We just wrapped up the press conference here at Haras du Pin, with the WEG top three Sandra Auffarth, William Fox-Pitt and Jock Paget giving their final thoughts on Pierre Michelet’s cross-country course before tackling the track tomorrow. Jock Paget, in third place with Clifton Promise on 38.0, spoke first, saying that being seated on a New Zealand Thoroughbred made him feel confident going into tomorrow — and it can’t hurt that the horse has won Badminton
“He’s a very good galloper, and he likes to go cross country,” Jock said. “He’s got a good jump, so I’d like to think he could have a very good run. It’s a big track, and I think it will suit him.” The “extraordinary weather” — because apparently it never rains in France in August; we don’t believe that for a hot minute — continues to be the buzz of the event, and though the sun finally came out today, there are still a number of wet spots around the course.
“I don’t think anyone’s going to be smiling about the going,” Jock said. “Hopefully we can get some wind tomorrow to dry it out a little bit more, and we’ll see what it does.” Due to the muddy conditions, WEG officials removed fences 20 and 23 — a big wagon and that cool owl hole — from the course, which eliminates two large loops and an entire minute from the course. Click here for the altered course map.
It also eliminates that long hill I talked about in my course preview, and not all the riders are thrilled about removing that lengthy galloping section. “I’m on a galloping horse, and he does like his job, so I can’t say I would’ve been too bothered if they’d left it the way it was,” Jock said. “In some ways, it could be more difficult because they’ve taken out a very nice galloping stretch, and it might feel a little bit more intense. It’s hard to tell; we’ll see what the ground is like and if that changes it.”
William Fox-Pitt, sitting in second place with Chilli Morning on 37.5, agreed the conditions will change the game entirely tomorrow: “The conditions are certainly improving, but we don’t really know whether that will have a big effect on the ground; it could make it a little bit stickier.
“It is a serious enough track on good conditions, and I think on this ground, it’s going to be even more serious,” William said. “It’s a very difficult course of Pierre Michelet’s. The distances are very forward, very attacking, and on soft ground, those distances could be difficult to achieve.”
As to which parts of the course William thinks will present the most challenges, he said it depends on where you look: “If you look at most of the combinations, they’re built on a very forward stride, and you’ll be hoping that the horses are taking that forward stride and keeping the riders attacking and not starting to ride defensively.”
Sandra Auffarth, the overnight leader with Opgun Louvo on 35.2, spoke last, saying she rowdy crowd definitely made things more difficult for her this afternoon: “I think it was not the easiest atmosphere inside, and, of course, to go in last was as well a special atmosphere, but it was totally OK for me. To the beginning, I think he was a little bit nervous, but then he became better and better, so I really enjoyed it.”
She’s also the only rider who said she’s actually looking forward to tackling Pierre’s course tomorrow: “I think it’s going to be very tough, but it’s really well-planned and a really nice course where you have question after question, but every question is clear for the horses. So you really have to concentrate through the end.”
Click below to watch the full video of the press conference. Cross country starts at 10 a.m. local time, 4 a.m. EST tomorrow, with Buck Davidson and Ballynoe Castle RM first out on course. Click here to see start times, and stay tuned for much more from WEG.
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Today’s #WEG2014 Must-Reads:
[Is Team Canada Poised to Repeat History at WEG?]
[Sandra Auffarth and Opgun Louvo Dazzle at WEG to Lead on 35.2]
[A Good Day For His Best Test Ever: Brazil’s Ruy Fonseca Breaks Into WEG Top 10]
[Jock Paget Stages His Comeback, Hawley Bennett and Gin & Juice Shine at WEG]
[WEG Friday Afternoon Dressage Open Thread: 46.3 for Boyd Martin and Shamwari]
[Hawley Bennett Is Over the Moon With Her ‘Pocket Rocket’]
[WEG Friday Morning Dressage Open Thread: Donner Raring to Go for Team USA]