Did we ever, truly, think we’d make it to this point? Probably not — but from the rubble of the 2020 calendar rises Les 5 Etoiles de Pau, the one and only CCI5* of this funny old year.
Set in the scenic south of France and taking place from October 21-25, Pau will host 62 entries representing 10 nations as it ushers in its 30th anniversary competition. We’ll be bringing you a fully-stocked form guide very soon, but in the meantime, let’s take a look at some of the highlights of this exceptionally strong field.
Great Britain, as usual, brings forward the most entries, with 25 combinations stepping up to bat for the country. Chief among those is Pau’s 2019 winning duo, Tom McEwen and Toledo de Kerser, who return to defend their title — but their campaign certainly won’t be a walk in the park (or, um, in the Citröen dealership, depending on which side of the venue you’re standing on). Some of their major home-team competitors include Sarah Bullimore and Reve du Rouet, who were a very close second here in 2017, commonly regarded as the toughest Pau we’ve seen. Nicola Wilson and her individual European bronze medalist Bulana will also put up a seriously strong fight, while Piggy March — the queen of 2019 — debuts last year’s Blenheim CCI4*-L winner and front-running Tokyo hopeful Brookfield Inocent at his first five-star.
The two individual competitors from last year’s Europeans aren’t messing around here — Kitty King brings forward Bramham winner Vendredi Biats, on super form after conquering his early-career cheekiness, while Laura Collett has a remarkable two-hander in FOD machine Mr Bass and Boekelo winner London 52. Honestly, we could write a whole article just looking at the British invasion at Pau, but for now, we’ll leave you with two more names: Ros Canter‘s diminutive Zenshera, who eats up this course for a high placing every time he makes the trip, and Alex Bragg‘s Zagreb, who came achingly close to his first five-star victory last year and who will be one of the fan favourites to finally scoop a big one here.
The home nation is defended by 12 combinations, with former victor Maxime Livio debuting Vegas des Boursons and Vitorio du Montet at the level. Sidney Dufresne and Tresor Mail will surely carry much of the country’s hopes, ably assisted by Alexis Goury and Trompe l’Oeil d’Emery, who debuted here together in 2018 and fairly zoomed around.
A small but strong German side comes forward, and this year, it’s all about the girls — and, of course, 2019 Houghton winner Christoph Wahler, making his five-star debut with Carjatan S. The likes of Sandra Auffarth, Anna-Katharine Vogel and Anna Siemer hoisting the flag with him make this a compelling national effort to keep an eye on.
Team Price has six horses entered between them for New Zealand, though only five will go — two of those entries belong to Jonelle Price, who will bring her 2018 Luhmühlen winner Faerie Dianimo, alongside the former Dan Jocelyn ride Grovine de Reve. Husband Tim has an embarrassment of riches in his corner — he’ll need to choose three rides from Burghley winner Ringwood Sky Boy, Luhmühlen winner Wesko, and experienced five-star campaigners Bango and Xavier Faer. We don’t envy him the job.
Finally, we’d be amiss not to look to Australia while we find ourselves perusing Antipodean entries. Last year’s second-placed Chris Burton and Quality Purdey return for round two, having spent the early part of this year refining their showjumping, while Kevin McNab ventures down with last year’s seventh-placed Scuderia 1918 Don Quidam and stablemate Scuderia 1918 A Best Friend.
You can take a closer look at the entry list in full here — we’ll be providing all the information you need to know on form, function, and fun facts very soon.
Go Eventing — and Go Pau!