowski — the dressage leader from day one — is in third place on FRH Butts Avedon.
Ingrid has won several gold medals for Germany, but is still seeking her first four-star victory. Her horse, a 10-year-old Oldenberger, has only contested one CCI4*, incurring a couple of refusals. But Ingrid was optimistic that he was up to the test.
“‘Bobby’ has proved he can do the CCI4* distance as he completed Luhmuhlen,” she said. “He is sharp and clever — I’m looking forward to it.”
The ground is fairly firm and is being watered overnight, thanks to temperatures of 26°C today and the same expected tomorrow.
The first rider starts cross-country at 1pm (BST). Watch live on FEI TV