32 of the 2020 Les 5 Etoiles de Pau field came forward for dressage yesterday while just a mere 15 remain to perform their tests in Friday’s session — but if you think that means there’s not much left to tune in for today, you’d be mistaken. Though we saw some seriously smart tests yesterday, including two that broke the long-held venue dressage record, we’ve still got several excellent prospects ahead of us, including the two combinations with the best dressage average in the field.
Here’s who you need to tune in for today…
London 52 and Laura Collett: 25.1 6RA
Time: 10.18 local/9.18 UK/4.18 a.m. Eastern
If dressage line-ups are a box of chocolates, London 52 is a praline nestled in the middle: that is, he’s utterly delicious and everyone wants a piece of him. He’s the joint-owner of the best 6RA in the field, and although his tests are already remarkable, the rather frightening thing is that they don’t seem to have reached their zenith. They scored a 20.3 at Burgham this summer and have thrown down several low-20s at four-star — and after we saw Laura coax a top-five mark out of Mr Bass yesterday, who not only isn’t as easy in this phase but also had a pre-test wobble, we could be about to see London 52 produce his best work yet. Even we can’t quite imagine what that’ll look like.
Wesko and Tim Price: 25.1 6RA
Time: 10.53 local/9.53 UK/4.53 a.m. Eastern
The last horse of the final session will keep us all suitably in suspense, because he shares the honour of holding the best 6RA in the field. Wesko’s an old pro that just keeps getting better and better, and his 25.6 here last year could well be beaten. After an unfortunate stumble in the final water took them out of the game here in 2019, Tim will be up for chasing a better result this week — and an even better starting score will be a great, and not unrealistic, start.
MHS King Joules and Oliver Townend: 27.2 6RA
Time: 9.00 local/8.00 UK/3.00 a.m. Eastern
First in the ring for the day is Oliver Townend, who’s making a bit of a name for himself where breaking dressage records is concerned. MHS King Joules isn’t likely to eclipse the 22 our current leader sits on, but he was out of action for a couple of years and it’s not at all beyond the realm of imagination to think that Oliver took his sweet time to fine-tune some of the gelding’s flatwork as he rehabbed from his injury. They’re generally high-20s scorers at this level, but Oliver just keeps getting better and better at eking all the extra marks out of his movements and geometry, so we’ll be looking for them to beat their 6RA today.
Zagreb and Alex Bragg: 27.9 6RA
Time: 9.42 local/8.42 UK/3.42 a.m. Eastern
Zagreb’s an absolute showman, much like his rider, and he knows his job when he gets in the main arena here at Pau. We’re used to seeing scores around the 29 mark for them at five-star level, but Alex has a point to prove after coming so achingly close to a win twice at the level last year. That conviction can translate into something really powerful in the ring, or it can result in uncharacteristic wobbles — but this pair have been so consistent and know one another so well that we’d be surprised to see the latter.
Carjatan S and Christoph Wahler: 28.8
Time: 9.14 local/8.14 UK/3.14 a.m. Eastern
Germany’s only entry, Christoph comes from a dressage dynasty: his family owns a stud specialising in top-notch dressage horses, and he certainly knows his way around the boards as a result. The odd creep into the 30s skews their average, and although this horse is young and inexperienced, he’s working well this week and should easily be able to hit the mid-2os scores he’s proven he’s capable of time and time again. Their only hurdle? As a debutant pair, they won’t know how much extra sparkle the atmosphere will add until they meet it head on.
Conpierre and Sarah Bullimore: 29.4 6RA
Time: 10.46 local/9.46 UK/4.46 a.m. Eastern
Though he’s not ordinarily the out-and-out dressage horse of Sarah’s top string, Conpierre is getting more and more consistent: his last four internationals all saw him score in the high 20s. After a disappointing test with Reve du Rouet on Thursday, Sarah’s likely to come in full of steely determination, too, which is an unchartable quality when we’re looking at numbers, but should never be underestimated.
Faerie Dianimo and Jonelle Price: 29.6 6RA
Time: 9.49 local/8.49 UK/3.49 a.m. Eastern
Faerie Dianimo is a flashy, eye-catching mare — though sometimes this can be to her detriment in this phase. When it all comes good and the judges like what they see, she’s an easy 20s horse. Some match practice is lacking here, with no international runs since Burghley last year, but at 15 she’s an old campaigner and Jonelle knows how to manage her sparkle. If nothing else, watch this test for some of the pointiest toes you’ll ever see in a trot extension. Maggie May, as she’s known at home, is a true princess and thrives with a captive audience watching her dance.
Gortfadda Diamond and Emilie Chandler: 30 6RA
Time: 9.28 local/8.28 UK/3.28 a.m. Eastern
Though their 6RA might not make you immediately sit up and take notice, Emilie and her Blair Castle CCI4*-L winner Gortfadda Diamond are a serious dark horse combination this week, and we’ve seen them in action looking on super form while schooling. This is a five-star debut for the horse, which always adds a little question mark in terms of handling the atmosphere, but they delivered a 25.2 at Burgham CCI4*-S and then a 27.3 at Burnham Market CCI4*-S. They’re outlier scores on their record, sure, but you could argue the same for the low-30s marks they sometimes get, too. It’s 50/50 here, but we’re going to go for it and say that Emilie and Gortfadda Diamond smash out a great score today.