30 and Flirty and Thriving: The 2020 Pau Form Guide

Returning winners Tom McEwen and Toledo de Kerser take Pau in 2019. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

We’re sure if you read between the lines enough there’s a bit somewhere in The Killers’ Mr Brightside (a wholly overrated bop at this point, let’s be honest) about coming out your cave and doing just FINE because he’s packing his suitcase and heading to an actual CCI5* (?!) after what feels like YEARS of lockdown. Or at least, that’s how the whole thing goes the B-side version of our dream, anyway.

All silliness aside (ha! Don’t be ridiculous), it’s tummy-churningly exciting to think that a competition of this magnitude is able to run in this strange year. Even better? It’s the thirtieth anniversary of this very Frenchest of events, and even better than that, it’s delivering us an entry list that makes us a bit teary with joy.

So prepare for a week of baguette-and-wine-fuelled intensity, of twists and turns, of dark horses and big surprises, and of forgetting, for just a moment, that the world is burning all around us. Welcome to Les 5 Etoiles de Pau: the only five-star of 2020.

As always, you’ll find EN on site through the week dispensing all the news you need to know — but first of all, dive into the bumper form guide, which gives you the run-down of every single competitor in the field. You’ll find them all in alphabetical order by country.

Stay safe out there, readers, and Go Eventing.

AUSTRALIA

Chris Burton and Graf Liberty at Badminton. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Chris Burton and Graf Liberty

Fifteen-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Limmerick x Lisheen Star, by Cavalier Royale). Owned by Jill Martin and David Webster.

It’s a testament to the extraordinary strength of Burto’s string of horses that we’re almost disappointed to see Graf Liberty replace original entry Quality Purdey. But that’s no reflection on Graf Liberty’s considerable abilities — it’s simply that Purdey, who finished a close second here last year, was set to be one of the horses who’d make this competition so searingly exciting.

Replacement ride Graf is pretty impressive too, though, despite not running in an international since August 2019: he’s won here at Pau, though in the old CCI3*-S class, not the five-star, and won at CCI4*-S at Hartpury and Blair Castle ERM. This will be his fourth five-star outing — he finished fourth at Luhmühlen in 2015, fourth at Badminton last year, and also jumped around the latter event for a top twenty in 2017.

He’s a real cross-country machine of a horse, without an international time penalty to his name since mid-2018 — and even that was only two seconds over the optimum. This will help him climb back into serious contention after his dressage, which will put him in the high-20s — just out of touch in this very, very strong field. Sunday could send it all back down the hatch, though, if the results are tightly packed — he’s almost certain to have a rail, though winter trips to Spain to showjump should mean the old two-rail rounds are in the past. Two OI runs in 2020 wouldn’t necessarily be the ideal prep for many combinations, but this old partnership is plenty experienced — and Graf Liberty, who’s had intermittent time out, seems to benefit from a less-is-more approach.

Isabel English and Feldale Mouse. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Isabel English and Feldale Mouse

Eighteen-year-old Connemara x Thoroughbred gelding (Domo Cavallo Praize x Zoe, by Final Straw). Owned by Sarah English.

I met Isabel English for the first time in a crowded bar last year, where several hundred sweaty teenagers were Vossy Bopping around us and a framed photo of Trevor Breen collected airborne condensation in the corner. (Remember nights like that? What a thrill.) I was working on the press team for a major showjumping competition, which meant that any eventer I saw – even if I didn’t actually know them – was suddenly my very favourite person. Three or four or eight gin-and-tonics down, I bellowed my love for Feldale Mouse at her.

“HE…IS THE BEST…PONY…AND I LOVE HIM,” I dispensed, my eloquence and erudite nature once again elevating me above the commoners in the room. “HE. IS. SO. SMALL. SO. COOL.”

Isabel, for her part, took it with aplomb, partly because she is much cooler than I am, and partly because she spent a few years training with Michi Jung, so she’s absolutely used to foreigners bellowing barely comprehensible things at her. And, for what it’s worth, even without the gins, I do love Feldale Mouse. He has small man syndrome in the best possible way; it’s like he’s spent his whole life thinking, “you called me MOUSE?! Oh, just you wait, pal.”

Isabel is only 25, but she’s accomplished an enormous amount in her career with the Connie cross. She went five-star for the first time basically the moment she turned eighteen; that resulted in a twelfth-place finish. The next two years, again riding Feldale Mouse, she finished eighth. Then, in 2016, she left her Australian hometown of Biddaddaba (yes, really) to move to Germany and work for a certain Herr Jung. Since then, the duo has tackled 20 internationals, with 16 clears to their credit. Last spring, they tackled their first Badminton, jumping a reasonably slow but classy clear, and then they headed to Pau, where they picked up a frustrating 20 but completed.

Don’t expect them to blitz into the lead on speed – sorry Mouse, your legs aren’t that long – but do get ready to loudly cheer on this dynamic duo, who are basically the personification of every childhood daydream you ever had. They’ll score in the mid-30s, should go clear after learning a thing or two about Michelet the Menace last year, and then they’ll like roll a rail — maybe two — on Sunday, but they’ll romp away with your undying devotion, too.

Kevin McNab and Scuderia 1918 A Best Friend. Photo by William Carey.

Kevin McNab and Scuderia 1918 A Best Friend

Ten-year-old Oldenburg gelding (Albaran XX x Pitaria, by Pinocchio). Owned by Scuderia 1918 and Emma McNab.

An early winner of the Most Unreasonably Lengthy Name in the Field prize which, considering how many French horses are entered, is no small accomplishment. A Best Friend hasn’t been out of the top 20 in internationals since mid-2019, with eight great runs in that period including an eighth-place finish in a competitive CCI4*-S at Burnham Market last month.

Described as “a bit of an anxious horse [who] likes to have his friends around and someone to hold his hand,” Kevin reckons lockdown will be the making of the young talent, who’s been able to progress and develop at his own pace with plenty of one-on-one time.

Generally, we’d consider him a low-to-mid-30s horse, but a 25.7 at Blenheim CCI4*-L last year showed that outlier scores are very possible. He’s quick and reliable across the country — though a bigger type than stablemate Don Quidam, which means he’ll have to be extra catlike on the tight course, though a longer stride length could suit Pierre Michelet’s open, forward distances in combinations. He’s not had a rail in his four international runs this year, and some time spent showjumping in Belgium at the start of the year will ensure he’s sharp and ready to tackle this phase, though he had two down in his only long-format run of the last two years. A lot could ride on his Sunday performance.

Kevin McNab and Scuderia 1918 Don Quidam. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Kevin McNab and Scuderia 1918 Don Quidam

Twelve-year-old KWPN gelding (Quidam x Nairoby, by Amethist). Owned by Scuderia 1918.

This duo were set to go to Kentucky this spring, where they’d have been likely contenders for a top placing. That plan’s been pushed back a year — all being well, we’ll get to see them on US soil in 2021 — but in the meantime, they’re heading back down to the south of France for a second crack at Pau, where they finished seventh last year in the horse’s five-star debut.

“He’s cheeky in a nice way; he’s a bit of a pretty boy, a bit blonde in a nice way. Every day’s fun with him — he’s a horse you enjoy riding each time,” says Kevin of Don Quidam, who was produced to CCI4*-S by Hannah Bate, and who spent the early part of this year showjumping in Belgium.

The duo head to France after a second-place finish in the CCI4*-S at Burnham Market, where they added nothing to their 26.9 dressage — a less easily-attainable prospect in that class than in the CCI4*-L, so not something to be discounted as we look ahead. That was their second CCI4*-S placing of 2020; they also finished second at Barocca d’Alva in Portugal back in those pre-Rona months at the start of the year. What a time. A rare 20 at Haras du Pin in August is out-of-character but unconcerning, given the ease with which the horse tackled Burnham.

DENMARK

Irene Mia Hastrup and Constantin M. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Mia Hastrup and Constantin M

Sixteen-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Concetto x Granny, by Gardeulan II). Owned by the rider.

Both Mia and her long-time partner Constantin M make their five-star debut this month, though they’ve certainly learnt to deal with pressure when representing Denmark in the last three European Championships. That they’ve learned from their experience in each one is evident: in 2015, they withdrew before cross-country; in 2017, they picked up 20 penalties across the country and had a fairly disastrous showjumping round; and in 2019, they jumped a quick clear round and then knocked just a third of the number of rails they had two years prior.

Constantin is, by all accounts, a gentleman — in fact, he was enthusiastically described as an equine version of Richard Gere during last year’s Europeans — but that doesn’t mean he’s always the easiest ride. He thought about faltering at the final water at the Championships, which featured a highly influential, brightly-coloured bird jump in the pond. Only Mia’s sheer force of will (and a bit of shouting) got them through without penalty. His moment of indecision doesn’t seem to have dented his confidence, though — he’s run two CCI4*-Ls since then, finishing 6th and 8th and adding just a smattering of time penalties and a couple of characteristic poles.

Expect a mid-to-high 30s score, a fair helping of time penalties as the pair use the run as a sensible learning experience, and realistically, three poles on Sunday. It might not be the traditional route to glory, but for Mia — who represents an eventing nation that would very much be considered ‘developing’, it’s runs like this one that’ll allow her to bring intel and experience back home with her, furthering Denmark’s quest to build their sporting success for the future. As former coach of the pony squad, and a freelance trainer for Denmark’s youth teams, this is vital.

FINLAND

Elmo Jankari and Soraya. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Elmo Jankari and Soraya 243

Twelve-year-old Oldenburg mare (Seigneur d’Alleray x Caipirinhia, by Cordalme). Owned by Nina Sibelius and Sauli Jankari.

Baby-faced Elmo might look as though he’s hiding a portrait of himself in the attic, but don’t let his cherubic visage fool you — he’s amassed a huge amount of experience in his 28 years. Part of that comes down to the exceptional team of trainers he’s had behind him: he began his career as a working rider for Germany’s Dirk Schrade, then moved on to Piia Pantsu’s Swedish base. Eight years ago he headed to Warendorf, home of Team Germany HQ, to work for Frank Ostholt and Sara Algotsson-Ostholt, and he remains there now, though at his own facility with partner and teammate Sanna Siltakorpi. Their first child was born last year, and enjoyed her very first opening ceremony at the Luhmühlen Europeans.

In his career, Elmo’s already logged a WEG place in 2014, a European championships finish in 2015, and he rode at Rio, too, finishing 31st individually with his young rider mount Duchess Desiree.

Soraya is a new old ride for Elmo — he produced her to CCI4*-L in 2016 before passing the reins to Spain’s Esteban Benitez Valle for the 2017 season. Elmo took her back in 2018, 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 CCI3*-S at Chaumont en Vexin, where they finished eighth, but they then retired on course at CCI4*-L and -S competitions at Strzegom. Finally, they completed Baborowko’s CCI4*-S, finishing eleventh. They moved up to five-star at Pau, picking up twenty penalties, 20.8 time, and adding four rails on Sunday, but followed it up with a clear round inside the time at Sopot CCI4*-L for a top-ten finish.

Since then, things have been a bit wobbly on the competition front — they contested Luhmühlen CCI5* last summer, but were eliminated when Elmo took a tumble, and though they jumped a clear round inside the time at Sopot CCI4*-L in the autumn of 2019, they withdrew before the final horse inspection. We haven’t seen them run in an international yet this year, so if they come forward to Pau, expect them to use the run as an educational, rather than a competitive, one.

FRANCE

Jean-Lou Bigot and Utrillo du Halage

Twelve-year-old Selle Français gelding (Kara du Halage x Colline du Halage, by Persan II). Owned by Florence Assar.

It’s a first five-star since Badminton in 2007 for Jean-Lou, but don’t think for a moment that he’s not experienced: he’s ridden on seven European Championships teams — and was, in fact, European Champion in 1993 — two silver-medal-winning WEG teams, and went to the 2000 Olympics for France, too. It’ll be a treat to welcome him back to this level in a five-star debut for his 2019 European Championships ride Utrillo du Halage. The horse has made the best of his two international runs in funny old 2020: he’s finished 10th and 8th, respectively, in CCI4*-S classes at Haras du Pin and Jardy. At both, he finished on his dressage score of 34.1. How’s that for consistency?

Though Utrillo isn’t a first-phase threat — his best score so far is 29.6 in a four-star run at Lignieres, but he’s realistically more of a mid-30s horse — he’s enviably consistent across the country. His last international cross-country jumping penalty was a rider fall in an Event Rider Masters class in 2018,  and you have to go back five years to find a 20 on his record. He’s also quick — he’s romped home inside the time at 10 of his 23 internationals — and although we’d consider him a one-pole sort of horse, he’s not touched a rail in his last four outings.

In a field this extraordinarily strong, it’s a bit much to expect total heroics from a first-timer to scoop a placing, but it’s fair to look forward to a run not unlike that of Mathieu Lemoine and Tzinga d’Auzay last year — the sort of week that doesn’t change the world, per se, but does put another formidable French equine star of the future firmly on the global map.

Arnaud Boiteau and Quoriano IFCE. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Arnaud Boiteau and Quoriano IFCE

Sixteen-year-old Selle Français gelding (Coriano x Lili Saincrit, by Prince du Logis). Owned by the Institute Français du Cheval et de l’Equitation.

Arnaud was part of France’s first-ever gold medal-winning Olympic eventing team, who topped the podium at Athens in 2004 and now, we’re used to seeing him sneaking into four-star top tens across the continent with top horse Quoriano (Lignières ERM, for example, and Jardy ERM, and Haras du Pin CCIO4*-S). But his five-star record with the gelding isn’t quite so illustrious – they’ve started at this level six times and completed three times, when they finished third here on the horse’s debut in 2014; again in 2017, when they finished 30th but had a 20; and last year, when they also had a 20 and finished 20th. They likely won’t be the best of the home nation entries, despite their amassed experience – although that 2014 result certainly showed they can do it if it all goes right. They come to Pau off the back of two great runs at CCI4*-S — they sailed home inside the time at Jardy and Haras du Pin, though they’ve certainly never struggled at the level.

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Retour du haras du pin … notre Troutrou nous montre tout le bien qu on pense de lui … de beaux objectifs à venir merci @louchetdalbigny et @Gérard Largilliere et @Tristan Chambry pour l investissement 🙏🥰 Ce Viens du monde quel cheval … de sacrés moments d émotions à venir … cheval de coeur ! Merci à @lafamilleguillemot Et Degis/Degas qui a fait le boulot mais qui s est laissé avoir par son envie de bien faire fin de tour … merci Pascal direction Arville …. gogo go Merci aux partenaires @forestiersellier @ridup_stirrups @olympeimmobilier @hestim @royalhorse.france @gpa_safety_legend @transboxfrance @selleriepicaud Merci @legrandcomplet pour cette organisation au top 💪 ❤️✨❤️ Et on ne peut continuer sans Thais qui est là parmis nous … ce sport , cette passion … bravo à @stephane.lds pour cette fabuleuse performance Merci à @karimlaghouag_officiel @thibautvallette @tom.carlile @christophersix_eventing pour cet hommage ❤️ @marine.rnlt 💪❤️💪😘 #rideforthais

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Luc Chateau and Troubadour Camphoux

Thirteen-year-old Selle Français gelding (Idem de B’Neville x Gold in Blue, by Veganum). Owned by Scea Ecurie d’Albigny.

Luc Chateau must not be confused with the Chateau de Luc, a twelfth-century ruin in Occitanie, nor with the wine and vineyard of the same name in the foothills of Mount Alaric. No, stay on topic — it’s horses and the people who ride them that we’re chatting about now, not refreshing autumn beverages.

You probably know Luc best for his partnership with Propriano de l’Ebat, the excellent stallion who’s the crown jewel of the family breeding enterprise — not too shabby, when you consider that Luc wasn’t born into a horsey family at all. His five-star debut comes, though, with Troubadour Camphoux, originally produced by Spain’s Alexis Gomez and then brought through to CCI4*-L by fellow Frenchman Didier Dhennin. Luc took the reins in early 2018, and though the pair have had some little whoopsies — 20s at Belton and Bramham, plus a broken frangible at Blenheim last year — they’ve also shown some of the sparkle they’ll be able to hone and refine in future.

This’ll be a fact-finding mission, but the very Frenchness of the course design will work in their favour — they fly around home courses, which tend to be built on much more open stride patterns than the British courses that have been their downfall so far.

Still, their high-30s dressage score will keep them out of the hunt for a top placing, though if they can do as we quietly suspect and deliver the round of their lives on Saturday, they could be one of the week’s biggest climbers: they’re superb show jumpers, and aren’t likely to go near a pole on the final day.

(Oh, and if small kiddos on fluffy ponies is your jam, we highly recommend giving him a follow on Instagram.)

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

Arthur Duffort and Toronto d’Aurois

Thirteen-year-old Selle Français gelding (Polack II x Jovaly d’Aurois, by Daloubet d’Evordes). Owned by Paul and Julie Gatien and the rider. 

British-based Arthur is no slouch — he’s been hard at work since his days riding for Andrew Nicholson, building himself a solid string of horses and chasing the five-star dream. He finally achieved it last year, making his five-star debut at Burghley, where he and Toronto finished in the top 30 after one green wobble on course.

After some teething problems in the horse’s first year at the four-star level, Toronto seems to be on a roll – he’s jumped six consective clears at the level, making light work of tough tracks like Hartpury, Blair, and Bramham. He had — like many horses — a quiet 2020, but jumped well around the CCI4*-S at Burnham Market last month, finishing 32nd after a slow and steady round and two rails.

This pair are still gaining essential experience at this level, and Pau couldn’t be more fundamentally different from Burghley. It’s a track that tends to suit the French style of training and riding, which could play in Arthur’s favour — though he’s been British-based for so long that his own style is much more of a melting pot of methods than that of his teammates. Still, he won’t be coming here to win this year — instead, we’ll be looking out for a mid-30s dressage to improve upon that 39.4 at Burghley, a wholly doable clear with some time across the country, and a likely two rails on Sunday.

Sidney Dufresne and Tresor Mail. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Sidney Dufresne and Tresor Mail

Thirteen-year-old Selle Français stallion (Jaguar Mail x Nocturne Mail, by Iowa). Owned by Iris de Fleurieu and Agnes Trouble.

It’s not often you see stallions competing at this level of the sport, but Pau’s 2020 offering features three — and one of them is certainly a jewel in the Selle Français studbook’s crown. Tresor Mail makes his long-awaited ‘proper’ CCI5* debut after five years carving out his niche as a CCI4*-S specialist, with top-ten placings at Blenheim’s eight- and nine-year-old CCI4*-S, Barbury, Tattersalls, and in a CCI4*-L at Vairano under his belt.

You might question our use of the word ‘proper’ above — that’s because Tresor Mail competed at the 2018 World Equestrian Games, which are technically run at five-star. He finished eighteenth there, adding four time penalties on cross-country and a rail in the final phase to his 28.9 dressage — a promising result for the obviously talented stallion who is still chasing his first taste of real competitive glory. We’ve not seen him hit the top ten since early 2018, but don’t rule him out entirely: he’ll likely suit this typically French, thrusting course. Expect a score in the very low 30s — though a sneak into the 20s is possible, particularly in the right sort of atmosphere — a slow but competent cross-country run, and at least one rail, but more likely two, on Sunday. If you’re not convinced yet, bear in mind the little bit of magic that a supportive home crowd adds to a showman’s performance — and Pau, which is allowed spectators, tends to host a wildly enthusiastic French side. This pair will be carried home by cheers.

Alexis Goury and Trompe l’Oeil d’Emery. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Alexis Goury and Trompe l’Oeil d’Emery

Thirteen-year-old Selle Français gelding (Imprevu de la Coeur HN x Dagana de Vauberon, by Fury de la Cense). Owned by the rider.

Alexis was one of France’s best-kept secrets until Pau in 2018, where he was one of a slew of young home-nation riders to make their five-star debut in flying form with fast, clear rounds across the board. He didn’t win that year — that honour went to friend and teammate Thibault Fournier, who was also making his level debut — but he did finish seventh, adding just two rails to his first-phase score of 34.5.

Since then, we’ve seen the pair — who were individual bronze medallists at the 2016 Young Rider European Championships — step up to senior team status, appearing as individual competitors at the Luhmühlen Euros last year. They had a great run across the country there, coming home just two seconds over the optimum time on an influential day of competition, but unfortunately had to withdraw overnight. We’ve seen them run once since then, in the CCIO4*-S at Haras du Pin, where they picked up an uncharacteristic 20 penalties. The only other times we’ve seen them do so have been in their two attempts at Bramham’s super-tough under-25 CCI4*-L.

Pau certainly suits them down to the ground, as they proved in 2018, and when they’re on form, they’re a fairly formidable pair: highlights on their record include a win in a CCI4*-S at Montelibretti, third place in an extraordinary field at Boekelo CCIO4*-L in 2017, and tenth in the German National Championships CCI4*-S at Luhmühlen in 2019 among some of Europe’s very best horses. Alexis has produced the horse himself from a four-year-old, and they know one another as well as they know themselves — a crucial advantage that becomes essential for success over Michelet’s Pau course, which seeks to reward bold, forward riding and a certain element of risk-taking. 2018 showed that Alexis can ride for the more open stride pattern in a combination, point his horse’s ears between the flags, and trust the gelding to do everything in how power to find his way through. There’s no reason to expect that this won’t be the case again — as long as that 20 wasn’t an indicator of some more serious unravelling. More likely, it was just that: an unfortunate and annoying blip.

A mid-30s dressage score could dip down to the low-30s — they posted a 31.4 at Haras du Pin — and their slightly unreliable form over the poles could see them go clear or knock three, depending on how Eventing Jesus is smiling upon them that day. Their very best work will be on display on Saturday, where you should enjoy another showcase of guts and gumption, à la Français.

Karim Florent Laghouag and Triton Fontaine. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Karim Florent Laghouag and Triton Fontaine

Thirteen-year-old Selle Français gelding (Gentleman IV x Grenouil Fontaine, by Nightko). Owned by Phillip Lemoine, Guy Bessat, Camille Laffitte and the rider. 

Team stalwart Karim makes his return to CCI5* — we haven’t seen him at the level since 2016, when he finished 10th here with Punch de l’Esques. He has a pretty solid record at his home nation’s five-star, actually: he’s finished in the top ten four times out of five runs, and he’s never picked up a cross-country jumping penalty here.

Triton Fontaine makes his debut at the level this month after some promising results with Karim, who took the reins from Antoine de Silly in 2018. They’ve had twelve international runs together, finishing in the top ten eight times and winning twice — but they’ve failed to complete cross-country in two of their four long-format starts. The most recent, an end-of-season CCI4*-L at Pratoni last year, saw them finish second, but Karim will certainly be conscious of riding every single stride until he’s safely across the finish line.

Their (reasonably and expectedly limited) 2020 form looks good: they’ve finished fifth and seventh, respectively, in CCI4*-S classes at Haras du Pin and Jardy, adding another FOD to their record and just missing out by finishing a second over the optimum time at Haras. FODs — that’s finishing on their dressage score — have become something of a habit to the pair, who’ve clocked up five together across their international partnership.

They’ll likely deliver a low-30s dressage score, though can certainly rise to the occasion and slip into the upper-20s — and if anyone’s going to rise to the occasion in front of enthusiastic fans, it’s Karim — and if they can go clear, they’re among the fastest combinations in the field. Showjumping might be a gamble: they’ve jumped five clears in a row now, but they did knock three on the final day at Boekelo a couple of years ago, so it’ll take some riding. Consider them a dark horse combination in that they’ll either laugh their way to the top five or they won’t appear on the final leaderboard at all.

Maxime Livio and Vitorio du Montet

Eleven-year-old Selle Français stallion (Lando x Jenlah des Yvers, by Arpege Pierreville). Owned by Philippe Asclipe and the rider.

What a treat — everyone’s favourite French fancy is back at Pau after winning it in 2016 with Qalao des Mers. (He did make a return trip in 2017, but we don’t talk about that little non-completion.) This time, he brings forward two debutantes to try to fight for a place on the leaderboard once again.

The first of these is the young, relatively inexperienced stallion Vitorio du Montet, who stepped up to four-star in 2018. While he’s not yet clinched a result that’s really put him on the map, he’s managed to finish in the top twenty in six of his eight starts at the level — the other two saw him fail to complete after a horse fall at Le Pouget in 2018 and an elimination in the showjumping at Barocca d’Alva’s CCI4*-S in the early part of last season. He’s got three CCI4*-L runs under his belt; he jumped clear on his debut at Strzegom in 2018, picked up an 11 for a frangible pin at Bramham in 2019, and had an unfortunate 20 at Pratoni at the end of last year. This season has seen him jump fast clears in CCI4*-S classes at Jardy and Arville.

This will be a particularly interesting horse to watch, in part because of that Bramham CCI4*-L run: while the pair did pick up that pesky 11, they actually completed just one second over the optimum time and then jumped a classy clear on Sunday. This is no easy feat at what is regarded as Britain’s meatiest four-star, and is hugely indicative of the horse’s ability. But Bramham is also about as different to Pau as you can get — where the French course is flat, twisty and technical, Bramham is a test of stamina, boldness and the ability to adjust. There’s no doubting that the horse is enormously talented, despite his relatively tiny impact on the eventing scene so far, but it’s hard not to wonder if he might not be a Burghley horse of the future instead.

In any case, we’ll be looking for a mid-to-high 30s dressage score, a quick effort across the country, and a rail down on Sunday. The biggest question mark will be whether he can come home clear on Saturday.

Maxime Livio and Vegas des Boursons

Eleven-year-old Selle Français gelding (Allegreto x Clio des Boursons, by Tin Soldier). Owned by SC Soixante Seize et Compagnie, Camille Letourneaux and the rider. 

Maxime’s second ride is also reasonably inexperienced, though his CCI4*-L form is exciting: he’s competed twice at the level and finished in the top ten on both occasions. His debut was at Bramham, where he finished tenth with just 3.6 time penalties across the country, followed up by third at Strzegom with four time penalties. Oh, and did we mention he only stepped up to four-star in 2019, after running just once — in a CCI2*-S, no less — in 2018?

It’s easy to see how Vegas could go on to be Maxime’s next big star, but his 2020 season has been a bit underwhelming; he didn’t run cross-country at Jardy in July and then went on to Haras du Pin in August, where he delivered a personal best at the level in dressage, a clear across the country with six time… and knocked five rails in showjumping. Ordinarily, we’d be banking on one or two on Sunday here, but now, we won’t be surprised if a couple more tumble. But no matter: Maxime, whose own record includes top-ten finishes at Luhmühlen, Kentucky and, over and over again, at Pau, will be looking to educate his young string for future world domination. If he squeezes one into the top ten, that’ll be a bonus — but with another mid-30s prediction for dressage, he’ll have to do some serious work over the weekend with both to make it happen.

Benjamin Massie and Une Eau Vive Dubanier. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Benjamin Massié and Une Eau Vive Dubanier

Twelve-year-old Selle Français mare (Ideal de la Loge x Carioca Marnaise, by Souci Platiere). Owned by Charles Chevillot. 

Dubanier steps up to five-star this week, while Benjamin makes a return trip after his Pau debut last year with Ungaro de Kreisker. That wasn’t his five-star debut, mind — he made that in 2010, when he finished 30th at Badminton.

We haven’t had a chance to see much of Dubanier on the international circuit — she’s run just once this year, very nearly finishing on her 38.3 dressage at Haras de Jardy CCI4*-L, and once in 2019, when she popped round a CCI2*-L for 15th place. In 2018, she ran once at CCI4*-S — double-clear and quick, though unplaced, at Haras du Pin — and once at CCI4*-L, where she picked up a 20 at Saumur. She was classy around Boekelo and Jardy in 2017, but those results are almost ancient history now.

A high-30s dressage will put them off the pace in the first phase, though they’re historically pretty quick across the country and should be able to make up some ground — relative inexperience and lack of match practice notwithstanding. On the final day, they’ll have to work hard — they haven’t jumped clear on the final day of a long format since 2015.

Rémi Pillot and Tol Chik du Levant

Thirteen-year-old Selle Français gelding (Volchebnik x Frimouce du Levant, by Hurlevent). Owned by the rider.

Rémi was one of the great unsung stories of Pau in 2019 because he made his five-star debut there — at the age of 60. He and Tol Chik du Levant finished just outside of the top twenty on a slow and steady round with a 20 along the way, but the cries of ‘allez! Allez! Allez!’ as he jumped through the final fences in the main arena were no less ebullient for his efforts.

This year, he and his top horse return with the knowledge they picked up along the way last year, plus good runs at Jardy CCI4*-S and Sandillon CCI3*-S, which they won over the summer, under their belts. We’ll be looking at a similar score to last year, when they posted a 33.3, and hopefully a jolly clear for them, though likely sans heroics and speed. They pulled two rails last year, though haven’t knocked one in 2020, so we’ll split the difference and say they’ll just have one this year. To sneak into the top twenty would be a great goal for Rémi, who has plenty of strong competition to wade through on his way there.

Jean Teulere and Voila d’Auzay

Eleven-year-old Selle Français gelding (Nouma d’Auzay x Feria d’Auzay, by Quito de Baussy). Owned by Olivier Faraud and Madeleine Colombier.

Four-time Olympian Jean makes his first trip to Pau since 2016, when he rode his WEG mount Matelot du Grand Val to a top twenty finish. This time, the winner of the Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur title comes forward with five-star debutante Voila d’Auzay, who finished fourth in Haras de Jardy’s CCI4*-S earlier this summer. They’ve also notched up a good performance in the CCI4*-S at Haras du Pin in 2020.

Their record at CCI4*-L is somewhat patchier: they had an issue on course at Boekelo in 2019, though they reappeared a month later at Pratoni to try the level again, this time finishing seventh after adding 8.4 time penalties across the country and 0.8 in showjumping.

This will be an educational run for the gelding, though for French riders particularly, those can often pay off in a multitude of ways at Pau. Don’t bet your life savings on this pair, but do watch them: if nothing else, you’ll get the enjoyable experience of watching one of the French team’s ‘old guard’ do what he does best.

GERMANY

Christoph Wahler and Carjatan S take top honours in Houghton’s CCIO4*-S class in 2019. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Christoph Wahler and Carjatan S

Eleven-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Clearway x Kajenna, by Galant Vert). Owned by the rider. 

Christoph has been quietly making a name for himself as one of Team Germany’s next string of superstars, winning the Nations Cup team and individual competition at Houghton International with Carjatan S in 2020, and following this up with a super top-twenty performance at the European Championships. Their 2020 has looked very promising, too: they’ve notched up three top-ten finishes at Luhmühlen, Strzegom, and Arville, and although their trip to the German National Championships was thwarted by an uncharacteristic drive-by at a tough and influential line, there was plenty to be excited about: their 22.4 was a personal best at the level and their showjumping round was typically classy, as was the rest of their cross-country round.

Christoph has worked hard to overcome some minor blips in the horse’s early education at the level, which saw them take a swim in CCI4*-S sections at Chatsworth and Luhmühlen in 2019. Since then, the young horse has visibly grown in confidence, and Christoph — whose family stud specialises in producing dressage horses — has continued to hone the other two phases, too. This pair are well on their way to being seriously formidable on the world stage, and so their CCI5* debut will be eminently watchable.

There’s another good reason to tune in, too, of course — and it would be remiss of us as the most determined flirts that ever made the equestrian media industry ridiculous not to give credit where credit is due here. Every event needs a bit of eye-candy — look, we all need a little something to get us through two days of dressage — and Christoph is certainly one of the poster boys of Pau this year. We’ve not even minded seeing him get a good dunking in the past, though we’re sure he probably feels differently. Lest we be accused of cursing them, we hasten to add that he works a podium well, too.

GREAT BRITAIN

Alex Bragg and King of the Mill. Photo by William Carey.

Alex Bragg and King of the Mill

Ten-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Stormhill Miller x Ballycanew Queen). Owned by Michael and Naomi Roe.

It wouldn’t be like Alex Bragg to ride a tall and handsome bay (oh, but when will they invent a sarcasm font?) but he has two here — and King of the Mill is the five-star debutante of the two. The young horse stepped up to four-star at Tattersalls last year, where he received a solid education in all three phases, from the spooky, windy dressage to the tough cross-country. The 20 he picked up there helped him figure a thing or two out, and he’s been going great guns ever since: he was seventh in the CCI4*-S at Barbury and 4th in the CCI4*-S at Hartpury, which was a jam-packed class full of star-studded talent, and is one of the toughest courses of the level and typically used as Burghley prep. Instead, Alex finished the year with a debut CCI4*-L at Blenheim, where he finished tenth in similarly hot company.

This year, he’s had just one international run — a CCI2*-S at Lignieres two weeks ago to give him a chance to have a good huff and  a puff while feeling like the world is his to claim — and he performed marvellously, finishing 15th with a clear run inside the time.

He won’t change the world in the first phase — that’s stablemate Zagreb’s job — but should put in a solid enough test for a low-30s mark, and while Alex is very much focused on giving his horses the best possible experience, Miller is quick without needing to be pushed. He’s finished inside the time at five of his nine internationals. He’ll almost certainly have a rail on Sunday, but an exciting result is very possible and it’ll be great to see the next generation of Alex’s string step up to this level. With a fourth-place finish under his belt from a ride at Le Lion last week, the popular rider will be brimming with the kind of positive confidence that helps inexperienced horses like Miller enormously.

Alex Bragg and Zagreb. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Alex Bragg and Zagreb

Sixteen-year-old KWPN gelding (Perion x Renera, by Nagano). Owned by Phillip and Sally Ellicott.

How can we wax lyrical about this tall, dark and handsome chap in ways we haven’t before? If he was a human, we imagine he’d be rather like Swedish chef d’equipe Fred Bergendorff, or the team trainer in Jilly Cooper’s Riders: talented, polite, handsome, and capable of wearing the heck out of a pair of chinos. You’d want to get life advice from Zagreb, but you’d also kind of want him to take you out for a candlelit dinner over which he could dispense it to you.

Fortunately for everyone’s hearts, Zagreb is a horse — and one we can all get behind cheering on as he vies for the big win that feels as though it’s waiting in the wings. He’s finished in the top ten in his last seven international runs, with wins in the CCI3*-S at Gatcombe last summer and the CCI3*-L at Lignieres two weeks ago among his recent credits. He finished fourth here last year after producing the only clear round inside the time on Saturday — and making it look almost annoyingly easy — and was third in the five-star at Luhmühlen in 2019 too. In 2018 he was third at Blenheim, though had uncharacteristic issues at both Badminton and Burghley, and in 2017 he was very well-placed indeed at Badminton before withdrawing before the final horse inspection.

There’s two other Pau results we should take note of, too: he made his debut at the level here in 2016, finishing fifth, and came fifth again in 2017. The course suits his big stride and Alex’s forward, positive riding, and their shared experience and the excellent level of communication that brings should see them in very good stead indeed. We’ll be looking for a high-20s dressage — though he’s very capable indeed of an outlier score in the mid- or even low-20s — a very speedy clear, and then we’ll hold our breath in the final phase: the horse is a 50/50 clear round sort, but a rail lost him the win at Luhmühlen and cost him second here last year. Their day is coming, though, and it would surprise no one if it came this week.

Sarah Bullimore and Conpierre. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Sarah Bullimore and Conpierre

Thirteen-year-old KWPN gelding (Con Air 7 x Pia, by Pilot). Owned by Chris Gillespie, Anna Ross Davies, and Brett Bullimore.

Though he’s sometimes overshadowed by Sarah’s superstar Reve du Rouet, cheeky, occasionally spooky Conpierre is every inch as capable of holding his own at this level. He was eighth after dressage here last year, though issues across the country dropped him out of the placings. Earlier in the year, though, he finished eighth at Luhmühlen — admittedly a rather different type of track, with much less twisty technicality, but his class there proved that he’s a true five-star horse.

This year, the aim will be to produce the clear round he’s certainly ready for. He comes to Pau with quick clears at Burgham and Burnham Market’s CCI4*-S classes under his belt, and although these weren’t hugely difficult four-stars, they’ll have given him plenty of confidence. We’ll be expecting a high-20s dressage — he put a 27.7 on the board last year, though his occasionally extravagant changes can sometimes lose him a mark or two — and a clear round on Sunday. He hasn’t had a rail in an international since mid-2018. The one big question mark will be Saturday, though last year’s run should have served as a valuable learning experience.

He’ll also be serving a pretty important role for his stablemate: he’s Reve du Rouet’s special security blanket.

“We call him the social worker,” laughs Sarah, explaining that turning Reve du Rouet out with Toby has taught the formerly reclusive horse to open up. “He never used to want to be around people, or around other horses, and we turned them away together and by the end of it, they’d stand at the fence scratching each other. Now, we let ‘Blou’ loose on the yard and he goes from box to box, scratching everyone – even the mares, who aren’t always so sure about it, but they let him because it’s Blou.”

Sarah Bullimore and a ‘grown-up’ Reve du Rouet at Burgham CCI4*-S. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Sarah Bullimore and Reve du Rouet

Sixteen-year-old Oldenburg gelding (Balou du Rouet x Onassis Queen, by Oscar de Revel). Owned by Brett Bullimore and Christopher and Susan Gillespie.

If Zagreb is the sensible older man you want to take advice from, Blou might be the well-meaning but slightly odd bloke who tries to chat you up by reading you your horoscope at a crowded bar. Eventually, it would be the story you told at your wedding — but it would take you a little while to work the poor chap out.

Blou has never quite shaken his reputation for being a firecracker in the first phase, though he’s demonstrably past all that — but a genuine fear of crowds, and what Sarah describes as something close to equine autism, gave him a penchant for bolting in the arena a few years ago. Now, he’s every inch the professional and another horse, like Zagreb, who seems overdue a big win.

He was third in CCI4*-S sections at both Burgham and Burnham Market this summer, fourth at Burghley last year, fifth at Luhmühlen in the same season, fourth at Burghley in 2018, and has jumped around a multitude of other five-stars. But the result we want to focus on here is Pau in 2017. That year was the most difficult Pau we’ve ever seen, with combination after combination failing to make it even as far as the double-digit fence numbers. Sarah, who’s an extraordinarily tactful and wholly underrated rider, piloted three horses into the top thirteen, and Blou was the highest-placed of those: he finished second, just 0.1 penalties off the lead due to a hundredth of a second rounding up to an extra 0.4 time penalties on cross-country. It was achingly, gut-wrenchingly close, but it proved what a superstar this horse is. He’s a strong contender for another great finish here, but we reckon Eventing Jesus owes this duo a bit of good karma.

Ros Canter and Zenshera. Photo by Kingfisher Media Services.

Ros Canter and Zenshera

Sixteen-year-old KWPN gelding (Guidam x Telvera, by Matterhorn). Owned by the rider.

Tiny Alfie is only 15.2hh on his tiptoes, but he’s got a seriously solid track record at five-star, and particularly at Pau. We’ve only seen him finish outside the top ten once since mid-2017 — and that was an eleventh-place finish at Blenheim, so it’s a reach to discount it — and in that time, he’s been fifth here twice and seventh once, as well as third and ninth at Luhmühlen.

He comes here this year without an international run under his belt, though that was the case last year, too. His final prep run — a national class at Little Downham, which is built to emulate and prepare for Pau — was cancelled, but Ros made the most of the day and was granted permission to run him around the course as a schooling session, and so he’s had a chance to turn his hoof to plenty of technical questions this month. We’ll be looking for a score between 24 and 28, a clear round — with a sprinkling of time, as he’s not naturally quick — and likely a one- or two-rail showjumping round, though he’s plenty capable of jumping clear on his day.

Almost more importantly, we’ll enjoy cheering Alfie on for who he is — Ros describes the cheerful little guy as a horse who could start a new career as a Riding For the Disabled horse tomorrow, because he’s quiet, sensible, and just loves to look after the people in his life. Initially broken to harness in the Netherlands after he was written of as a showjumper, he was a cheap-as-chips purchase for Ros — and he’s more than paid it back in sheer affability. Ros’ tiny daughter Ziggy likes to have a sit on Alfie from time to time, too — he’s as much a part of the family as any horse can be. With on-form Ros in the irons, we’re looking forward to seeing him happily pop his way to another great result.

She might fly under the radar sometimes, but Emilie Chandler can play with the big boys. She and Gortfadda Diamond finish

Emilie Chandler and Gortfadda Diamond

Eleven-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Water Valley Cool Diamond x Panda, by Glacial Storm). Owned by Maria Doel.

They might not be household names — yet — but Emilie and her talented gelding have already excelled themselves: they won Blair Castle’s tough CCI4*-L last year, and although they bested a small field, they looked like winners throughout. Those in the know were thus unsurprised to see the pair throw down a personal best of 25.2 at Burgham CCI4*-S, where the field was full of the very best horses in the UK. They finished fifth there after adding just 0.4 time penalties across the country to that super first-phase result.

Gortfadda Diamond stepped up to four-star last year, and though he averages in the very low-30s, he’s popped down into the 20s three times at the level. Emilie took over the ride from Mark and Tanya Kyle in 2017, and in their 11 international runs together they’ve never had a cross-country jumping fault. They’ve also finished in the top ten an impressive eight times.

Their last run before coming here was in the CCI4*-S at Little Downham, where they jumped a conservative clear — a smart move in order to save the horse for his first five-star. Emilie herself has course form here: she finished 14th in 2017 with Coopers Law. Consider this pair your dark horse contenders for a great debutante result.

Laura Collett ends her 2019 season on a high with a victory at Boekelo with London 52. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Laura Collett and London 52

Eleven-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Landos x Vernante, by Quinar). Owned by Keith Scott, Karen Bartlett, and the rider. 

Few horses put us through the emotional wringer as much as London 52, known at home as Dan, did in 2019. The 2018 winner of the Blenheim eight- and nine-year-old CCI4*-S — a class known for the successive five-star victories of its illustrious list of victors — had only started eventing in 2016 after an early showjumping career, but his extraordinary trajectory made it so easy to forget how inexperienced he really was. Thrust into the limelight after that Blenheim win and a second place in his debut CCI4*-L at Boekelo the following month, he was a pundit’s favourite in early 2019, and that faith was rewarded with a win in the Event Rider Masters CCI4*-S at Chatsworth.

But then the wheels came off the bus a bit, as they often do with young horses who still have plenty to learn — it’s just that those young horses aren’t usually in the spotlight, and they can undergo their learning curves without the world watching them. The pair headed next to Bramham for its top-end CCI4*-L, but the week was full of surprises: the ordinarily super-consistent dressage horse produced a 31.7 in the first phase and stopped at the influential coffin. Laura retired him and explained, “I wasn’t riding, really. He needs help – he’s still young, but I was riding him there like he was too good, and I should just leave him alone. I didn’t want to mess it up, and in doing so, I messed it up.

“It was really difficult because he’d had really good results, but I felt like there was something missing in his rounds, and I just couldn’t put my finger on it. It took it going really wrong for me to kind of pull myself together and remember that I have to ride them. I went through slightly the same phase with Mr Bass; I’m so lucky that these horses are so unbelievable, but it’s difficult when they’re so high-profile. You spend so much time trying not to mess up that you can get a bit defensive.”

Next, they went to Aachen, where they led going into the final phase — but a glance off at the final combination meant more heartbreak. These things come in threes, as we all seem to tell ourselves, and so they did: the pair were selected for the European Championships as individuals, where they performed superbly until the final water. Here, they fell foul of the bird in the pond that saw so many riders go for a swim.

And so Laura made a plan: she wanted to fill Dan with the confidence he deserved and help him to learn from the issues of the middle of the year. She took him back to Boekelo CCI4*-L, where he’d done so well previously, knowing that the flowing, fair course would give him the chance to just enjoy his work. The strategy paid off, and the duo took an emotional win. This year, she tells EN, he’s like a whole new horse — full of confidence and twice as mature for everything he did in 2019. A fourth place finish at Burgham CCI4*-S and a win at Little Downham CCI4*-S prove this — and the latter proves, too, that Dan is the type of horse to suit a course like Pau.

This pair have scored as low as 20.3 at four-star, and will very likely throw down a ludicrously low score again — they’re one of the favourites to lead the dressage. If the rest of the week goes as well as Little Downham did two weeks ago, keep your hankies to hand.

Laura Collett and Mr Bass. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Laura Collett and Mr Bass

Twelve-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Carrico x K-Jeunesse, by Exorbitant XX). Owned by Keith Scott, Nick How, and the rider.

It’s a treat to see Mr Bass back after he was sidelined with an injury after his Badminton debut last year — and he’s been every bit as scrumptious on his return as he was prior to his holiday.

Mr Bass – known at home as Chuck, after his Gossip Girl namesake – was first entered for Badminton in 2018, but Laura opted to withdraw him as he wasn’t feeling 100% in the lead-up. Then she – and we – were dealt another disappointment when the freakishly talented young horse wasn’t called up for the WEG at Tryon. All’s well that ends well, though – in his five internationals in 2018, Chuck only finished outside of the top five once. On that occasion, he was ninth at an early season CCI4-S at Belton. He won the Nations Cup CCI4-S at Houghton in May and then went to his first five-star at Luhmühlen. There, he made a joke of the entire level, skipping around as though it was a Pony Club rally, and finishing second on his dressage score of 29.9.

He then jumped a steady clear after posting a 27.6 dressage at Badminton last year, but was withdrawn due to the injury sustained. Under the expert care of Zanie King, Laura’s head girl, he flourished — and since coming back, he’s finished second and fifth amid hot fields in CCI4*-S sections at Burgham and Little Downham, respectively.

Impressive results indeed – and those are less than two seasons’ worth – but what is it that makes the former seven-year-old World Champ one of the most talked-about horses in eventing? Basically, he’s an FOD machine, the likes of which we’ve seldom seen before. He’s finished on his dressage score in 15 of his 29 international completions, which, when you consider the calibre of competition he’s been entered in, is pretty astonishing.

For a horse who’s ‘built like a wheelbarrow’ — Laura’s words, not ours — he’s getting better and better in the first phase: he’ll deliver a mid-to-high 20s score here, before going on to hopefully make it FOD #16.

Richard Coney and Kananaskis. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Richard Coney and Kananaskis

Twelve-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Ustinov x New Years Sindy, by Taloubet VDL). Owned by the rider.

This will be a first five-star for 21-year-old Richard and his former Junior and Young Rider team horse Kananaskis, with whom he made his first Senior squad appearances on Nations Cup teams last year. They finished thirteenth at the Junior Europeans in 2016, seventh in 2017, and seventh at last year’s Young Rider Europeans, nabbing fifth, ninth, nineteenth, and eight place in Nations Cups at Haras du Pin, Houghton Hall, Boekelo, and Haras du Pin again, respectively.

They’ve had a couple of educational wobbles along the way, too — they were eliminated for a horse fall at Waregem Nations Cup last autumn — but they’ve come out on top form this season, with two top ten finishes from two runs. They fluctuate between the high-20s and very low 30s in dressage, though will likely trend upwards a bit in their first outing at this level, and they tend to be pretty quick across the country. Showjumping is their forte: they’ve only had six rails in their 27 international competitions. Plenty of first-timers have been very impressive here before, and this duo could easily join them.

Richard Coney and Mermus R Diamonds

Ten-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare (Mermus R x Pendle Watercolour, by Colourfield). Owned by the rider.

Why make your five-star debut on one horse when you can do it on two and get twice as much experience for your time? Though Mermus R Diamonds doesn’t have the same mileage as Kananaskis, she should be capable of a solid finish — she’s never had a cross-country jumping penalty in any of her 17 international runs, and she’s fairly quick, too. Her showjumping is generally reliable — she’s never pulled more than one rail, and has only done that in fewer than half of her runs — but her dressage won’t quite put her in contention here. She’s still a mid-30s horse, though outlying scores in the low-30s show that there’s more to come with experience. Both horse and rider will walk away with plenty this week.

David Doel and Carneyhaugh Rua

Ten-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Harlequin du Carel x Carneyhaugh Bella, by Cavalier Royale). Owned by Ian and Jane James. 

Originally produced to CCI2*-S by Reserve World Champion Padraig McCarthy, Carneyhaugh Rua makes his five-star debut after a string of solid results at four-star. He’s jumped clear around Saumur CCI4*-L and CCI4*-S sections at Ballindenisk, Haras du Pin and Barocca d’Alva, although his trip down to Portugal in early March was his last international run.

David’s been here once before — in 2018 with Chap, when he finished 33rd after some trouble on cross-country — and so he knows the type of prep this twisty track takes. Thus, he’d entered the Advanced at Little Downham as a final prep run — but the national classes were cancelled due to poor weather. As the horse didn’t run in the CCI4*-S at Burgham nor the OI at Pontispool for which he was entered, his last run was an OI at Bicton in July, where he finished tenth. It’s less than ideal, but David will likely be running the young horse — who averages a low-40s dressage, a reasonably quick cross-country, and a couple of poles — for experience for the future.

David Doel and Ferro Point. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

David Doel and Ferro Point

Ten-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare (Match Point x Ferra Jones VII). Owned by Christine Lees.

Like Carneyhaugh Rua, Ferro Point comes to Pau lacking some match practice — she was entered to run in Little Downham’s CCI4*-S, but David was unfortunately forced to withdraw after the news broke that GAIN horse feeds, one of his sponsors, had discovered a contaminant in a batch of their supply. She had a string of good performances last year, jumping clear in all her internationals including CCI4*-S sections at Chatsworth and Burnham Market and the CCI4*-L at Blenheim.

Her dressage marks tend to fluctuate in the mid-to-high 30s, though her cross-country record has been very promising so far — she’s fairly quick and hasn’t had a jumping penalty since stepping up to four-star. She’s not the most predictable showjumper, though — she can go clear or have four poles, depending on which way the wind’s blowing. This is another smart young horse for David to give an educational outing.

Yasmin Ingham and Rehy DJ. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Yasmin Ingham and Rehy DJ

Ten-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Tinaranas Inspector x Rehy Misty, by Big Sink Hope). Owned by Sue Davies and Janette Chinn. 

23-year-old Yas made her five-star debut here in 2018, finishing 16th on her self-produced Night Line, and now it’s the turn of ‘Piglet’ so step up to the plate after top-ten finishes in the CCI4*-L at Burnham Market and the CCI4*-S at Burgham. He was ninth in last year’s Blenheim eight- and nine-year-old class, followed by a clear around the Boekelo Nations Cup CCI4*-L, and he partnered Yas to fourth place in the Young Rider Europeans in 2018.

Yas, who is the only rider to have held every age title in Britain and is the current under-25 National Champion, gained a huge amount of experience as a young rider from the likes of former Mary King riders Fernhill Urco and Imperial Cavalier. These days, she’s proving she’s just as capable of producing her own horses as she is riding established — and not always straightforward — superstars, and her own star continues to rise and rise. Rehy DJ is one of her stable stars, and he and the Isle of Man native — who’s now based in Cheshire — will likely score around a 30 in the first phase, though they’ve proven they can go lower. Piglet’s not the fastest horse in the field, though Yas is an efficient rider and the pair were the fastest around Burnham Market’s CCI4*-L after a watch malfunction left Yas riding by feel, not minute markers. They’re superb show jumpers, with just three rails across 20 career internationals, and should make a great impression this week.

Piggy French and Brookfield Inocent. Photo by William Carey.

Piggy March and Brookfield Inocent

Eleven-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Inocent x Shalies Pet, by Kings Servant). Owned by John and Chloe Perry and Alison Swinburn. 

After the sad sale of the late Quarrycrest Echo last year, all eyes turned to young Brookfield Inocent to be Piggy’s next team horse and most obvious Tokyo hopeful. So far the horse — who Piggy’s husband Tom once described to EN as ‘the Burghley 2020 winner’ — has proven the expectations well-founded, with a win in Blenheim’s CCI4*-L on his debut at the level among his accomplishments. He’s also been second in CCI4*-S sections at Blair Castle (2018), Hartpury (2019), and both Burgham and Little Downham this year — and at the latter, he was the only horse to finish inside the time, which bodes extremely well for his chances here on his five-star debut.

He’s the hot favourite to win, according to the stats guys at EquiRatings, and it’s easy to see why: he trends in the mid-20s, though produced a 21.8 at Burgham, is quick and reliable across the country, and is generally a good showjumper, though he likes to have a rail or two every third competition just to keep everyone on their toes.

This is still a relatively new partnership: the horse was produced to CCI4*-L by Kevin and Emma McNab, with Piggy taking over the reins in mid-2018. They’ve finished in the top two in seven of their nine internationals together, though, and look to be going from strength to strength — and with Piggy continuing on her super form from 2019, you’d be a brave soul to bet against them, even with the horse’s relative inexperience compared to some others in the field.

Tom McEwen and Toledo de Kerser lead the 2019 lap of honour at Pau. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Tom McEwen and Toledo de Kerser

Thirteen-year-old Selle Français gelding (Diamant de Semilly x Ariane du Prieure II, by Papillon Rouge). Owned by Fred and Penny Barker, Jane Inns, Alison McEwen, and the rider.

In a field chock-full of five-star winners and serious contenders, perhaps the most formidable entry is that of the 2019 winners, Tom and Toledo. It might seem a little bit sentimental when we talk about horses who ‘deserve’ a five-star win, but that judgment call comes from observing serious consistency, almost otherworldly talent, and, of course, a little sprinkling of that indefinable quality that makes a horse a fan favourite. When Toledo topped the bill last year, it felt right in much the same way that the Classic Moet, Vanir Kamira, and Nereo wins at Badminton felt. It was time.

But winning at this level is about more than just a sprinkling of teary-eyed fairy dust, of course — it’s about careful production and precise planning, the latter of which has been a tough call for anyone in this fractured 2020 season. So let’s start by taking a look at how this season has been mapped out for the horse, in comparison with last.

In 2019, Toledo had two international starts before heading to Pau, while this year, he’s had just one, at Burnham Market CCI4*-S in September. Of his three pre-Pau starts last year, he ran just once — and that was at his spring five-star at Badminton, where he had an unusual frangible pin and some time, partly due to a virus picked up (and recovered from) earlier in the spring. After that, we didn’t see him in an international until Hartpury in August, where Tom opted to withdraw him after dressage when news broke that due to high winds, the showjumping phase would be moved indoors — not a welcome prospect for the gelding. This year, he produced a 25.7 at Burnham Market, jumped a classy clear over an up-to-height showjumping track, and then was withdrawn to preserve him for Pau.

Last year we also saw him run a couple of times in national level events in the autumn, going conservatively on the clock each time, while this year, he romped to an easy FOD of 20.2 and a win in the OI at Cornbury. His last run — in a national class at Little Downham — was cancelled, leaving him a smidge short of match practice, but if any pair can cope it’ll be these two.

TL;DR? As we said last year, this is a freak of a horse. Ask any professional rider who they’d like to steal for their string, and more often than not, this is the name you’ll hear. He’s only had two rails in 27 internationals — and hasn’t touched one in any class, national or international, since WEG in 2018 — can easily throw a sub-25 score out in the first phase, and proved last year that he can be as quick as he needs to be across the country, adding just 0.8 time penalties in his winning run here. Winning a five-star on consecutive attempts is a pretty rare thing — but if anyone can do it, it’ll be this pair.

Rosa Onslow and Diamond Sundance. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Rosa Onslow and Diamond Sundance

Fourteen-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Sunny Boy x KEC Costello Diamond, by Glidawn Diamond). Owned by Cindy Onslow. 

22-year-old Rosa makes her five-star debut with two horses this week, and the first of these — originally produced by mum Cindy, then latterly by Emily Parker and Alex Hua Tian — has been her partner at a Young Rider European Championship. That was just last year — these five-star riders are getting younger and younger — and they finished twelfth, before nipping up to Blair Castle to take second place in the CCI4*-L. They’ve run well in CCI4*-S sections at both Burgham and Burnham Market this year and will come to Pau looking to gain valuable experience for the future. Expect a mid-30s dressage, a steady run across the country, and a likely clear round on the final day to finish out what should be a great milestone week for this pair.

Rosa Onslow’s RLE Limbo Kaiser. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Rosa Onslow and RLE Limbo Kaiser

Thirteen-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (breeding unknown). Owned by Cindy Onslow.

Originally produced by Ireland’s Michelle Kenny, RLE Limbo Kaiser joined Rosa’s string six years ago and has been brought through from CCI2*-L to CCI4*-L by the young rider. Prior to his eventing career with Michelle, he was intended as an FEI driving horse — though why he flunked out of this path, we’ll likely never know.

The pair’s best results have been eighth at Barbury CCI4*-S (2018), sixth at Camphire CCI4*-L the same year, and third at Houghton Hall CCI4*-S last year, but their road to five-star hasn’t been that straightforward: they’ve had 20s at Camphire last year and Burgham this year, before making it happen at Burnham Market CCI4*-L last month for 21st place. This will be another ride that’s all about gaining experience — and Rosa knows this horse very well after a long partnership growing up together, which will help them make the most of their trip.

Hector Payne and Dynasty. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Hector Payne and Dynasty

Twelve-year-old KWPN gelding (Whitesnake x Cleopatra, by Calvados). Owned by Jeremy and Judith Skinner and David and Margie Hall. 

In another life, Hector might have been a PE teacher — and we’re told by a reliable source (that is, um, Hector himself) that shimmying up a rope is his number one talent. We’re not sure Pierre Michelet’s added that to this year’s course — though honestly, nothing would surprise us — but it does sound like a good trick for him to demonstrate at next year’s Tuesday night party at Boekelo. EN never forgets, Hector.

We’d argue that another of Hector’s skills is growing a tremendous head of hair, as demonstrated below:

These days he’s looking a little better coiffed, and it doesn’t appear to have had a Samson-esque effect on him either. Formerly the second rider for William Fox-Pitt, he’s inherited his softness and tact in the saddle, producing educated, highly watchable rounds on a wide variety of horses. His ride here was formerly one of Lanky Will’s — Hector picked up the reins while William recovered from his 2015 accident, and when he was back in the saddle, he offered him the ride permanently. They made their five-star debut at Burghley in 2018, jumping a steady clear but withdrawing before the final horse inspection.

Though Dynasty’s not an easy character — his ‘little moments’ have gifted Hector a whole new set of teeth to the ones he grew himself — he’s a very good cross-country horse. He hasn’t had a cross-country jumping penalty in an international since 2017 — though his 2019 season was a sparse one — and on his day, he’s swift enough. We saw him make the time at Tattersalls CCI4*-L in 2018, finishing eighth. This year, he was ninth in strong company at Burgham CCI4*-S, and though he missed his final prep run in a cancelled Advanced at Little Downham, Hector jumped at the chance to school the gelding over the tricky, technical course, standing them in good stead to tackle the questions here. We’ll be looking for a low- to mid-30s dressage and ought to be rewarded with the fun of seeing them jump clear across the country. If they do so, their excellent showjumping record could see them climb through the week.

Katie Preston and Templar Justice

Thirteen-year-old British-bred Sport Horse gelding (Weston Justice x Welton Vivat, by Welton Crackerjack). Owned by Rick and Trish Preston and the rider. 

This will be a fifth five-star for full-time equine vet Katie and her top horse, who’ve jumped clear around both Luhmühlen and Burghley. Their record at this level is very much a tale of two halves, though — they were eliminated for accumulated refusals at Badminton and retired on course at Burghley last year after negotiating the save of the century at the Maltings. Nonetheless, they looked super when jumping a steady clear around the CCI4*-S at Little Downham earlier this month and they finished in the top ten in Gatcombe’s CCI4*-S British Open Championship last year — not an easy ask, by any stretch of the imagination. It’ll be interesting to see how Templar Justice takes to this course, which is so different to his other five-stars — but if it’s anything like his performance the week before last, he should have a great, if slow, experience. We’ll see a mid-to-high 30s dressage and a couple of rails on the final day, but a good Saturday performance will be a great bonus to his record.

Mollie Summerland and Charly van ter Heiden. Photo by Ben Clark.

Mollie Summerland and Charly van ter Heiden

Eleven-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Contendros Bube x Espanja, by Escudo II). Owned by the rider.

22-year-old Mollie’s five-star debut with the extraordinary Charly must be one of the most hotly anticipated in recent memory, but with good reason: the pair have amassed 16 top-ten results in 23 international starts, and haven’t finished lower than ninth in over a year. They were fourth at Little Downham CCI4*-S two weeks ago, ninth at Boekelo CCI4*-L last year, third in the Nations Cup at Waregem, sixth in a CCI4*-L at Camphire, a close second at Barbury CCI4*-S (to Andrew Nicholson, so it’s basically a win, right?) and blimey, we’re running out of breath here.

The duo are very capable of a stonking good test, though their marks can fluctuate from the low-to-mid 20s up into the 30s, and they’re generally fast and very reliable across the country — mostly because these old friends, who have been together from the very beginning, know one another like the back of their hands (or, um, hooves). Their biggest challenge this week will be the final day: this is likely to be a tightly-packed field, and they’re prone to a rail, which could be costly. If they can keep them up and perform throughout the competition in the way we’ve become accustomed to, they’ll leave very happy indeed.

Izzy Taylor and Artful Trinity. Photo by William Carey.

Izzy Taylor and Artful Trinity

Nine-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (OBOS Quality x KEC Northern Star, by Glidawn Diamond). Owned by Tom and Sara Strong.

The equal youngest horse in this year’s field, Artful Trinity has just thirteen internationals under his belt — though he has some good form, with top ten finishes in the eight- and nine-year-old CCI4*-S at Blenheim last year and its replacement at Burnham Market this year. The pair also jumped clear around Burgham CCI4*-S this summer, though not particularly quickly, and enjoyed a good run at Barbury in the horse’s four-star debut last season.

With Izzy aboard, Artful Trinity will have a chance of making a good show of this, though he picked up a 20 in his only CCI4*-L run at Boekelo last year and his inexperience could catch up to him. A low-30s dressage that could squeak into the 20s will set them off on a good note, and he’s likely to have a pole — probably more than one, as he’s not that used to jumping on the final day — but the main aim here will be to nurse him around with the future in mind.

Oliver Townend and MHS King Joules. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Oliver Townend and MHS King Joules

Fifteen-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Ghareeb x Gowran Lady, by Cavalier Royale). Owned by Tom Joule. 

King Joules right now:

Seriously, though — did anyone else realise he’d returned? We haven’t seen Oliver’s longtime partner since Burghley in 2018 when he picked up an injury. This year, though, Oliver snuck him out to run in a CCI3*-S at Burgham, finishing 36th on a very slow and steady run, and now he’s back at five-star and we truly don’t know what year we’re in anymore.

If Townend’s string were old Hollywood stars, ‘Jay’ would be Marlon Brando circa A Streetcar Named Desire – all bulging muscle and alpha-male charisma, but prone to bouts of questionable behaviour and a lil’ bit punchy. Originally piloted by Mary King, who found him ‘disappointingly strong and unruly across country‘, he was then sent to Townend’s good friend Andrew Nicholson, who set to work reforming the talented black gelding.

Now? Well, he’s formidable on his day – just look at his Kentucky performance in 2018 to see why Townend perseveres. He was seventh there, adding just a characteristic pole to his 31.3 dressage score, and he’s dipped as low as 23.9 in a four-star, at Gatcombe’s Open British Championship in 2018. This will be his fourth career five-star and a first attempt at Pau — and although there’s a big question mark hanging over him right now, Oliver would never make this big of a trip without some well-founded conviction that there’s a jolly good reason for doing so.

Nicola Wilson and Bulana return to international competition on flying form, finishing eighth. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Nicola Wilson and Bulana

Fourteen-year-old KWPN mare (Tygo x Sulana, by Furore). Owned by James and Jo Lambert.

The gorgeous Berry is indubitably talented, but she hasn’t always been an easy ride – early on in her four-star career she was a bit of a tearaway, and the general consensus was that once she was manageable, she’d be damn near unbeatable. True enough, she’s picked up a slew of very respectable results since deciding to play nice, including a win in Barbury CCI4*-S in 2018 and individual bronze at the 2017 European Championships at Strzegom, where they contributed enormously to the British team’s historic gold medal. In 2019, after some time off for the mare due to a minor injury, they made their Badminton debut finishing 21st, and then had further time off after Nicola fractured her neck in a fall from another horse at Arville. This year, though, they’re back with a bang, finishing eighth at Burgham and fourth at Burnham Market.

This will be a fourth five-star for the mare, who finished second in her debut at the level at Luhmühlen in 2017. She revisited the event in 2018, delivering a great first-phase score of 27.5, but was retired on course after two stops. Her dressage is consistently competitive and should be up there with the leaders — though not likely actually leading — and she can be quick across the country when the handbrake’s off. On Sunday, she’s more likely to jump clear than not — but she has had rails in the past, and occasionally multiple ones in one round. Both look on great form at the moment, though, and should make the top ten.

IRELAND

Austin O’Connor and Colorado Blue. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Austin O’Connor and Colorado Blue

Eleven-year-old British-bred Sport Horse (Jaguar Mail x Rock Me Baby, by Rock Kind). Owned by The Salty Syndicate and the rider. 

Though this will be a debut five-star for ‘Salty’, he comes into it on super form: he finished third in the inaugural CCI4*-S at Little Downham at the beginning of the month, which was designed to mimic Pierre Michelet’s twisty, technical track at Pau. He also looked great when finished 14th at Burgham CCI4*-S, at which he added just a meagre 1.6 time penalties across the country.

All Irish hopes ride on this pair after the withdrawal of Cathal Daniels and Barrichello, but team stalwart Austin can cope with the pressure. Though the horse averages in the mid-30s, he proved at Burgham that he can really step up to the plate in the first phase, scoring a 28 in great company. He’s pretty speedy, too, though his averages are brought down by Austin’s decisions to run slowly for the sake of his education at certain locations, and he’s a reasonably solid 50/50 showjumper. We’d be just as unsurprised if he went clear as if he had a 20.

A top twenty finish should be very doable for this pair, and they’ll be aiming for the top ten — a big ask for a debutante, but not at all out of the realm of possibility for our Irish representatives.

LITHUANIA

Aistis Vitkauskas and Commander VG

Nine-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding (Viegaard’s Come Back II x Nione Fortuna, by Abantos NRA STB 83 4). Owned by Mr and Mrs Kloeve-Mogensen and the rider. 

It’ll be a first five-star since 2013 for Aistis, who contested the level several times with former top for Ak’s Galopper — but a debut for young Commander VG, who jumped clear around the Seven-Year-Old World Championship at Le Lion d’Angers just two years ago.

Though the horse isn’t likely to be competitive — his low-40s dressage will preclude a big climb in this company, no matter how well he does in the other phases — this will be a great learning experience for him and a welcome return to the level for Lithuania’s top rider, who has represented his country at three European Championships. This pair are reasonably quick and consistent across the country, picking up a top ten finish in a CCI4*-L at Sopot last year and finishing 14th in exceptionally strong company — and over a course that saw big names such as SAP Hale Bob make mistakes — at Luhmühlen CCI4*-S earlier this month. Another strong performance here will be a great rung on the ladder for both horse and rider, and will help their cause of furthering Lithuania’s admittedly almost nonexistent place on the global eventing map, too.

NEW ZEALAND

Jonelle Price and Faerie Dianimo. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Jonelle Price and Faerie Dianimo

Fourteen-year-old British-Bred Sport Horse (Dimaggio x Faerie Dazzler, by Catherston Dazzler). Owned by Jacky Green, Trisha Rickards, and the rider.

Maggie May is the queen of Mere Farm, with her medium trot to die for and her extravagant jumping style. The 2017 winner of Luhmühlen five-star has been to Pau three times before, finishing fourth in 2014, tenth in 2017, and withdrawing after dressage in 2015. We haven’t seen her run internationally since her first Burghley last year, when Jonelle opted to pull her up after activating a frangible device, though she’s had two OI runs — including one with an absolutely baffling 48.9 dressage, in which she presumably Morris-danced the floorplan.

Here’s how Tim and Jonelle describe the vivacious mare:

Homebred by Trisha Rickards, Maggie May is the princess of the yard. She is small, feisty, funny and has scope which belies her tiny frame. Her supermodel status means she does have food issues and she despairs at her friend Classic Moet’s attitude to eating which is to pig out at any opportunity.  Maggie May’s one weakness is that she gets bullied in the paddock by nearly everything which is probably due to the abuse she doles out to them on the arena.  Like Marilyn Monroe she is at her best in front of a crowd and despises doing dressage on grass in a 20 by 40 at a one day with no cameras in attendance.

She’s a maternal half-brother to Tim’s ride Xavier Faer – but will she beat him? Well, she’ll certainly be up their after the first phase, in which she should easily skip her way to a high-20s score, and she’s ordinarily quick and clear across the country. On Sunday, we’re hopeful of a clear round: she hasn’t had a pole in an international since early 2018. Another top ten finish isn’t at all outside the realm of possibility for this pair, and could be one of several that the Prices nab this week.

Jonelle Price and Grovine de Reve

Twelve-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Hermea de Reve x Erkina Jane, by Rimilis). Owned by Therese Miller, Jo Preston-Hunt, Phillip Hunt, and the rider.

Former Dan Jocelyn ride Grovine de Reve joined Jonelle’s string in 2019 after heading to the World Equestrian Games with Dan and finishing 38th. They’ve had some exciting results since coming together, including ninth at the Wiesbaden leg of the Event Rider Masters, sixth at the Jardy leg, and second in a CCI4*-L at Camphire, where they so nearly finished on their dressage score of 32.6 but added 0.4 time penalties in the showjumping.

They’ve had one international run this year — a CCI4*-S at Haras du Pin — where they finished 18th after adding 4.4 time penalties across the country to a first-phase score of 32.

Grovine de Reve is still learning how to be competitive, but shouldn’t be discounted — particularly with Jonelle in the irons. His dressage fluctuates between a 28 and a 32, his cross-country performances are getting quicker and quicker (and he’s never had an international cross-country jumping penalty with Jonelle, pertinently), and he’s producing more clear rounds over the poles, though is still prone to the odd one or two. His debut five-star won’t see him challenge his stablemates for a claim to the win, but it should be an exciting step up for a horse who’s waiting in the wings for his turn in the spotlight.

Tim Price and Ringwood Sky Boy. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Tim Price and Ringwood Sky Boy

Seventeen-year-old gelding (Courage II x Sky Lassie, by Sky Boy). Owned by Verenna Allen and the rider.

What do they call an entry list featuring three five-star winners across a single family? An embarrassment of riches, or a very good use for a few tanks of diesel? Anyway, we’ll shut up now and give you what you’re actually here for…the infamous Tim and Jonelle bio.

Oz or Ozzie is without doubt one of the favourites on the yard despite his quirky personality. His relationship with Tim is legendary and when he rocked up to Rio Olympics bearing a team flag there was not a dry eye in the house.  He hates to be alone (even when he is not alone he sometimes worries that he may be on his own) and he is best buddies with Wesko which shows his generous personality as he has often played second fiddle to him.  He is built like a long distance runner which is pretty appropriate as his youth saw him ‘bolt’ on many an occasion! Ozzie is like a fine wine that just gets better with age….

Although Ozzie was only ever meant to be a sales horse – his tempestuous nature meant that Tim didn’t fancy hanging on to him, though he “couldn’t even pass him on to the Brazilians” – he stuck around, eventually gave up trying to buck everyone off, and then, you know, won Burghley in 2018. He was tenth at Badminton last year, too, and has been second, fourth, and fifth at Burghley previously, proving that even the quirkiest of horses can be incredibly consistent when dealt with in a way that takes all their, um, charms into account. While he’ll be a smidge behind Wesko in the first phase – expect a score between 25 and 28 – he’ll be great fun to watch across the country, though it’s hard to imagine this Burghley specialist around the Pau course. Fortunately, he’s done it once before — he finished 30th here in 2013, jumping clear across the country but scattering five poles on the final day.

He’s a tricky showjumper — though has improved considerably — and can have two or three down with his slightly unconventional jumping style, but he’s already proven he can make it happen when he needs to. Like stablemate Classic Moet, he’s the patron saint of unlikely champions, and we love him for it.

Tim Price and Wesko. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Tim Price and Wesko

Seventeen-year-old KWPN gelding (Karandasj x Kolien, by Mytens XX). Owned by the Windrush Equestrian Foundation and the rider.

It would be foolish to discount Tim Price, who spent part of last year as World Number One, in any circumstances, but when he brings forward two five-star winners, he’s a truly fearsome beast. We still haven’t quite got over the joy of seeing Wesko back out competing; he was benched for the 2016 and 2017 seasons after a string of impressive results. There was the Blair Castle CCI4*-L win in 2013, and a second-place finish at Hartpury CCI4*-S the same year, and in 2014, ‘Dash’ won both Tattersalls CCI4*-L and Luhmuhlen CCI5*-L, giving Tim his first win at the level. His strong form continued into 2015: he was second at Kentucky 5*, fourth at Aachen, and third at Pau 5*.

But his injury – and, as such, his inability to come forward for the Rio Olympics – set Tim’s 2016 into a bit of a downward spiral. Tim’s form has obviously recovered marvellously since, and so has Dash. With wins at Arville’s leg of the Event Rider Masters and in a CCI3*-L section at Lignières under his belt last year, and a fourth place at Strzegom’s CCI4*-L this summer, he’s on good form and ready to seek out redemption after a thwarted trip here last year. Then, he was in second place going into cross-country and going splendidly into the final third of the course when he fell victim to an irregularity in the footing of the final water. He wasn’t the only one to go down when his hoof struck it, and it felt like a rather spectacularly unfair end to his week.

He’s a sub-30 horse every day of the week and has gone as low as 23.3 at four-star — in fact, his dressage average equals London 52’s as the lowest in the field. His 25.6 here last year is easily repeatable and could well be bettered, and he’s finished on his dressage score twice at this level, with one of those results coming here in 2015. He’ll be a strong favourite to fight for the win.

Tim Price and Xavier Faer. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Tim Price and Xavier Faer

Fourteen-year-old British-bred Sport Horse (Catherston Liberator x Faerie Dazzler, by Catherston Dazzler). Owned by Trisha Rickards, Nigella Hall, and the rider.

The third (phew!) of Tim’s rides, Xavier Faer is… okay, okay, we know you just want us to copy and paste the bio on Tim and Jonelle’s website. Here goes:

“Hugo” is a half brother to Faerie Dianimo but is a very different type being tall and rangy.  He really should have been named “Faerie Groundhog Day” as every day is a new day to Hugo…literally.  He is not the smartest tool in the box but he has a great relationship with Tim and stepped up to 5 star [in 2016] like a pro.  He is spooky and is so in love with Classic Moet that he has even learnt to jump on his own to join her in whatever paddock she is residing in.  Hugo is like a typical boarding school kid… he has no idea where the washing machine is but he knows exactly who the staff are.

In other news, Hugo finished third at Kentucky last year, finishing on his dressage score of 30.9 and proving that even Tim’s ‘second string’ is formidable. Since then, he’s been eighth in the CCI4*-S at Millstreet, and 12th in the British Open Championships at Gatcombe, although he did manage to do that despite notching up 60 cross-country jumping penalties. He went to Burghley last autumn, though was retired on course after picking up a 20 and we’ve not seen him out internationally since. In 2017, he finished third at Badminton, and then finished in the top twenty at Burghley – although here, too, he had a 20. He’s an entry that always adds a little excitement, because it could all go pear-shaped or it could go splendidly with a top-ten finish — but whatever mood Hugo’s in this week, there’s no better man than Tim to coax the best out of him. We’ll see a score around the 30 mark, a very likely clear round on Sunday — those trips to showjump in Spain have been paying off — and if he comes home clear, a competitive result, though without delivering a blazingly fast round.

SWEDEN

Anna Freskgård and Techno

Eleven-year-old Swedish Warmblood gelding (Hip Hop x Tatti, by Zwift 690). Owned by Sophia Ericsson. 

Anna, who had originally planned to compete with Fly Away V.D N.Ranch, with whom she was 10th at Luhmühlen in 2018, but instead she brings forward the CCI5* debutante Techno for a first trip to Pau for both.

There’s a lot to like about their form, not least the fact that the horse was one of those child prodigies who managed to win his first-ever international back in just 2016. In his past five runs, he’s finished in the top ten in four, though that fifth was a spin from Barocca d’Alva’s final horse inspection rather than anything more sinister. They’re fairly swift, with average cross-country time penalties of 3.6, and that’ll help give them a big boost up the leaderboard after their low-to-mid-30s dressage. Showjumping could be a heartbreaker for them, though — they’ll likely pull a rail, and two wouldn’t be a surprise.

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