Dispatches from Haras du Pin: Is This the Hottest CCI4*-S of 2022?

Austria’s Lea Siegl presents Van Helsing P. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

If you like to summer where it sizzles, consider a trip to Normandy, in the north of France, where the temperature is currently rivalling that of the sun (nearly, anyway) and the eventing action on offer truly is among the best you’re ever likely to be blessed with. We’re here to cover the CCIO4*-S, which might just end up being the most exciting four-star of the year.

At this part of the summer, it really is crunch time: we’re just five weeks away from the first horse inspection at the World Championships for Eventing in Pratoni, and although we’ve still got a little bit of time before the September 5th entries deadline, it’s time for selectors to put their noses to the grindstone and pick out those partnerships that could propel them towards the podium. For many countries, including most of the continental European contingent and the Kiwi squad, Le Grand Complet at Haras du Pin is serving a crucial role: it’s their chosen final selection trial, and thus the last chance for riders to show what they’re made of in hot competition.

And Le Grand Complet’s CCIO4*-S, which incorporates a leg of the FEI Nations Cup series, couldn’t be much hotter. At 112 entries, it’s jam-packed by anyone’s standards, but it’s also full to the brim with extraordinary global talent. With nineteen nations represented, it’s a head-to-head that in many ways emulates what we’ll see next month in Pratoni – and, of course, it includes many of the horses and riders that’ll make the trip there, too.

A little red-carpet naughtiness means that Olympian Karim Florent Laghouag has to emerge from a cloud of smoke (or dust, anyway) to present Embrun de Reno. No Steppenwolf playing, sadly. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The home nation’s line-up is an exceptional one: among its highlights are Gireg le Coz and Aisprit de la Loge, who recorded an impressive top twenty finish at Badminton this spring; Luc Chateau and Troubadour Camphoux, who were fourth at Luhmühlen CCI5* last year; this year’s Bramham under-25 CCI4*-L champions Heloïse Le Guern and Canakine du Sudre ZAstier Nicolas and the 2017 Seven-Year-Old World Champion Alertamalib’or; and, of course, Tokyo team bronze medallists Nicolas Touzaint and Absolut Gold HDC and Christopher Six and Totem de Brecey, both of whom recorded top ten individual finishes at the Olympics, too, and Karim Florent Laghouag and Triton Fontaine, who finished 12th at Tokyo.

Individual Olympic gold medallists Julia Krajewski and Amande de b’Neville look like butter wouldn’t melt — but promise to serve up a serious fight. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The Germans, too, bring forward their entire Tokyo team: Michael Jung‘s Kentucky winner fischerChipmunk FRH is joined by his 2022 German National Champion Highlighter, while 2022 Aachen winners Sandra Auffarth and Viamant du Matz come complete with Rosveel, the nine-year-old Polish gelding with whom the former World Champion was third in Luhmühlen’s German National Championship this summer. Individual gold medallists Julia Krajewski and Amande de b’Neville come to Haras du Pin off the back of a very good Aachen run, which proved that the catty mare is only getting better as she gets stronger. Beyond the realms of that Tokyo team, Germany’s entries are further bolstered by 2021 Luhmühlen CCI5* runners-up Christoph Wahler and Carjatan S, 2021 Boekelo winners Sophie Leube and Jadore Moi, and this year’s reserve German national champions, Dirk Schrade and Casino 80.

Italy’s Mattia Luciani and Leopold K. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The Swedish team, who have been so successful in Nations Cup series standings over the last few years, are hard at work on consolidating that success into something that translates to the world stage, and so it’s exciting to see a number of very good combinations coming forward this week. Christoffer Forsberg boasts two rides: the first, and his primary choice for Pratoni, is the experienced Hippos Sapporo, who won two four-stars within two weeks earlier this season — though we have a particular soft spot for nine-year-old Con Classic 2, who has been looking more and more convincing over the last year. Aminda Ingulfson has an exciting double-hander in the excellent former show jumper Joystick, who survived a trip to the holding box today and will join Hot Cup VH on the hunt for glory this week. Frida Andersen‘s Box Leo, formerly piloted by Ludwig Svennerstal, has rarely been out of the placings and will make for an exciting watch this weekend, too. Keep an eye out for Sofia Sjoborg, who finished in 11th place individually at last year’s European Championships with Bryjamolga van het Marienshof Z and will be looking for a chance to do something similar.

Sweden’s Aminda Ingulfson re-presents Joystick, who is ultimately re-accepted into the competition. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The Swiss team has been on flying form in Nations Cups so far this year, and they bring forward most of their stalwart riders for this leg — including three rides for Robin Godel, who won the test event at Pratoni back in May and took an individual win in Strzegom’s CCI4*-L, too. Great Britain only has four riders — just enough to fill a team — but they’re a super group, with 2021 Luhmühlen winners Mollie Summerland and Charly van ter Heiden and sixth-placed Badminton finishers David Doel and Galileo Nieuwmoed among them. Speaking of five-star winners, we’ve also got last year’s Pau champions Tim Price and Falco in the mix — as well as Tim’s 2019 Seven-Year-Old World Champion, Happy Boy. Plus, we’ve got Australian individual bronze and team silver Olympic medallists Andrew Hoy and Vassily de Lassos, who never tend to make anything easy for their competition.

Kimmy Cecere and Landmarks Monaco come forward as the lone US representatives in the CCI4*-S. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

It’s such an extraordinary line-up that you could probably make a passable case for supporting just about anyone within it – but for us, it’s all about keeping a beady eye on each of the major teams to work out who’ll earn the coveted Pratoni tickets over the course of the weekend. First of all, though, they all had to get through the first horse inspection — an incongruous ask for a CCI4*-S, but then again, this is a CCI4*-S that’s got a job to do: in order to best demonstrate horses’ ability in a long format to selectors, it’s going to feel a little bit like one itself. We’ll see cross-country play out on Saturday, while Sunday is showjumping day (after a second horse inspection, of course!).

Switzerland’s Nadja Minder awaits the verdict with Toblerone. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

After presenting to the ground jury of president James Rooney (IRL), Nikki Herbert (GBR), and Emmanuelle Olier (FRA), all 112 presented horses were accepted into the competition — though not without some drama along the way. A number of horses were asked to trot again immediately, including Pietro Sandei‘s Rubis du PrereLuc Chateau‘s Troubadour Camphoux, and Ugo Provasi‘s Shad’OCC, but none were sent to the holding box. Those that did get held — Aminda Ingulfson‘s JoystickRemi Pillot‘s Tol Chin du Levant, and Nadja Minder‘s Toblerone, were all accepted.

Now, we head full-steam into tomorrow’s first day of dressage, which will get underway from 8.00 a.m. local time (that’s a tender 7.00 a.m. British time, or 2.00 a.m. EST!). Poland’s Joanna Pawlak and Fantastic Frieda will be our first competitors in the ring, and we’ll see all our teams complete their tests tomorrow. Until then: Go Eventing!

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