Historically, it was the practice of commanding officers in battle to always have a second horse ready and waiting should your first horse tire, and it seems Michael Jung has made a careful study of the art of war. While he and overnight leader fischerTakinou had a beautiful four-star debut for the gelding over the soft footing at Pau, it added 8.8 time faults to their score to drop them to fifth going into show jumping. But no matter. He’d already put in a nearly flawless performance on the smart and elegant fischerRocana to maintain his lead in France’s four-star event. They added just .4 time faults in one of the fastest rounds of the day to lead the crowd on a score of 44.2.
“Rocana was wonderful – she is so simple to ride – and Takinou gave me a good feeling for his first time at this level,” said Michael of his two rides.
They’ll have pressure tomorrow, however, as they are topping France’s Maxime Livio and Qalao des Mers by just 1.1 points after the pair put in one of only two double clears of the day. They came home to uproarious applause from the French crowd and look poised to put up a strong fight tomorrow.
In fact, it ought to be a battle among all the best-finishing horses, as less than a rail separates the top five which includes Nicola Wilson and One Two Many, Jock Paget and Clifton Signature, and Michael’s second mount, fischerTakinou.
American Boyd Martin sits just outside this group on Crackerjack in sixth place after putting in a strong and flowing run over the 32 elements and 45 jumping efforts to add just two time penalties to their score. They’ll move on to show jumping on a 49.7.
“I’m thrilled with how both horses went. It was the best four-star run I’ve had on Crackerjack,” Boyd told EN. “He was quite settled most of the way around. I was able to make the turns and keep the fences coming up in stride. He doesn’t have the best wind, and I had to ease up off him through the last few fences just because I felt like he was running out of gas.”
Boyd’s second ride of the day aboard Welcome Shadow was also a strong finish for the United States’ only Pau entries. The pair added 5.2 time penalties to jump from 25th place after dressage to 15th on a score of 57.1.
“Shadow definitely felt a notch greener than Crackers. She’s such a trier and an honest mare. I felt like I had to balance her a little bit more for some of the fences, which cost me a bit of time, but she’s a great horse and both of them really tried hard today.”
Boyd made it clear that despite many clears on course and great results for his horses, it was no walk in the park to get there.
“It was a proper four-star track, a little similar to Rio in that is was not super huge but had lots of angles and turns and accuracy questions. It really tested your riding ability and your horse’s training. I knew what I was in for so I’ve been cross country schooling a lot at home, and it paid off today. With it being the first four-star for Shadow I was very pleased. It was the best four-star run Crackers has had; he’s getting better and better.”
Irishwoman Camilla Speirs made one of the biggest placement moves of the day, as she and Portersize Just a Jiff added only 1.6 time faults to launch from 32nd place to just outside the top ten in 11th. Nicola Wilson did almost identically well on her second mount Annie Clover, moving from her tied 32nd position to move into 12th. Chris Burton and TS Jamaimo were the only other combination to make the time today, moving from 44th to 22nd.
There were two retirements on course today (Ben Vogg with Bellaney Castle and Emily Lochore and Hexmaley’s Hayday) and seven rider falls.
— EquiRatings (@EquiRatings) October 15, 2016
Laura Collett on Palmero 4 were the highest-ranked pair to take an unfortunate tumble when they parted ways at the bright and vertical palette fence; they had been in eighth place after dressage. Tim Price and Xavier Faer parted ways near the end of the course to have a disappointing end to their otherwise cracking round. They had been sitting in 11th place after dressage.
The faults were spread relatively evenly around course today, and the infamous WEG fish that plagued many-a-world-class rider at Normandy in 2014 was mostly a non-factor in today’s outing. One of the toughest questions came very early on at three and four, a brushed log atop a hill to a narrow corner that proved a bit hard to read. (You can see a course preview courtesy of our friends across the pond at Horse & Hound.)
Kirsty Johnston and Opposition Detective had one of the most spectacular saves of the day at 24 and 25, a log drop into water straight to a corner that could be jumped to the left or right. Kirsty lost her seat a bit in the first landing, but her inspiring steed was completely locked on the corner brush to the right and she hung on for dear life to clear the element. She took a moment to re-situate herself before galloping on and giving Opposition Detective a heap of well-deserved pats and encouragement.
Among the rookies, Cathal Daniels of Ireland aboard Rioghan Rua were the talk of the town, adding just 3.2 time penalties to their dressage score to currently sit in 14th place behind a sea of veteran four-star riders and recent Olympians.
With sticky moments here and there and a bit of deep footing to contend with, there may be some developments overnight, but overall the ground seemed to hold up remarkably well despite the significant rain the venue got earlier in the week. Keep it locked on EN for all the updates.
Pau CCI4* Top 15: