The shock withdrawal of Michael Jung and La Biosthetique Sam FBW from Pau has opened the door for the possibility of a new number one in the FEI World Rankings, a title held by Jung for the past two years.
“I was riding Sam in the morning and I was really motivated – he felt very nice, very soft and relaxed, and then he was in the stables for two hours and I don’t know what happened – my groom was with him the whole time but when we took him out of the box he was really stiff,” explains Michael.
“So I got on and went walking with him, and he felt really not good, so for me it was a good moment to say, ‘I’m not going to try’, because there’s also the cross country. I really feel there’s some problem, but I don’t know what can happen in such a short time. Maybe it was too cold for him in the stable – we’ve never had this problem so at the moment I don’t know what’s happening.”
A team of veterinarians and physios have since been examining Sam to try to pinpoint the problem and get him back on track. We wish Sam a speedy recovery and look forward to seeing the dynamic duo out and about next season: with a big grin, Michael tells me we will see him at Badminton.
The withdrawal throws the door wide open for two outliers, each with two horses in the field, to overtake Michael in the world rankings. Now, the competitive fires at Pau aren’t just burning for a CCI4* victory: they’re burning for the chance to take the top spot on the FEI leaderboard, too.
Mark Todd has picked up many accolades in his storied career, but he hasn’t been World Number One since coming out of retirement. Now, however, he stands a chance. Sitting in third on a score of 40.2 with NZB Campino and equal fifth on 40.4 with Kiltubrid Rhapsody, he’s given himself a seriously competitive starting point.
Fellow Kiwi Andrew Nicholson earned himself the number one ranking in 2013, and although he sits a fair bit lower on the leaderboard after dressage – 11th and 42.1 with Qwanza and 31st and 49.4 with Jet Set – he’s a force to be reckoned with on cross country and will have his eyes on a serious climb after the second phase.
Between the two, it’s a true match race, and EquiRatings took an in-depth look at which scenarios can lead to Andrew or Mark taking over the World Number One position. Andrew can pass Michael by finishing fifth or better with one horse, but if Mark delivers on both of his horses, both have to notch points on both horses to be in contention for the title. Click here to read more on the race for World Number One.
The lead was snatched early in the day by Australia’s Shane Rose and CP Qualified, who posted a 38.7 despite adding two penalties for going off course in the canter work. They sit a full point ahead of second-placed Ros Canter and Zenshera, but the margins are tight throughout the top ten: less than four points separate Shane from tenth-placed Sammi Birch, and third through eighth have just 0.4 points between them.
Last year’s winner Maxime Livio put in a competitive effort, scoring 40.2 to sit equal third with Opium de Verrieres in a test which looked set to rival the lead, trending in the mid-30s for the first half.
Belgium’s Karin Donckers and Fletcha Van’t Verahof slipped into seventh place on 40.5. The pair finished 14th here last year, adding 13.2 time penalties in the second phase, but their 2017 season has been up and down, with a win in the CCI3* at Strzegom and 17th in the European Championships, but retirement at Badminton and elimination in the Nations Cup at Aachen. If they can work in unison across the tricky, technical track they could move into the top placings tomorrow.
On the comeback trail, Sam Griffiths laid down a nice test with the experienced Paulank Brockagh to score 42.8 and lie 12th overnight. Jonty Evans and Cooley Rorkes Drift looked ready to leave the start box already, performing an expressive, fluid test for 43.2 and 16th.
Boyd Martin sits in 28th place overnight with Crackerjack. Their score of 48 is just 0.3 higher than their four star personal best, which was earned here last year. If they can repeat last year’s cross country performance, they could find themselves in a similarly competitive position at the end of the day tomorrow.
“He’s a funny horse – he can get quite excited, but you’ve also got to warm him up and leave enough in the tank, so it’s a very fine balance,” explains Boyd. “I’ve got to work out how much to warm him up and still have enough expression there. He’s seasoned, but we’ve still got a mission ahead of us. It’s a very tough course, but he’s a trier.”
Cross country kicks off tomorrow at 12.45 local time/6.45am EST, and can be followed along on the Pau livestream. We’ll be bringing you a full course preview later on this afternoon so you can get to grips with the technical, twisty course.
Times are as follows:
- Buck Davidson and Copper Beach (21st place): 1.41pm local time/7.41am EST
- Joe Meyer and Clip Clop (51st place): 1.48pm local time/7.48am EST
- Allie Knowles and Sound Prospect (33rd place): 2.26pm local time/8.26am EST
- Boyd Martin and Crackerjack (28th place): 3.12pm local time/9.12am EST