In a first day full of dressage heavy-hitters, it was the last horse to enter the arena — and a four-star debutante, no less — who would scoop the top spot at this early stage of Pau. Izzy Taylor‘s ultra-talented Be Touchable (Untouchable 27 x Ureka, by Indoctro) was never going to be an also-ran, though — the twelve-year-old has certainly made his mark at the three-star level, winning Bramham’s CIC3* earlier this season and claiming the title of British Open Champion when he finished second, but best British horse, at Gatcombe Park. Last year he shot into the public eye when he won Blenheim’s leg of the Event Rider Masters series as well as a CIC3* at Millstreet. He was always going to be a threat.
But the 16hh gelding, owned by Sophie Dodds, seriously delivered in the moment: he posted a 28.8, staying relaxed, consistent in the contact, and earning one of only four sub-30 marks in what has been a day of tough scoring across the board.
Originally produced by Sophie, who contested her first Intermediate on the gelding, Be Touchable moved to Izzy’s yard in 2015. Since then, he’s largely been campaigned at CICs — in fact, the last time he was entered into a CCI was Ballindenisk in 2016. He finished third in the CCI3* on that occasion.
Denmark’s Peter Flarup takes second place overnight with his own Frankie (Federico xx x Stald Mejses Dream Girl, by AK’s Rush). The eleven-year-old gelding completed Luhmühlen last year, finishing 27th and jumping clear across the country, and in his sophomore appearance at the four-star level today he posted a seriously competitive 29.5 to hold the lead for much of the afternoon.
“The horse was a little bit happy, and was playing a little bit around, but it seems to justify the result, so I’m happy,” said Peter after his test. Peter has owned Frankie since he was a six-year-old, producing him through the levels himself from his Copenhagen base.
Third and fourth places are held overnight by a jolly German double-act. We’d suggest some sort of marvellously fruity pop act, perhaps called Andreas Squared, perhaps involving lederhosen and accordions punctuated by heavy drum and bass, but we fear it would be unprofessional, which we would never, ever be. So, in short, Andreas Ostholt and So Is Et, the 15-year-old Westphalian with whom he was second at Badminton in 2016, sit third at the halfway mark, having posted a 29.7. Interestingly enough, that Badminton result was the last time we saw So Is Et at this level, though he clocked up plenty of experience before then with a top ten finish at the 2014 WEG and sixth at Luhmühlen that year, too.
Andreas the second (or Andreas the fourth, actually) is Andreas Dibowski, who rerouted FRH Butts Avedon here after an early and uncharacteristic tumble at Burghley last month. The fifteen-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Heraldik xx x Karina-Andora, by Kronenkranich xx) is one of the most experienced horses in the field, with ten four-stars under his belt. He was second here in 2014 and should be formidable this weekend.
A common blunder precluded William Fox-Pitt and the nine-year-old Little Fire (Graf Top x Heraldiks Angara, by Heraldik xx) from taking the top place — he forgot the stretchy canter circle that was so maligned at Burghley, dropping down to fifth as a result.
“I knew I was going to forget the bloody thing,” he said gloomily on his way out, but nonetheless, the occasionally tempestuous up-and-comer looked the best we’ve ever seen him (that’s Little Fire, we hasten to add, not William — who also looked very well indeed, but probably graduated from the ‘up-and-comer’ label a wee while ago). They come into this competition off the back of a second place finish in the Tattersalls CCI3* earlier this season.
The sole U.S. pair to complete dressage on Thursday was Kim Severson with Cooley Cross Border, an 11-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Diamond Roller X Whos Diaz, by Osilvis) owned by the Cross Syndicate. They scored a 32.8 to sit equal 10th place with Yasmin Ingham and Night Line. Though good enough for the top ten, and certainly enough to keep them in the hunt, it wasn’t quite reflective of their usual sub-30 scores.
“He was just a little bit fragile,” said Kim after her test. “He’s so good, and he tries very, very hard, and he does get worried about things. He just wasn’t as settled as he can be. Some of the things were very, very good, and then there were some things that weren’t great. His trot work was fabulous in the ring, better than it was in the warm-up, but he just got a bit tight in the canter, and it wasn’t quite there. He’s almost there in a lot of ways, and he’s a very good boy.”
Pau CCI4* Top 10 After Dressage:
Friday dressage begins at 8:45 a.m. local time/2:45 a.m. EST. Set your alarm (if you’re diehard like that) to watch …
9:13 a.m. local time/3:13 a.m. EST: Tim Price & Ascona M
9:27 a.m. local time/3:27 a.m. EST: Ryan Wood & Woodstock Bennett
9:48 a.m. local time/3:48 a.m. EST: Hallie Coon & Celien
10:19 a.m. local time/4:19 a.m. EST: Boyd Martin & Steady Eddie
10:26 a.m. local time/4:26 a.m. EST: Oliver Townend & Cillnabradden Evo
11:02 a.m. local time/5:02 a.m. EST: Ros Canter & Zenshera
11:09 a.m. local time/5:09 a.m. EST: Phillip Dutton & I’m Sew Ready
12:29 a.m. local time/6:29 a.m. EST: Gemma Tattersall & Pamero 4
Much, much more to come. Go Eventing.