William Fox-Pitt and Neuf Des Coeurs kicked us off here on the first day of dressage at Les Etoiles de Pau, and they set the early benchmark, scoring 43.2 to hold the early lead over Andreas Dibowski and FRH Fantasia. After retiring Neuf Des Coeurs, a 12-year-old French gelding, on cross country at Burghley when he pulled a shoe early on the course, William re-routed here to Pau with the horse, who placed third in the Luhmühlen CCI3* earlier this year. The horse, who goes by the awesome barn name Smurf, scored a 47.7 at Luhmühlen, so I imagine William is quite pleased with his scored here today.
Andreas and FRH Fantasia, a 12-year-old Hanoverian mare, are holding second place in the early going on 45.7. I’ve never seen this mare before, and I thought this was a consistent, workmanlike test. Andreas is quite a stylish rider in the dressage, and he also has a second ride here at Pau tomorrow with FRH Butts Leon, the horse Thai eventer Nina Ligon rode in the London Olympics last year. Kiwi rider Tim Price and Ringwood Sky Boy, a 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding, are sitting in third place on a score of 46.7. This horse is another one I’ve never seen before, and he’s a very nice mover, especially at the trot.
Interestingly, the top three scores thus far all came in the first group of tests from this morning. There’s one more score in the 40s thus far in the early going, with Kai Ruder and Leprince Des Bois sitting in fourth place on a score of 47.5. We saw the first riders in the North American contingent this morning, as Peter Barry and Kilrodan Abbott were first out for Canada, scoring 63.7 for 16th place. Eddie lost the counter canter in the second loop of his serpentine, and he also struggled a bit in his changes, but Peter was all smiles after his test, and he has a great partnership with this horse.
Kathryn Robinson and Let It Bee, the next pair out for Canada, had a good test that was unfortunately marred when the horse’s tongue flopped out of his mouth during the canter work, which crushed all of their scores at that gait for a score of 60.2. Based in the UK, Kathryn has been competing this horse at the Advanced level for three seasons, and they were most recently 11th in the CIC3* at Blair Castle. They were also 12th in the Tattersalls CIC3* and have enjoyed many good placings at this level. Kate and I will definitely catch up with Kathryn this weekend for a proper introduction, so stay tuned for that.
Bettina Hoy deserves two thumbs up for getting through her test with Lanfranco TSF, who started having problems with keeping his cool in the dressage at Luhmühlen, where he scored an 80.8 in the dressage. At Burghley, Bettina got as far as the rein back in her dressage test before the horse started rearing and she retired. He reared again today during the rein back, but Bettina pushed through for a score of 64.3. Tom McEwen also had a nice test with Dry Old Party for his personal best score at a CCI4*, improving on his score from Badminton earlier this year to sit in fifth place provisionally on a score of 51.3.
We’re on the lunch break now here at Pau, and we have three more riders to go today for North America. Shandiss McDonald and Rockfield Grant Juan are in the first group to go after the break at 2:16 p.m. local time (8:16 a.m. EST). Then Clark Montgomery and Universe will be the first pair out for Team USA at 3:30 p.m. local time (9:30 a.m. EST), with Hannah Sue Burnett and Harbour Pilot going in the final group of the day at 4:08 p.m. local time (10:08 a.m. EST). We still have many more exciting rides to come today, including Rolex winners Andrew Nicholson and Quimbo. Stay tuned!