Say what you like about the French: they know how to have a good time. The atmosphere at Le Lion today was electric from before the start of cross-country, with thick crowds at every fence and loud cheering for every rider. Even the galloping stretches along the back of the course drew crowds, who urged horses and riders along in a manner you’d expect at Burghley or Badminton, certainly, but not a CCI* or CCI**.
After a long day of cross country, the overnight leaders in both classes proved untouchable on course. Both Izzy Taylor on Monkeying Around and James Avery on Vitali will remain in the top positions of their respective sections going into tomorrow’s final horse inspection and showjumping.
The CCI* track caused few problems for the six-year-olds this morning, with just four of the 45 starters having problems with the track and only seven combinations of the 41 finishers not making the time. Early starter Liz Halliday-Sharp and Cooley Quicksilver received 11 penalties for breaking a frangible pin, which Liz plans to contest.
It could be argued that a championship track should be far more influential, but when dealing with young horses, particularly those that will be aimed at the upper levels, confidence-building at this stage is as crucial as competitive results.
The nurturing track meant that the top ten remained unchanged at the end of the day, but for one minor change: Elizabeth Power and DSL The Entertainer managed to slip ahead of Sarah Bullimore and Corouet, with whom they were tied for third place after dressage, as Elizabeth finished closer to the optimum time.
This puts two Irish combinations in the top ten going into the final phase – a great boon for a country that, despite producing some of the best horses in the world, doesn’t always get the results it ought to. Jonty Evans and John the Bull maintain 10th place overnight.
Mike Winter and Center proved able trailblazers, posting a fast, tidy clear round within the time to get the day off to a great start. This allowed them to move up from 46th to 37th place, and they’ll contest the showjumping on their dressage score of 60.1. Tiana Coudray and G also posted a double-clear, but because of a lack of movement through the leaderboard only climbed one place to 21st.
Second place remains well within the grasp of Paul Tapner and the horse he referred to as “Perfect Bobbins, because he’s practically perfect in every way!” Paul, who is now an ‘elite amateur’ rather than a full-time professional eventer, praised the horse’s easy temperament and rideability, saying, “I do very little riding and a lot of office work, so it’s nice that I can ride him with very little concentration or give him a couple of days off and he’s still perfect.”
The CCI** proved more influential, with several combinations faulting at the final big question, the Devoucoux Cottage at 21ABC. The tricky line featured a sizeable drop onto a steep hill, an arrowhead and finally a skinny brush, all on a curving line, and for these young horses any lapse of concentration would throw them off the line.
It was this combination that caught out Stephanie Bohe and Classic Royetta, who had been in third place going into this phase, and Stephanie opted to retire. Five combinations were eliminated on course, including Madison Penfound and QEH Ocean Voyage and two chose to retire. Seven of the 48 finishers picked up jumping penalties, and there were 18 double-clears, allowing a reshuffle among the top contenders in the class.
Overnight leaders James Avery and Vitali didn’t produce one of those double clears – they added 1.6 time penalties, which doesn’t cost them the lead but narrows the margin to less than a penalty between them and second-placed Mary King and King Robert. This means that if Mary jumps a double-clear tomorrow, James can’t afford a single rail or a single second over the optimum time.
Outliers Andrew Nicholson and Yacabo BK climbed from 14th to 10th place after producing a clean, fast round, and second-placed Jean Lou Bigot and Aktion de Belheme slipped to eighth place after adding 2.4 time penalties.
One of the most surprising upsets of the day was that of Tom Carlile and Atos Barbotiere, who added 20 jumping and 10 time penalties to break Tom’s remarkable streak in which he’s finished on his dressage score in eight consecutive runs at this competition.
The top ten is tight going into the final phase: there isn’t a pole between the top nine and so any miscalculations or green errors will be seriously costly.
We’ll be back tomorrow with photos and updates from the final horse inspection, before the showjumping kicks off around midday. Ta-ta for now, chums!