Passport to Pau: Your Comprehensive Guide to France’s Four-Star Field

Jonelle Price and Faerie Dianimo at Pau 2017. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

If you’ve never tuned into France’s premier three-day event, you’re in for a treat this week. Nestled into the foothills of the Pyrenees, a stone’s throw from the Spanish border, the final CCI4* of the Northern Hemisphere’s 2018 season has everything we love about eventing: top equine and human athletes, untoward fun in the sun, and, if we’re honest, a slightly more heaping helping of madness in the middle than most four-stars.

No idea either, pal.

It’s not just because of the day-drinking, though that’s the pastime of choice when you find yourself suddenly thrust into a sun-dappled corner of who-knows-where for a final outing with the eventing family. It’s the general Frenchness of the whole thing — it’s so laidback it’s practically horizontal (though the jumps most certainly are not), it’s set practically in the middle of the town, and it’s basically just a boozy adult summer camp for the chronically and determinedly pony-mad. Shenanigans abound, and what does Team EN love more than shenanigans? Nothing. Maybe coffee.

#PartyPau

After Pau ends, all that’s left on this side of the pond is a mire of gloom and endless winter, so this really is the last hurrah. This year, we’re treated to what might be the best entry list we’ve seen here — it’s full of top riders and horses, and some seriously exciting debutantes, too. No matter where you are in the world, you’ll be able to live-stream the event in full, and we highly recommend doing it properly: pour yourself a glass of red (time of day inconsequential), light up a Gauloise, twirl your moustache, and shrug a lot, we guess. There are fourteen nations represented and some serious contenders for the Pau throne — get yourself comfortable and pick your winner…

AUSTRALIA

Ryan Wood and Woodstock Bennett. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Ryan Wood and Woodstock Bennett

US-based Aussie Ryan is basically an honorary American, or so we like to tell ourselves. He’s been based Stateside since 2008, when an outbreak of equine influenza in Australia prompted him to make good on his dream of relocation and a trip around then bluegrass of Kentucky’s CCI4*.

His journey since then has been a remarkable story of peaks and troughs – he suffered a horrific accident in early 2009 during a prep run at Ocala, and much of his skull is plated back together as a result. But in true Antipodean fashion, he kept grafting and never lost sight of his goal, and in 2016, having racked up promising results at many three-stars and a decade after he last competed at four-star, he finally made it to Kentucky with three horses.

Woodstock Bennett is a first-timer at the four-star level, but the eleven-year-old gelding has an impressive record thus far. He’s never picked up a cross country jumping penalty at any of his 15 international runs, and he won his first CCI3*, which he ran at Bromont in mid-2016. His dressage tends to fluctuate – he can be a high-20s horse or he can be a mid-30s horse, depending on the day, and we’ve not yet seen him really move up into his top gear across the country, but he’s super consistent in this phase and will likely climb. Whether his pole on the final day will prove expensive remains to be seen.

AUSTRIA

Austria’s Katrin Khoddam-Hazrati shakes up the trot-up formula at Burghley. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Katrin Khoddam-Kazrati and Cosma

This will be a second start at four-star for Austria’s Katrin Khoddam-Hazrati and her nine-year-old mare, who caught the attention of the crowds at Burghley with their nod to the motherland at the first horse inspection. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be their week – they had a few problems on course and ultimately retired after scrambling through the Keeper’s Brushes at fence 20.

Cosma is a young horse for this level, and Katrin, who produced her and owns her, hadn’t competed at four-star before Burghley. They’ve had some mixed results in the past – they retired on course in the CIC3* at Jardy, six weeks before Burghley, and they were eliminated in the first phase at Strzegom CICO3* in June. But prior to that, they’ve notched up a fair few top-ten placings in international competitions, and they delivered a clear round around the fiendishly tricky track at last year’s European Championships, so the potential is certainly there. They won’t be your winners, and this stage of Cosma’s career is all about confidence and education, so we’ll be cheering them on for a steady completion to give them a plan of action for the 2019 season.

BELGIUM

Christian Chabot and Barlison

12-year-old Belgian Warmblood Barlison makes his four-star debut this weekend at his 28th international start, and it’s a long-awaited return to the level for rider Christian, too, who competed here in 2011 aboard Bolero. He notched up a clear round then, but finished well out of the placings due to a disappointing dressage mark.

Barlison shouldn’t have quite the same problem — his dressage isn’t world-beating, but he tends to be a mid-30s scorer. For him, the cross-country will be the main focus: he’s had a seriously chequered season. It started well with 8th place at Vairano CCI3*, but he was eliminated in his next three internationals, which were at CIC2* and CIC1*. He’s since run a CCI1*, finishing second. This move-up is an ambitious one, and Christian will need to take stock of how his horse feels every step of the way, pulling up if necessary.

DENMARK

Peter Flarup and Frankie. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Peter Flarup and Frankie

This will be Frankie’s second four-star — he made his level debut at Luhmühlen last year, delivering a clear round and finishing 27th. He was quite quick there, and his dressage of 31.2 was about where he was at last season, but he knocked four poles on the final day and chalked up a whopping eight time penalties in the showjumping, dropping him down the leaderboard.

This season, though, he’s shown he can go into the 20s, and he’s still usually quite quick, but his showjumping hasn’t improved much. Another clear round on Saturday is totally within their abilities and they should try to use their speed and dexterity there to climb — they’ll need to create a bit of a buffer to protect them from the influence of those poles on their position in the final leaderboard.

FINLAND

Elmo Jankari and Soraya 243

Eternally youthful-looking Elmo is Finnish eventing’s darling (and, okay, he’s only 26, but we guarantee he’ll look just as fresh-faced at 46 — whether he’s stashing a rapidly aging portrait in his attic remains to be seen, but rest assured that EN is on the case). He’s amassed plenty of experience dealing with the pressures of life at the top in his career — after all, he’s already logged a WEG place in 2014, a European championships finish in 2015, and he rode at Rio, too, finishing 31st individually with Duchess Desiree.

Soraya, a ten-year-old Oldenburg mare, is a new old ride for Elmo — he produced her to CCI3* in 2016 before passing the reins to Spain’s Esteban Benitez Valle for the 2017 season. Elmo took her back this year, and they’ve had mixed results in the four internationals they’ve contested since their reunion. They got off to a great start in the CIC2* at Chaumont en Vexin, where they finished eighth, but they then retired on course at CCI3* and CIC3* competitions at Strzegom. Finally, they completed Baborowko’s CIC3*, finishing eleventh. It’s an interesting choice to go four-star now, and their only focus this week should be a clear or, at the least, an educational run. Their high-30s or more dressage will be what it will be, and they might go clear on Sunday, or they might knock up a cricket score in rails. At this slightly ambitious move-up, that shouldn’t matter.

FRANCE

Marie Caroline Barbier and Picasso d’Oreal

Marie and Picasso were fifth in Bramham’s beefy Under-25 CCI3* this year, though their best result at the level came in the same class the year prior, when they finished fourth. This is their first four-star, and they come into it off the back of a season without any cross country jumping penalties. They’ll deliver a mid-30s dressage and, though they’re quick at three-star, they probably won’t run for the time here. A pole or two will fall on the last day, but they should record a result they can be proud of in their move-up event.

Arnaud Boiteau and Quoriano ENE HN. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Arnaud Boiteau and Quoriano ENE HN

Arnaud and his fourteen-year-old gelding have completed four four-stars together, including two runs at Pau – their best result was third here in 2014. They also won Chatsworth CIC3* in 2016 and finished 15th individually at the 2013 Europeans in Mälmo, so they come to the event with plenty of experience and the confidence that this type of track suits the horse down to the ground. They’re quick, quick, quick, but their record isn’t without its wobbles – they’ve had problems in their last two four-star runs, including Pau last year, so Arnaud will be hoping to rebuild his top horse’s confidence, rather than ride for the win, necessarily.

Sebastien Cavaillon and Sarah d’Argouges

Four-star debutantes abound for the home front this week, and Sebastien and his twelve-year-old Selle Français mare are no exception. They’ve been partnered since 2013 and moved up to three-star in 2015, so they’ve gotten to know one another well over the challenge of the level.

And there have been a few – they’ve had a few 20s, have been spun at two horse inspections, and they’ve had a horse fall and a showjumping elimination, too. But they’ve also had their successes – they’ve finished ninth at Saumur and tenth at Haras du Pin. Still, this week will be a big ask for them, and a slow clear would be a fantastic result.

Alix Crouin and Palma Belmaniere

Neither Alix nor her best friend Palmichou have ever completed an international with another partner — a rare thing to see at this level, perhaps, but this sort of innate knowledge of one another can be the little something extra that makes the magic happen at an event of this level, where thinking ahead and reacting in sync becomes so important.

They’ve started an impressive 27 internationals together since their CIC1* debut in 2011, and Alix and her fifteen-year-old Selle Français have gone clear across the country in all but three of them. One of those doesn’t really count, though — that was Saumur CIC2* in 2014, where they withdrew after the dressage.

Their two cross-country blips have come this season: Alix took a tumble at Hartpury CIC3*, and they picked up a 50 for missing a flag and then a further 20 at Jardy CIC3*, too. But they’ve regrouped and had clears at Sandillon CIC2* and Waregem CICO3* since then.

They won’t trouble the leaders, as their dressage will likely be in the mid-to-high 30s, they won’t make the time on cross country, and they’ll probably tip a pole on Sunday, but it’ll be a dream come true for Alix to complete her first four-star on home turf with her old pal.

Arthur Duffort and Toronto d’Aurois. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Arthur Duffort and Toronto d’Aurois

Based in the UK, Arthur has picked up plenty of experience on the world stage since leaving his four-year job riding for Andrew Nicholson and setting up his own business with wife Logan. We haven’t seen him at this level since 2016, though, when he finished 32nd on his four-star debut at Burghley with Herbst Golden Eclipse.

Toronto d’Aurois is an eleven-year-old Selle Français gelding with two years’ worth of three-star experience under his belt. We last saw him in the CCI3* at Blair, where he got one of his worst dressage scores – a 43.6 as opposed to his usual mid-to-high 30s – but jumped clear and just two seconds over the time on Saturday. Interestingly, he then added seven time penalties in his clear showjumping round, though, in his defence, the heavens had opened and the ground, for its part, had turned bottomless by then. Nonetheless, he finished 8th. He’s a quick horse, but not an out-and-out performer in the first phase, while some issues in the past on cross country mean we’ll likely see a conservative run from this pair.

Thibault Fournier and Siniani De Lathus

It’ll be a four-star debut for 23-year-old Thibault and the 12-year-old French-bred Siniani De Lathus. They’ve had an exciting partnership so far; produced to the two-star level by France’s Rafael Mazoyer, Siniani took Thibault to the Young Rider European Championships in 2015, adding a solitary rail to his 31.3 dressage to finish 11th individually. The following spring they made their 3* debut, choosing the tricky track at Chatsworth for their move-up. It’s notoriously tough to make the time here — in fact, only a handful of people have ever managed it — and they didn’t, but their 16 time penalties were very respectable indeed, considering the track, and their PB of 24.8 in the first phase meant that they finished second.

They then hit a bit of a run of bad luck — they had a quiet summer with a solitary one-star run, but when they headed to Boekelo CCIO3* that autumn, they added 20 across the country. They did the same at their next international event, Montelibretti CIC3* in early 2017, and they were eliminated from the Under-25 CCI3* at Bramham that June when Thibault hit the deck. In August they once again added jumping penalties across the country at Haras du Pin CIC3*, but it’s been (mostly) plain sailing ever since — they’ve gone clear around Boekelo, Bramham, Haras du Pin and Lignieres, with an elimination at Aachen along the way. The most notable of their results was second place in Bramham’s CCIU253* this summer over a long, beefy track — they finished just one second over the optimum time, so we know the pair is capable of going fast. With a slightly chequered history, though, that shouldn’t be their focus this weekend — instead, they should aim for a confident, educational clear, which they’re certainly capable of.

Alexis Goury and Trompe l’Oeil d’Emery

22-year-old Alexis Goury makes his four-star debut at Pau, riding the horse with whom he scooped individual bronze at the 2016 Young Rider European Championships. He’s also had two cracks at the Bramham Under-25 CCI3* with the eleven-year-old Selle Français, who he’s produced from a four-year-old. Unfortunately, both of these attempts – in 2017 and in 2018 – saw them add 20 penalties to their otherwise spotless international record, which spans fourteen competitions over three seasons. Still, 12 out of 14 clears at FEI competitions isn’t too shabby, and their third place in the CCIO3* at Boekelo last season is well worth taking note of — just two seconds over the optimum time on cross country stopped them from finishing on their dressage score of 30.2. They’ve won the CIC3* at Montelibretti and have had two quick clears in CIC3* classes this year, so come into the event on great form.

Expect a low-30s dressage and a reasonably quick round — Alexis’ horse is a natural galloper with a high cruising speed. Their showjumping can be a little frustrating — they’ve racked up plenty of clears, but sometimes it all unravels a bit and they send several poles tumbling. A promising first-timer, though, whose confidence will be buoyed by an exuberant and supportive home crowd.

Clara Loiseau and Wont Wait

Though only a couple of years out of Young Riders, Clara has amassed plenty of experience at the three-star level with top horses Ultramaille and Wont Wait. This will be a first four-star for both rider and her fourteen-year-old gelding, who she’s produced through the young horse classes and with whom she contested the Seven-Year-Old World Championships at Le Lion in 2011.

Wont Wait was at his most impressive at Saumur this May, where he finished seventh in the CCI3*, but he’s clocked up a few exciting results: he was fourth in the CCI3* at Haras du Pin last August and fourth in his prep run at Waregem CICO3* last month. However, he’s also got three horse falls on his record, and he’s been eliminated in the dressage (Jardy ERM) and showjumping (Aachen) in the past year, so he’s a bit of a wild card. Dressage — elimination notwithstanding — tends to be a low-to-mid 30s affair, while he’s seriously quick across the country. He’ll likely add a rail on Sunday.

Cedric Lyard and Qatar du Puech Rouget at Badminton. Photo courtesy of Kit Houghton/Mitsubishi Motors.

Cedric Lyard and Qatar du Puech Rouget

Cedric and his fourteen-year-old Anglo Arab were the only pair to finish on their dressage score here last year, a feat that catapulted them up the leaderboard and saw them finish third. What goes up must, unfortunately, come back down, however, and they fell at the Land Rover Discovery Valley at Burghley this year (“well ZAT was a bloody stupid fence to ride like a f&*$ing idiot at,” grumbled Cedric as he clambered back out of the ditch he’d been deposited into).

That’s a little bit indicative of this horse’s entire career, though — he balances brilliant pluckiness with some really disappointing results, but there’s no question that he has talent. He also has form at Pau — of course, there was last year’s brilliant finish, but he completed clear in 2016, too, on his four-star debut. It remains the only course at the level that he’s ever gone clear around. Hopefully he’ll make it a hattrick this year — but unless it’s as tough as it was last year, he likely won’t finish at the top of the leaderboard. He’s never broken into the 20s at a four-star.

François Pons and Siam Taleyrandie

Yet another four-star debutante — François makes the step up to the top with his Bramham CCIU253* partner Siam. That said, Bramham isn’t a venue they’ve had much luck with — they added 20 penalties last year and retired on course this year, but their form elsewhere has been promising. They were third in the CCI3* at Portugal’s Barocca d’Alva this spring, and fifth at Haras du Pin CCI3* in 2016, but their low-30s dressage, smattering of time penalties, and reasonably consistent poles tend to keep them out of the very top placings. They’ll be looking to further their education, rather than aim for a competitive run this week.

GERMANY

Andreas Dibowski and FRH Butts Avedon at Malmö. Photo by Julia Rau.

Andreas Dibowski and FRH Butts Avedon

Dibo and his stalwart fifteen-year-old Hanoverian have a serious amount of experience, though an uncharacteristic fall early on at Burghley may be on their minds. It’s more likely, thought, that the blip will only fuel the German’s determination, and he’ll leave nothing to chance in making sure his partner notches up a clear here this week. The pair have course form on their side, too — they were second here in 2014 and 12th in 2015. Earlier that summer they’d finished 11th at Luhmühlen, and in 2013, they were part of the gold medal-winning German team at the Malmo Europeans.

Though registered Hanoverian, Avedon’s breeding boasts a serious blood percentage — he’s sired by Heraldik, who also sired La Biosthetique Sam FBW and Happy Times, among others. This makes him fast and gritty across the country, and he comes into his own over four-star tracks. His prep run in this month’s Strzegom CIC3* proved successful — he won it easily. These two should be serious threats for the top spot.

A totally irrelevant fun fact: Dibo likes to unwind by indulging in a favorite hobby — he breeds exotic birds. As you do.

Bettina Hoy and Designer 10. Photo by Thomas Ix.

Bettina Hoy and Designer 10

Bettina and her fourteen-year-old Westfalian have amassed an impressive 35 international completions since 2010, but incredibly, despite a very strong record, they’ve never recorded a win at an FEI event. They’ve come spectacularly close: they were eighth at Luhmühlen CCI4* in 2014, fifth at Badminton in 2015, fifth in the German National Championships in 2016, sixth at Burghley the same year, third at Luhmühlen last year, and fourth in the German National Championships this summer. That’s just skimming the surface and we can’t help but think, rather like Classic Moet and Ringwood Sky Boy before him, that Designer 10 is overdue his big moment.

The pair’s dressage is very, very good — they’ll almost certainly lead this phase on a low-20s score, and they should go clear across the country, though they’ve had a couple of blips in the past. They’re pretty fast, too, but their showjumping performance has let them down before — they go clear about as often as they pull multiple fences. Still: one of our picks for a potential win this week.

Andreas Ostholt and Corvette 31

The experienced Andreas Ostholt brings forward a four-star debutante this week in the form of ten-year-old Westfalian mare Corvette. She’s an exciting prospect, for sure — she had her first international win this year in Sopot’s CCI3*, but she’s finished in the top ten in 12 of her international runs. She’ll deliver a score around the 30 mark, but with a debutante it’s anyone’s guess as to how she’ll cope across the country.

But if we had to guess? She’s a confident, gutsy mare with a seriously experienced pilot, and she looks set to deliver a clear round with a smattering of time faults. She can go inside the time, and has done on several occasions, but Andreas won’t run her to the clock. She’s got plenty of years ahead of her for that — this week is about establishing confidence and form at the top level. She can have a solitary rail, but actually seems to showjump at her best at a CCI. A strong shout for one of the top deb placings and a likely top twenty finish.

Andreas Ostholt and So is Et. Photo by Julia Rau.

Andreas Ostholt and So Is Et

Ahh, So Is Et — what a horse this one is, and what assets it brings to the not inconsequential German invasion this week. The fifteen-year-old Westfalian gelding has a laundry list of accomplishments: he won the German National Championship CIC3* at Luhmühlen in 2015, and was second at Badminton — just behind fellow countryman Michael Jung and his indomitable Sam — in 2016. He missed Rio due to a niggling injury, and had a short 2017 season for the same reason, but this year he’s been back with a bang, finishing 2nd in the CCI3* at Strzegom and 10th at the Haras du Pin CICO3*. He doesn’t seem to be running quite as fast as before, but that’s understandable after a period of time off, and Andreas may well be thinking ahead to the twilight years of the horse’s competitive career. A top five finish would be a feather in his cap; a win would be even better. His mid-to-high 20s dressage won’t see him lead the first phase, but he’ll be in the hunt — but he’ll have to pick up the pace and record a characteristic clear in order to climb. This shouldn’t be hard — he hasn’t had a cross country jumping penalty in five years.

Class Hermann Romaine and Cato 60

This will be a sixth four-star for this pair and a second visit to Pau, at which they were sixth in 2015. They’ve had a consistent enough, if unspectacular, season in preparation for the event, though it included a surprise elimination in the dressage at Aachen in the summer.

The fourteen-year-old Holsteiner isn’t really known for his competitiveness in the first phase, and they could post anything from a 30 to a 40 depending on how they feel on the day. They should go clear, though, and with a smattering of time penalties and perhaps a final day pole, but they should be a top twenty finisher.

GREAT BRITAIN

David Britnell and Continuity

David and ‘Brad’ will be enjoying a #ladzontour approach to their four-star debut, which they’ll be planning to tackle with their signature aplomb. David and his longtime partner have grown up together; in fact, barring one start with another horse at CIC1*, Brad has been his only international mount.

They made the move to three-star in the latter half of the 2016 season, and they’ve been flying ever since – their best result is ninth in Barbury’s CIC3* earlier this summer. They stepped up to CCI3* in 2018, notching up clear rounds around Bramham and Blenheim, and in their 19 internationals together, they’ve only ever picked up a cross country jumping penalty once. They won’t trouble the leaders this week – their low-to-mid 30s dressage and two or three rails will preclude that – but they look set to add a clear round at four-star to their record together. If the course is anywhere near as influential as last year, this could mean a huge climb.

Ros Canter and Zenshera. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Ros Canter and Zenshera

The World Champion would be forgiven for taking the bitter end of the season off, perhaps to dash off to a 5* hotel in Portugal or something, but no — the irrepressibly hard-working Ros is heading back to Pau with Zenshera, who performed so well here last year, finishing 7th. This will be his fourth attempt at the level, and rather impressively, he’s never been out of the top ten — he was 9th and Luhmühlen last year and 3rd this year.

The 14-year-old, 15.3hh Guidam gelding is supremely talented, but he was a quirky youngster — Ros found him in Holland while doing a stint of work experience at the Dutch stud her former employer, Judy Bradwell, sourced many of her horses from. The owners of the stud had intended for him to showjump, but he didn’t show much promise in his formative years, and then he was broken to harness basically, as the kids would say, for the sh*ts and giggles.

“I rode him because he was something to ride, and I was gullible enough that they could sell him to me,” laughs Ros, whose 4,000 Euro investment has certainly come good. Zenshera has 25 international starts under his belt, and he’s only picked up cross country faults at one of them — Ros took a tumble in the Nations Cup at Great Meadow in 2016. He delivered a 26.4 dressage at Pau last year, giving Ros the lead on the first day, but a few time penalties and a pole ultimately cost them a shot at the win. A repeat performance of his first phase score is very possible — he posted a 24 in his last international at Millstreet — and he’s been faster and cleaner in every outing since. With course form and Ros on a confidence-boosting high, this could be a real shout for your 2018 Pau winner.

Sian Coleman and Kilroe Hero

Both Sian Coleman (formerly Hawkes) and Kilroe Hero make their four-star debut this week after a change of plan, which had originally seen them aim for Burghley as their move-up. 26-year-old Sian and the Cult Hero-bred eleven-year-old are based in County Cork, Ireland, where she met her husband Patrick on a hunting trip, and the horse is very much a family venture — he’s owned by Patrick’s uncle Maurice.

The pair were fifth at Chatsworth CIC3* this spring, as well as 13th at Tattersalls CCI3* and 14th at Ballindenisk CIC3*, and they’ve gone clear across the country in 20 of their 24 internationals. Their dressage will hover around the 40–42 mark, while they’ll enjoy their favourite phase on Saturday. On Sunday, they’ll probably have two or three rails.

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Getting excited as we prepare for a our last event of 2018 with this little Mare, and a big one at that as we plan to head down to the South of France and represent in our 4th CCI **** this year Les 4 Etoiles de Pau, heading up all four European competitions at this level would be great achievement and one that wouldn’t be possible without my small but dedicated team and of course my wonderful owners and supporters particularly @londoncapitalandfinance @highwealdhorsehydro @baileyshorsefeeds @voltairedesuk @voltairedesign_official #londoncapitalandfinanceplc #teamlcf #LCF #highwealdhorsehydro #baileyshorsefeeds #fedonbalieys #voltairedesign #voltairedesignuk #notdoneyet💪🏼🤞🏼😊

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Tom Crisp and Liberty and Glory

Retained firefighter and experienced four-star rider Tom has had a funny old season — he’s had great clear rounds at both Badminton and Burghley, as well as a plethora of major three-stars, but he’s also had to focus on the impact of a devastating barn fire, which set the top part of his yard ablaze while he was at Luhmühlen, as well as the ongoing work of building his own house from the ground up. We suppose being kept busy keeps him off the streets, at least.

Liberty and Glory, or Lori, was born on the fourth of July, hence her patriotic moniker, and was bred by Tom’s in-laws. She’s out of Tom’s wife Sophie’s former Advanced mare, a full Thoroughbred, and so she’s a good blood horse for this sort of twisty, taxing course, and Tom rates her as a very exciting horse for the future — and one who has a four-star double-clear in her. She’s only eleven now, so there’s plenty of time for that, but this week, at her second four-star, she’ll certainly be interesting to keep an eye on.

She ran her first four-star at Luhmühlen this year, though it didn’t go quite to plan — she just missed the flag in a four-part combination despite making every effort to jump the fence, and then found herself just off the line, so the circle that led to their 20 was a green and technical 20, rather than indicative of any sort of unwillingness to jump the fence. Not an attractive looking mark on their record, sure, but we’ll see this week what effect it’s had — with talented, plucky horses like this, blips on a move-up can be the harbinger of a serious step up in maturity and experience. She won’t trouble the obvious leaders with her mid-to-high 30s dressage, but we’ll be watching her closely on Saturday to see what she’s made of. We suspect it’s rather a lot. They can jump clear on the final day — and notably did at Luhmühlen — but she has a 50% chance of taking a rail as a souvenir.

David Doel and Chap

Thirteen-year-old Chap and his 24-year-old rider head to their four-star debut with plenty of three-star experience behind them, including 10th place in last year’s Bramham CCIU253* and 10th at Barbury this year. David is a practical, forward-thinking sort of rider, and will be planning a trip that gives both himself and his horse a valuable education, so expect a high-30s dressage and a fair bit of time across the country, as they’re still working out how to make the time in a CCI. They’ve had three clear showjumping rounds in a row leading to this event, but are ordinarily 4, 8, or 12-faulters in the final phase.

Danni Dunn and Zocarla on their Badminton debut. Photo courtesy of Kit Houghton/Mitsubishi Motors.

Danni Dunn and Zocarla BLH

Danni and her top horse have grown up together, going from Young Riders to the CIC2* Europeans, and onward to two Badmintons. Unfortunately, neither of those were completions — they both fell in 2017, and Danni hit the deck solo this spring, but Pau may suit the fourteen-year-old Dutch mare better.

The pair have had some exciting results in the past — they were 7th in the under-25 CCI3* at Bramham in 2016 and 11th in the CCI3* at Blenheim, too. Zocarla wasn’t actually intended for the top — she was bought for her owner’s granddaughters to compete, and they did so until they headed to university, and then Danni took over the ride. They’ll be in the mid-30s in the dressage, and will hopefully notch up their first four-star clear thereafter.

Alice Dunsdon and Cool Investment

Surrey-based eventer and Master of Foxhounds Alice debuted her sixteen-year-old gelding at the level this summer, when he headed to Luhmühlen. He racked up 40 cross-country jumping penalties there, and we’ve not actually seen him at an international since, but he’s been consistent enough at three-star. They posted a 40.5 at Luhmühlen, but they can definitely dip below that, though Alice’s focus will be giving the horse a confident, fun run around the track on Saturday. She’s a gutsy, instinctive rider with plenty of experience at the top level, so she’ll be able to give him the support he needs.

William Fox-Pitt and Little Fire. Photo by Prime Photography for Tattersalls.

William Fox-Pitt and Little Fire

It’s nice to have Wills back at the top, and we’re excited to see what nine-year-old Aiden makes of his first four-star. The 17hh German-bred gelding was second in Tattersalls’ CCI3* this year, adding just two seconds to his 27.7 dressage, and he’s been clear in five of his six three-star runs, barring the very first. William won’t run him fast, though, unless he has to — other than that Tatts run, he tends to have well over 20 time penalties. That’s a classic William tactic, though — he prefers to save them for the main event. Aiden’s quite a good showjumper too, though he’s started having the odd rail since moving up to three-star last year, and for a young horse in his first four-star, a rail or two on the final day is perfectly understandable.

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When you drop your reins at the lake @bhorsetrials

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Will Furlong and Collien P 2

Talented young rider Will Furlong was under-25 national champion last year, when he won the CCIU253* at Bramham with this plucky eleven-year-old. He and Tinks then made their Badminton debut this spring, jumping a rather slow clear for 43rd place. Will’s been a serious stalwart of the junior and young rider teams, and won team and individual gold at the Young Rider Europeans in Strzegom with Livingstone in 2015.

He and the occasionally tricky Collien have only had two international runs since Badminton, withdrawing at the second horse inspection at Haras du Pin after a double-clear cross country and suffering elimination for a rider fall at Waregem. It’s not an ideal prep, but Will is a consummate young professional, and he’ll have a plan of action for his top horse. She’s a 30 or so scorer, and can jump a quick clear — but whether this week is her time to do so at this level remains to be seen.

Imogen Gloag and Brendonhill Doublet

Immi and her top horse, the seventeen-year-old Brendonhill Doublet, will be tackling their fourth four-star this week — they’ve jumped around Burghley twice and Badminton once, though they’ve only gone clear at last year’s Burghley. They had a twenty at Badminton this spring, and another in their only international since, Ballindenisk CIC3*, but Immi likely wants to fit in a run here before she thinks about scaling back the horse’s competitive career. They’ve had a fantastic partnership, spanning a Junior European Championship in 2013 and a clear in the Bramham under-25 CCI3* in 2016. They’ll be in the mid-to-high 30s in the first phase, and will work hard to add a second four-star clear to their record.

Flora Harris and Bayano at Barbury’s leg of the 2018 ERM. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Flora Harris and Bayano

Flora’s Dutch-bred superstar tackles his third four-star this week — he was clear at Luhmühlen last year for 21st place and picked up a twenty at Badminton this spring. But that’s the only blip in his last six internationals — otherwise, he’s been top ten every time. The high point of his career came in 2015, when he won Bramham’s CCI3*.

Barney is small, compact, catlike, and seriously, seriously gorgeous, with a beautiful jump. He’s had four years of experience at three-star now, and the time has come for another great result. He delivered a 26.8 at Badminton, though he tends more towards the high 20s, and the Pau course should suit his nippy athleticism. He was slow at Badminton — understandably, with a problem — and added 12.4 at Luhmühlen, so his speed on Saturday will decide whether he climbs the leaderboard, but then he should go clear on Sunday, while we lose all common sense and gaze at him with hearts in our eyes.

Nicola Hill and MGH Bingo Boy

Another pair of debutantes at four-star, Nicky and her ten-year-old gelding come here after a great clear around Blenheim CCI3*. MGH Bingo Boy was sourced from Padraig McCarthy’s Devon sportshorse empire, and Nicky has produced him from the one-star level, taking over the ride from Megan Cummings. They went to the CIC2* Europeans last year, finishing ninth, though they’ve had a couple of blips across the country this season, so we’ll see a steady run from them on Saturday. Their dressage can range from the mid-30s to the mid-40s, and they often have a rail, but it’s all part of the learning curve for a talented young horse like this one.

Sarah Holmes and Lowhill Clover

Sarah runs a livery yard on the Isle of Wight and, with top horse Lowhill Clover, she represented Britain at the 2015 CIC2* Europeans. They made the step up to three-star in 2016, with some mixed form — they’ve gone clear around tough tracks at Blenheim, Bramham, and Blair, but they’ve had a fall and a 20, too. Still, they’re friends of old, and will be here to enjoy their week and a new challenge, rather than to trouble the leaders. Their 2018 season has been a reasonably quiet run with just two international runs, the last of which was at Bramham, and they should post a mid-30s score. They’ll add time on Saturday and pull a couple of rails on Sunday, but everything they learn will serve them and Sarah’s pupils back on the island well.

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Here we go 😁 final event of the season! En route to the south of France 🇫🇷 – Les Etoiles Des Pau with Leo for our first CCI4* ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Can’t quite believe we have got him to this point and can’t thank everyone enough for contributing towards our partnership. The day I tried him around 3 years ago, I knew he had a huge amount of talent, and have spent the past 3 years trying to direction that talent! 😂 I really am lucky to ride him!! We head to Portsmouth for the over night ferry to Cean and then make our way down through France tomorrow 🇫🇷 Leo is lucky to have Ros Canters ‘Zenshera’ as a travel buddy for the trip 😄 Really looking forward to giving my first 4* a crack, a childhood dream to be competing at the top of the sport I love! Extremely lucky to have such supportive parents/owners/grooms/sponsors who have all helped me get here so, thank you all, and I hope me and Leo can do you all proud! 🇬🇧➡️🇫🇷

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Yasmin Ingham and Night Line

21-year-old Yasmin won the under-21 National Championship at Houghton CCI2* earlier this year, and she’s one of Britain’s most exciting young talents. Other riders have taken notice, too — when she moved up to horses after winning the Pony European Championships in 2013, Mary King gave her her retiring four-star mounts Imperial Cavalier and Fernhill Urco to learn the ropes on. Not a bad start for the Cheshire-based rider, who also finished fourth at the Young Rider Europeans this year with Rehy DJ and, this summer, added Pippa Funnell’s Sandman 7 to her string.

Night Line, or Leo, is a ten-year-old, and Yasmin has done all the hard work of producing him. They’ve done eleven internationals and gone clear in all of them, most notably taking tenth in Bramham’s under-25 CCI3*, so he’s a great horse for her to make the big move up with. They’ll probably produce a high-30s test, though Leo has proven he’s able to go much lower, and they won’t run for time — rather, they’ll run for a seriously educational clear. They’ll probably have a rail, but that won’t matter much to them — this week is about going clear, and we’re looking forward to cheering them on as they do so.

Tom Jackson and Carpa du Buisson Z

Tom’s ten-year-old mare makes her four-star debut this week, after finishing fourth at Bramham’s Under 25 CCI3* earlier in the season. She’s only been lightly campaigned this season, with two full international runs and one withdrawal after showjumping — that was at Waregem CICO3* in September. She had a 20 at Blenheim CCI3* last year, as well as a heaping helping of time, but that Bramham run was impressive — she only added 2.4 time penalties on Saturday. She tends towards a pole, and Tom probably won’t run her quite as competitively as his experienced partner Waltham Fiddlers Find, but she’s his next superstar, so don’t miss her.

Tom Jackson with Waltham Fiddlers Find. Photo by Alex Colquhoun.

Tom Jackson and Waltham Fiddlers Find

Fifteen-year-old Waltham Fiddlers Find has amassed plenty of experience with 25-year-old Tom, and they’ve jumped around Badminton and Pau previously. They were clear here last year, finishing 22nd, but Tom fell in the showjumping at Badminton this spring and was eliminated after jumping a clear on Saturday.

They’ve got their dressage mark down to the high-20s and should deliver that again this week, and after making light work of last year’s tough track, they should sail around on Saturday, though they’ll add around 20 time penalties. On Sunday, they’ll probably pull a rail, but they’ll be aiming for their first top 20 finish in a four-star this week, and for the pair, who have completed two Young Rider Europeans and a Junior Europeans together, this is a more than reasonable goal.

Sharon Polding and FindonFirecracker. Photo courtesy of Robert Polding.

Sharon Polding and Findonfirecracker

Sharon saw one of her dreams come true last season when she and her top horse Findonfirecracker were selected for the CIC2* Europeans in Belgium. For working mum Sharon, who is a global accounts manager at a telecommunications company, it was a huge moment. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite go to plan — they were eliminated across the country when she took a tumble.

Undeterred, they headed to Blenheim CCI3*, going clear for 27th place, and they’ve been clear at every international since. Dizzy doesn’t love the first phase, and will probably score around the 40 mark in this, her first four-star. But she’ll come into her own on Saturday, and we’d love to see a characteristic clear round for this pair. They’ll have a healthy smattering of time penalties, but then they should go clear on Sunday, helping Sharon realise another one of her lifelong dreams — a first four-star in the books.

Patricia Pytches and CES Ballycar Chip

Keen hunting follower Tricia and her twelve-year-old gelding make their four-star debut together this week. Tricia has produced the horse herself after buying him from Vere Phillips as a youngster, and he’s her only horse — together, they’ve tackled a plethora of events, as well as some of the country’s most formidable hedges when following hounds. They were eighth at Millstreet CCI3* this year and haven’t had a cross-country jumping fault since 2016, so they’ll be coming in full of confidence.

They’ll likely score in the high 30s, and they won’t be quick across the country, but they’ll enjoy this new challenge and tackle it with aplomb.

Joanna Rimmer and Isaac Newton

Both horse and rider make their step up to four-star this week, and they do so having gone clear in every international run they’ve had. Their high-30s dressage won’t challenge the leaders, but they’ll be aiming to add to their impressive streak on Saturday, though they’ll add some time across the country. They’ll probably take two rails with them on Sunday, but a first four-star is all about gaining experience and confidence, and a couple of rails won’t diminish their joy at finishing the competition.

Rachel Robinson and MJI Limmerick Bell

Rachel and Cid, who she produced from a foal, made their four-star debut at Luhmühlen this year, and what a week they had, finishing 29th in a flurry of emotion. Rachel’s father had been stationed there on national service, and this year marks the 29th anniversary of his passing — as she rode into the ring on the final day, which happened to be Fathers’ Day, it was clear he was watching out for her.

The story of Rachel and Cid has been an emotional one from the get-go — she bought the horse as a foal and took him to Bramham as a two-year-old for the young event horse showcase. A few riders, including a certain Kiwi silver fox, inquired as to whether the horse was for sale, but Rachel turned them down. Cid didn’t have quite the show they’d hoped for, though — he came second to last, and then, as they were leaving the event, he got his head stuck in the partition and panicked. Rachel thought she was about to lose her beloved youngster, but with quick thinking and some help, he was removed from the lorry. Incredibly, he had no marks on him — but for the permanent facial paralysis he suffered. Even now, he has no feeling in one side of his face.

Hard work, a whole lot of love, and some serious dedication followed as Rachel produced the horse through the levels alongside working as a Chartered Surveyor and running her own business, Asset Building Control. She might not be our winner this week — they’ll post a mid-30s dressage and may have a jumping penalty, as they did at Luhmühlen — but that’s not what they’re here for. This is a labour of love and a whole lot of fun for Rachel and Cid, and Rachel, who admits she cried “all the way to the Dutch border!” on the way home from her first four-star, will be the first to raise a glass and keep the spirit of the place alive as she enjoys her heart horse. And that, my friends, is what this sport is all about, is it not?

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Blenheim 2018 Collection

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Nicky Roncoroni and Watts Burn

Nicky and her thirteen-year-old Irish gelding jumped clear here in 2015 but withdrew at the final horse inspection, and they finally make their return for the horse’s second time at the level. He’s one hell of a cross country horse, and hasn’t had a jumping penalty since 2014, and he’s also a horse who’s happy to travel — he was fourth at Great Meadows last year. This might seem like an odd point to mention, but Pau takes some serious travelling, particularly for Nicky, who has relocated to Ireland and faced a two day journey to get here. A horse who can step off the lorry feeling fresh is a real assett. He’ll do a low-to-mid 30s dressage, and should go clear — last time, he added 14.8 time penalties, but he can go quicker than that. He tends to rub a solitary pole more often than not, but if the fates align, he could do a double clear for Nicky and potentially earn his career best result this week.

Pamero 4 and Gemma Tattersall at Belton. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Gemma Tattersall and Pamero 4

Produced by Laura Collett, Pamero 4 moved to Gemma’s yard in 2017. Laura’s last run on the horse was at his four-star debut here, but he fell on course. He’s had an exciting couple of seasons with Gemma, with eight international runs, six top ten finishes, a second at Barbury’s ERM, and a fantastic Badminton debut, where he finished 22nd after Gemma intentionally ran him slowly for his education. He had a seriously out-of-character 20 at his last international at Aachen, but he’s nonetheless one of the most exciting horses in the field. He’ll be a high-20s horse in the first phase — he earned a 27.4 at Badminton — and Gemma will likely pick up the pace this time around. He’s a reliable showjumper at CICs but has an occasional pole; at Badminton he took two so we may see one or two this weekend if he tires a bit.

Pamero is a funny character — he’s a seriously picky eater and does best living outside most of the time with Sooty, his ancient Shetland pony companion, who keeps him in his happy place and stops him from worrying. Gemma has pulled out all the stops when it comes to managing this tricky horse, and as a result, she knows him almost better than she knows himself, which is a great position to be in coming into a four-star.

Gemma Tattersall and Santiago Bay

The ten-year-old Santiago Bay is the latest in a string of seriously gutsy, cool mares in Gemma’s string, and she’s been vocal in her admiration of the horse, calling her one of the best cross-country horses she’s ever sat on. She cites her natural ability to read a question and her innate feel for a course as her greatest attributes, and it certainly shows in her results — she’s only ever had one cross-country jumping penalty in her international career, and it was her very first one-star. She’s also seriously quick, usually adding no more than six time penalties if she bothers to add them at all. Over the poles, she’s usually quick and clear, but every couple of runs she tips one, just to keep us all on our toes.

A minor injury put her on the sidelines for 2017, but she was back with a bang at Bramham, finishing 8th in the CCI3*. She’s not hugely experienced yet, but this is undoubtedly a superstar for the future — she could go a long way towards earning that title this weekend, and will be one to watch on Saturday.

Be Touchable and Izzy Taylor win Bramham’s CIC3*. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Izzy Taylor and Be Touchable

Be Touchable is the most likely of Izzy’s three rides to break into the upper echelons of the leaderboard — he’s a debutante at the level, but the 16hh twelve-year-old has been seriously impressive at three-star. He’s won four of his last eight internationals, and been second or third in the rest, which takes us back to the middle of the 2016 season. Interestingly, none of those were CCIs. He won Blenheim ERM last season and took the CIC at Bramham this year, though he’s been lightly campaigned, and his last international was at Gatcombe’s British Open Championship this August. He finished second but as British champ.

Owner Sophie Dodds produced the horse to one-star and they contested their first Intermediate together in 2015. After that, she knew she had an awful lot of horse on her hands, and she approached Izzy to see if she’d like to take the ride.

This is a mid-20s horse, but a consummate showman — he may pull out some extra pizazz in the main arena here, and could drop to the low 20s. He’s super fast across the country at CIC3*, so if he doesn’t tire on this longer course he could speed up to the top of the leaderboard. He’s also a serious jumper and has only had two rails in the last two years. A dark horse purely by dint of being a debutante — but don’t take your eyes off him this week.

Izzy Taylor and Call Me Maggie May. Photo by Niamh Flynn/Tattersalls.

Izzy Taylor and Call Me Maggie May

Eleven-year-old Dutch-bred mare Maggie is making her four-star debut this week, coming in off a win at Tattersalls CCI3* earlier in the season. She went to Jardy CIC3* after that but picked up a 50 for missing a flag, and she’s had some spotty form at three-star — in her only other CCI3*, at Boekelo, she had a twenty, and she’s picked them up elsewhere, too. But she can be very quick — she was third at Chatsworth CIC3*, where it’s notoriously tough to make the time, and that Tatts win was an FOD. Izzy is likely testing the waters this week ahead of a serious campaign next year. She’ll get a 30 or so dressage and then it’ll all come down to cross country.

Izzy Taylor and Frog Rock at Pau. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Izzy Taylor and Frog Rock

Frog Rock came here last year for his first four-star with Izzy, but was one of the many to fall victim to the seriously tough early third of the course, and he was retired on course. But it wasn’t actually the sixteen-year-old’s first four-star in his career — he was campaigned until 2016 by Annabel Wigley, who competed him in her native New Zealand and then brought him to Europe. Together, they had four four-star runs, but only completed one — they were 33rd in 2013 with a twenty on cross-country.

He’s an interesting horse for ultra-competitive Izzy, and hasn’t actually run an international since Pau last year. He scored a 33.6 then, which is about what we expect from him again, though Izzy will have been working hard with him through the year. In his nine internationals with Izzy, he’s managed three clears. This, we expect, is a schooling exercise rather than a competitive run, as it were, for the horse.

Oliver Townend (GBR) and Cillnabradden Evo. Photo courtesy of Equestrian Festival Baborówko.

Oliver Townend and Cillnabradden Evo

In a surprise twist, Oliver Townend brings forward his CIC3* specialist Gary for a first trip around a four-star at Pau. Cillnabradden Evo has been in Oliver’s string since late 2015 — he took the horse on after Andrew Nicholson’s major injury at Gatcombe Park. He hasn’t done a CCI since Saumur in 2016, where he finished fifth, but has been a serious campaigner around CICs, contesting five Event Rider Masters legs and coming 1st or 2nd in seven of his last eleven internationals. The twelve-year-old Irish gelding won Baborowko CIC3* earlier this year after finishing second at Wiesbaden ERM, and he was second at Blair’s ERM finale, too.

He’s a serious low-to-mid 20s dressage horse, although he pulled an incredible 19 out of the bag at Gatcombe’s British Open Championships. It’s not been a happy hunting ground for the horse, though, and this was no exception — he retired on course. He was withdrawn before cross country at Barbury’s ERM after pulling an exceptionally uncharacteristic five poles — the horse is an out-and-out showjumper normally and hadn’t had a pole since 2014, but since then he’s had three runs and not a single showjumping clear. He also had a 20 at Arville over a tough course, which was a real surprise.

It’s anyone’s guess how he’ll take to four-star — we’ve seen him at CIC3* for so long that it’s easy to lump him in as a specialist. But Pau isn’t like the other four-stars — it’s twistier and turnier and almost like a CIC3* on steroids, so it might be made for this horse. Expect a very, very competitive first-phase score — almost certainly top ten — and potentially one of the quickest rounds of the day, if Gary rises to the occasion. Sunday will be interesting — will we see ‘old’ Gary out to play? If we do, this one could just run away with the win.

Sarah Way and Dassett Cooley Dun

Guys, we’ve got something really special for you this time. It’s tiny, it’s golden, it’s what your childhood dreams were made of – and Dassett Cooley Dun is ready to go and show Pau who’s boss, in that delightful way that only small and golden things can. Mouse is twelve years old and contesting his first four-star this week, using some impressive three-star form to his advantage in tackling the biggest test of his life.

He’ll probably score in the low 40s, so won’t challenge the leaders, but he’s quick and ordinarily clear at three-star, barring a blip at Blenheim’s CIC3* in 2015, so he’ll be really exciting to watch. Of course, a four-star track is a big ask for a small pony, but Napoleon managed to conquer most of Europe at one point or another, and if we’ve learned anything, it’s that you should never doubt a short man. He usually has a pole or two, but let’s be real — we’re all here to watch the pony go cross country.

Oh, Mouse has a Facebook fan page, too – it’s well worth a follow.

Alex Whewall and Chakiris Star at Pau. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Alex Whewall and Chakiris Star

Louis and Alex made their four-star debut here last year, delivering one of the rare and coveted clear rounds across the country to finish 19th. They were eliminated for a rider fall at Badminton this spring, so former Bridging the Gap scholarship winner Alex will return to Pau hoping to build his confidence at the level over a course he knows is well within his capabilities. They delivered a 29.6 at Badminton and should do roughly the same here, though they can sneak up into the low 30s occasionally, too. A clear with fewer time penalties than last year — 16.4, and then 10 on Sunday — will be the goal, and another top-20 finish is well within their grasp.

Interestingly, Louis was never intended for eventing — he was bought as a four-year-old to do a bit of dressage with owner Lisa Coward. Alex took over in 2014 and they enjoyed a three-year climb to the top. After their elimination at Badminton, they retired at Barbury, but they finished 8th at the CICO3* at Millstreet and went clear at Waregem CICO3* last month, so it looks like their confidence has been restored.

IRELAND

Ireland’s Cathal Daniels and Sammy Davis Junior. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Cathal Daniels and Sammy Davis Junior

At just 21, Cathal might be young, but he’s already notched up some serious experience — he made his four-star debut here in 2016 on Rioghan Rua, finishing twelfth, and he’s completed Badminton, finishing 33rd. He was seventh at Luhmühlen this year in what was probably its toughest iteration yet, and, of course, he was part of Ireland’s silver medal-winning team at the WEG this summer.

Nine-year-old Sammy is a four-star first-timer, but he’s got an impressive form line so far. He finished 13th in the prestigious eight- and nine-year-old CIC3* at Blenheim last year after helping Cathal to fourth place individually at the Young Rider European Championships. He had a wobbly early-season run in Belton’s CIC3* at the start of this season — though the inclement weather early on this year saw many good horses falter there from lack of match practice — and then won a CIC3* at Chatsworth the following month. Cathal hit the deck in the CCI3* at Bramham, but they were second at Mallow’s CIC3* and won Camphire CCI3* in July at their last international run. He’s a high-20s horse at three-star and should deliver something around the 30 mark this week, if the atmosphere doesn’t get to him, and he’s a quick, clean cross-country horse, though young and facing the toughest challenge of his career thus far. He’s prone to a rail on the final day.

Josephy Murphy and Fernhill Frankie

The first of Joseph’s Frankies – ‘Big Frankie’, to wit – this weekend is a four-star debutante, who reroutes to Pau after failing to make it past the first horse inspection at Burghley. Originally produced by fellow Irish rider Louise Bloomer, Frankie made the move up to three-star at the end of 2015, but he’s not hugely experienced at the top levels — he’s managed top ten finishes at Ballindenisk CCI3* and Mallow CIC3*, but he’s only had one full international run this year. Before the Burghley non-starter, he was withdrawn before cross-country at both Tattersalls and Camphire CIC3*. He ran at Bramham CCI3*, finishing 19th after adding two rails to his dressage score of 35.6.

Former amateur jockey Joseph’s a fast rider, but he’s also a reasonable and experienced one, and he won’t push the horse harder than he needs to this week. The goal will almost certainly be to light the four-star fire in Frankie’s belly, whether that’s by letting him gain confidence incrementally around the course or by picking up the pace and getting his blood up. A high-30s dressage, a bit of a question mark across the country simply due to lack of match practice, and a tendency to have a pole will stop them being competitive, but the eleven-year-old is one for the future.

Joseph Murphy and Sportsfield Othello

Also called Franky, the super-experienced Sportsfield Othello is seventeen now, but shows no sign of slowing down — this will be his third four-star of 2018, after finishing 13th at Badminton in the spring and 22nd at Burghley. He then had a little break before a nip around Little Downham’s Advanced class a couple of weeks ago, which he won easily.

His dressage is what lets him down — he’s a clear machine, with just a handful of cross-country jumping penalties on his 51-strong international record, and though he’s less than 50% blood and a trick horse to get fit, his natural cruising speed is fast — but they’re unlikely to score below 35 on the first day. Still, they’re perennial climbers, and last year proved that Pau is no longer a soft option four-star. A fast clear will be rewarded on the leaderboard, and then they’ll just have to try to avoid their customary two rails on Sunday to protect their hard work.

Little Franky, who’s probably feeling a bit emasculated by his rubbish nickname, is an out-and-out athlete, but when he gets four-star fit he can be quite aggressive in his stable, so Joseph has started using an interesting innovation to keep him happy. Franky’s gimp mask — not its official name, obviously — was developed to alter the breeding season for Thoroughbred mares, used blue LEDs to simulate longer daylight hours, and Joseph started using it prior to Burghley to stabilise his top horse. It seems to have worked, though it looks a bit fruity, all things considered.

(Heads up — Joseph will be in Pennsylvania teaching a cross country clinic at Boyd Martin’s Windurra USA on Nov. 5-7. There are still a few slots left! Sign up on Event Clinics.)

JAPAN

Ryuzo Kitajima and Just Chocolate. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Ryuzo Kitajima and Just Chocolate

The Japanese contingent can no longer be underestimated at a major event — they’ve been putting in some serious work over the last few years to become serious contenders on the world stage, and this week, they bring forward two exciting combinations.

The first of those is Ryuzo and his Rio mount Just Chocolate, a sixteen-year-old gelding who was competed to three-star in his native New Zealand before Ryuzo took the reins in early 2014. They got to know one another at a few one-stars in Japan, and then they relocated to the UK to begin their Olympic campaign. It worked, and they headed off to Rio, but unfortunately withdrew at the second horse inspection.

This is their first non-championship four-star, and it’s unlikely that Ryuzo will aim the horse at a Tokyo 2020 campaign, at which he’d be eighteen. But Tokyo is always the ultimate aim for the Japanese riders, who’ll be hoping to peak at their home Olympics, so don’t expect a mosey around the park from this pair. Their mid-30s dressage will be a bit off the pace to begin with, and they’ll need to work hard on the cross-country course — they’ve had plenty of clear rounds at CIC3*, but their three-day form is peppered with the odd 20. They’re seriously reliable showjumpers, though, so once they’ve finished the tough bit on Saturday, they can breathe a bit easier and boost their placings by a few spots on Sunday.

Toshiyuki Tanaka and Kelecyn Pirate

Toshiyuki’s fourteen-year-old mare was produced in Japan to CIC1* by Keiichirou Nagamatsu, and Toshi took the ride in 2015, relocating the horse to the UK and debuting her at Chatsworth CIC1*, where she made a promising first impression, finishing fourth.

She had a reasonably quiet season, moving up to two-star and completing just two events at the level before levelling up to three-star in 2016. Her best result at the level was at Chatsworth CIC3* last year, where she finished eighth, proving once again that she thrives over that sort of track: technical, tiring, and tough on time. Pau should suit her well, but it’s her first time at the level, so Toshi may not push her for the minute markers, choosing instead to give her an educational run. That said, she’s not that young for a debutante, and the Japanese are always looking ahead to major championships as they continue their impressive climb up the rankings of eventing nations, so consider this pair a dark horse and certainly a top-20 contender.

NEW ZEALAND

Jesse Campbell and Cleveland. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Jesse Campbell and Cleveland

It’s a four-star debut for 17hh hunk Cleveland, though not for Jesse. Cleveland has had some very promising results over his three seasons at three-star, including fifth at both Hartpury CIC3* and Millstreet CCI3* (2016) and fourth at Barbury CIC3* and Camphire CCI3* (2018). They’re getting better and better in the first phase, at which Jesse excels, and they’ll likely score in the high 20s, though they could go mid-20s or lower if the wind blows the right way. Their records indicate that the horse hasn’t been run for the time particularly often but his double-clear cross country at Camphire proves that he’s certainly capable of picking up the pace when needed. They’re likely to knock a rail on Sunday, but Jesse won’t be here to try to win this time — the horse had a disappointing 2017, with cross-country jumping penalties at his three international runs, so this week will be about establishing the horse’s education and confidence as he makes the big step up.

Andrew Daines and Spring Panorama

Charming and irreverent Andy Daines is an interviewer’s dream, and he came over to the UK in the spring to contest his first Badminton. It didn’t go quite to plan — he and ‘Peter Perfect’ had a tumble on course late on the course.

But they’ve had some exciting results in the past, including two tenth-place finishes at Adelaide CCI4*, and Andy’s been based with William Fox-Pitt while he’s been in the UK, which will have offered him plenty of new additions to his training toolkit.

Andy came across Peter while he was working for Tim and Jonelle Price about seven years ago, but the sales horse didn’t initially catch his eye — he had his heart set on a grey instead. But Jonelle insisted that he ride the rangy bay, and the pair clicked immediately. Fellow Kiwi Caroline Powell had also taken a liking to him, though, and it was only when the vetting revealed a minor wind problem that the opportunity arose for Andy to purchase the horse who would become his top-level partner. They’ll be great fun to watch this week, and we’ll be rooting for Andy to add another clear round at a CCI4* to his resume — and also to progress in his search for a British husband, so he can stay in the UK forever.

Caroline Powell and Spice Sensation

Caroline’s 15.3hh mare heads to Pau for the second time — she last competed here in 2016, when she jumped clear to finish 26th. The following year she headed to Burghley, but she didn’t fare quite so well there, notching up twenty penalties and finishing 29th. She’s had mixed results this year — she was retired on course at her early-season CIC3* at Belton, and then eliminated for three refusals at Chatsworth CIC3* the following month. She went clear at Burgham CIC3* in July, finishing 47th after a 38.1 dressage, 15 showjumping penalties and 14.8 cross country time penalties. She’s since had three good national runs, which will have built up her confidence, and her diminutive stature, paired with Caroline’s experience and determination, and that bit of course form from 2016 should serve them in good enough stead. If they do have problems, they’ll likely be of the 20 penalties rather than the Big E variety.

Tim Price and Ascona M. Photo by Libby Law.

Tim Price and Ascona M

The patriarchal side of eventing’s First Family takes to the four-star stage one last time in 2018, this time riding debutante Ascona M. (Can we call Tim the Godfather? Big Daddy Price? We’ll work on this.) The ten-year-old mare was formerly piloted by Jonelle (the Godmother sounds way less cool, somehow – we’ll stick with her unofficial title of Khaleesi of the Great Grass Arena), but Tim took the ride in 2017 while she was busy brewing up baby Otis. Some serious negotiation obviously ensued because Jonelle, who had been very firm about the fact that her horses would all go back to her, relented and let Tim keep the ride on this talented up-and-comer, known at home as Ava.

Together, they’ve clocked up some pretty exciting results – they were third in last year’s Nations Cup at Tattersalls, which was only the horse’s second three-star, and they won on her CCI3* debut at Haras du Pin later that season. They wrapped their season with second place at Blenheim’s ERM leg – incidentally, all three podium finishers are entered for Pau – and this season, they’ve been 10th at Barbury’s ERM, third in the CCI3* at Camphire, and, after a short break, they’ve clocked up (admittedly slightly mystifying) steady clears in a one-star at Lignieres and two Open Intermediate runs. Some horses thrive on these slow, confidence-boosting runs before a major event – and if this season has proven anything, it’s that Tim and Jonelle really do know their horses.

Ava is a solid 20s scorer, and her marks have been creeping downward this year. On her day, she’ll lay down a score around the 27 mark, which will put her in a positive place early on. Then? Well, she’s never had a cross country jumping penalty in her 14-strong international career, in which she boasts a 100% completion rate, but Pau is a tricky, twisty track, and if this year’s course is anything like last year’s, it’s every man, woman, and horse for themselves out there. She’s often run slowly, but has proven she can make the time, usually finishing in the top three if she does. Her showjumping isn’t hugely reliable, and she’ll probably have a pole or two, but at this point in the season we’re only really saying that because every time we do, the Prices prove us spectacularly wrong.

SPAIN

Gonzalo Blasco Botin and Sij Veux d’Autize

This twelve-year-old gelding was Gonzalo’s WEG mount, but he was withdrawn before cross country. He’s had a bit of a chequered record, all things considered — he made his four-star debut here last year and was eliminated for accumulated refusals across the country. He’s had a couple of eliminations elsewhere, sometimes for cross-country problems and once at a second horse inspection, but actually, when he goes clear he’s super fast, so he could be a dark horse climber, though not into the upper echelons of the leaderboard. His dressage will likely be mid-to-high 30s, and he hasn’t had a clear showjumping round since 2015 — he’ll usually have a smattering of poles, but he’s had as many as seven before.

USA

Hallie Coon and Celien finish best of the Americans at Houghton CICO3* Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Hallie Coon and Celien

It’s a four-star debut for 23-year-old Hallie and the Dutch mare, known at home as Cece, that she bought sight unseen from a grainy video clip seven years ago. Hallie and Cece journeyed over to the UK this spring on the Karen Stives Grant, helping a three-woman Team USA to silver at Houghton Hall’s Nations Cup, despite an impressive thunderstorm breaking just as she left the start box. They were best of the Americans there too, finishing in 15TH place after adding nothing to their dressage score of 34.7.

Then, they went to Bramham’s under-25 CCI3*, where they jumped a stonking clear around a seriously beefy cross country course and looked in fantastic shape going into the final day. Then, Cece did The Horse Thing and brewed up her first ever abscess overnight. Their competition ended there.

Hallie was not to be deterred. Sure, the grant was meant to culminate in a run at Bramham, but why shouldn’t she try to go one better? She did some qualification calculating, made a few calls, and moved herself first to Richard Sheane’s Cooley enterprise in Ireland, from which she contested the Millstreet Nations Cup, and latterly to Liz Halliday-Sharp’s Sussex base.

She and Cece finished ninth in their prep run at Little Downham Advanced, an end-of-season national event designed to prepare horses and riders for their autumn three-days, and built to maximum dimensions at several crucial junctures. Cece’s dressage has improved since last season, but it’s unlikely to put them at the head of the pack after the first phase — they’ll sit comfortably in the middle on a low-30s mark, which, with the pressure off, is exactly where a first-timer on a reliable cross-country horse wants to be. Cece has only had one cross country jumping fault in the last year and a half — that was at Millstreet, where she encountered her very first Irish Bank and had a momentary brain fart. They can be quick, as they proved at Houghton, but speed won’t be top priority as they navigate their way around Michelet’s twisty track. On the final day, they’re likely to topple a rail — but they’ve got every chance of adding a confident clear cross country round to their record here, catapulting them into the big leagues and an exciting few years to come.

Phillip Dutton and I’m Sew Ready. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Phillip Dutton and I’m Sew Ready

John and Kristine Norton’s fourteen-year-old Dutch-bred gelding has been a bit of a star for Phillip, with a 10th place finish in his four-star debut at Kentucky last year and 13th this spring. He won his prep run for Pau at the inaugural Stable View CIC3* last month, and he’s been in the top ten in 18 of his 29 international competitions. He’s starting to gain some team experience, too: he was third individually as part of the winning US team at the Great Meadows Nations Cup in 2017, and was reserve for the WEG this year.

‘Jackson’ averages around the 30 mark in the first phase, but his personal best of 26.4 at the Fork in April proved that he’s capable of dipping below that and being seriously competitive between the boards. He’s a quick and pretty reliable cross-country horse, and he usually only has one rail — if that — on the final day, so he’s likely to deliver a great result for the US contingent this week.

Boyd Martin and Steady Eddie at Burghley 2017. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Boyd Martin and Steady Eddie

Boyd’s fifteen-year-old gelding has had four trips around four-star competitions so far, and his best result came at Burghley in 2017, when he finished 10th, adding just two time penalties to his 32 dressage. Bred in New Zealand but sourced from the Australian outback, the off-the-track Thoroughbred was meant to head to Burghley again last month, but Boyd’s WEG preparations and complications with his newborn son, Leo, made the trip impossible. Instead, they come to Pau — probably the four-star course most diametrically opposed to Burghley’s long, galloping avenues and enormous, bold timber fences.

But Boyd’s no idiot when it comes to cross country riding — he knows his horses, and he’s gutsy and forward-thinking, so he’ll likely give Eddie a quick and positive ride around Michelet’s twisty track. Eddie is tough as nails and has gumption to spare, having started his life as a seriously well-used racehorse, and William Fox-Pitt even borrowed the gelding to ride at the Wellington Eventing Showcase. He’s had a couple of 20s at CCIs recently — both Bromont CCI3* and Kentucky didn’t go the horse’s way, but he was fourth at Aiken’s CIC3* last month, which should serve as a confidence-boosting prep.

Kim Severson and Cooley Cross Border. Photo by Libby Law Photography.

Kim Severson and Cooley Cross Border

‘Crossy’ is a serious talent — after all, he took victory in Blenheim’s CCI3* last year, and that’s certainly one of the toughest competitions of the level in the world. But it was a bit of a mission to get him to that point — the Irish Sport Horse gelding isn’t the easiest to get fit, and at his four-star debut at Kentucky in 2017 he was retired on course after he simply ran out of go. Kim rerouted to Tattersalls CCI3* in Ireland the following month, where she had the same result, and then moved the horse to Richard Sheane’s Cooley enterprise. There, Richard, who sourced the horse as a youngster, helped her to revolutionize the eleven-year-old’s fitness regime, and Kim committed to a long summer of flying back and forth to compete the horse. The results were immediate and remarkable: they were third in a CIC2* at Mallow a month later, and then fifth in the CIC3* at Camphire and second at Millstreet CIC3* before that Blenheim victory.

Their 2018 campaign didn’t start particularly well — they were eliminated for a horse fall across the country at Carolina CIC3* after delivering an incredible 20.8 dressage, but they were second at the Tryon test event a couple of weeks later. A second attempt at Kentucky proved disappointing, with 20 penalties across the country, but their final international run before Pau, at Bromont CIC3* in August, resulted in a fifth-place finish. These two are overdue a good clear round at the top level, and it could be that Pau, which is a very different track to Kentucky, is the course that suits the horse.

ZIMBABWE

Millie Kruger and Biarritz II show off a bit of patriotism at Blenheim. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Camilla Kruger and Biarritz II

A clear round at Rio put the then relatively inexperienced Biarritz on the map. Oh, and the fact that he and rider Millie are Zimbabwe’s first Olympic equestrian athletes helps, too. 12-year-old ‘Sam’ has since added another four-star to his record — that was Luhmühlen last year, but unfortunately Millie opted to retire on course. This season, he jumped slow clears at Chatsworth ERM and Bramham CCI3*, but clocked up twenty penalties last month at Blenheim CCI3*. His record is a bit spotty — he’s notched up clears around some seriously tough tracks, but every couple of international runs he has an issue in the definitive phase. Still, he got that out of the way at Blenheim, and it’ll be interesting to see how he takes to the unique twistiness of Pau — perhaps it’ll suit him and we’ll see his best performance yet. Millie has been working hard on his first phase performance, so a sub-30 score is well within their capabilities — but once they get through Saturday, they’ll need to pick up the pace. They have a habit of picking up time penalties in the showjumping.

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