Qing is King at Haras du Pin CCIO4*-S; French Riders Likely to Take Over the World

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CICO4*- Nations cup @legrandcomplet Les français de bout en bout ! 🇫🇷 Superbe victoire, avec la manière, de l’équipe de France qui devance les Pays-Bas et la Grande-Bretagne ! En individuel, c’est tout simplement un quintuplé Français devant le King Michael Jung 💪 1️⃣ @thibautvallette – Qing du Briot – 27.8 2️⃣ @tom.carlile – Birmane – 29.0 3️⃣ @gwendolen.fer – Traumprinz 30.6 4️⃣ @christophersix_eventing – Totem de Brecey – 31.4 5️⃣ @karimlaghouag_officiel – Triton Fontaine 31.4 🔜 Rendez-vous demain pour un débriefing de ce très beau concours ! #eventing #concourscomplet #feinationscup #horseriding #team #fei #ffequitation

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At the culmination of yesterday’s showjumping, we spoke at length about the interesting dichotomy of the French team at the moment, and how its mix of stalwart talent and exciting young guns could mean that the postponement of the Olympics plays well in their favour. Today, after an action-packed day of cross-country at Haras du Pin CCIO4*-S, we can only really reiterate this point.

To say the French riders did well over Pierre Le Goupil‘s roundly praised, educational track would be to commit an almost negligent level of understatement. By the close of the competition, they hadn’t just taken the title — in fact, both the individual and team titles — for the Tricolore, they’d managed to take the top five slots on the leaderboard, too, as well as four of the six fault-free rounds of the day. They showed strength in depth, showcased the skills of a plethora of as-yet-unsung talents, and demonstrated, once again, the unique je ne sais quois of French cross-country riding. Well, we tell a lie — we do know what it is. It’s a very specific type of forward riding that allows them to make every distance a forward one, but not in a terrifying, seat-of-the-pants kind of way, but rather, in a way that makes you think that maybe, just maybe, you should be subtracting one from every line you ride from now on. (Don’t try this at home, kids.)

The battle between joint-leaders — and French team members — Thibaut Vallette and Qing du Briot IFCE and Tom Carlile and young gun Birmane was fought and finished without much scuffle, but with plenty for enthusiastic onlookers to enjoy. Both horses — the steadfast team veteran and the barely-out-of-baby-classes star of the not-too-distant future — made light work of, and good time over, the track, showing nary a hint of rustiness for their time spent on lockdown. It was to be Thibaut’s day, though, when he crossed the finish line with just 1.2 time penalties to add, edging him ahead of Tom and Birmane, who added 2.4 time penalties to take home a respectable second place finish.

Third place was scooped by 2017 Pau winner Gwendolen Fer, who rode Traumprinz to one of only six double-clear rounds today, catapulting them from overnight tenth. She was closely followed by Christopher Six and Totem de Brecey, riding for the French team, who finished fourth on 31.4 after coming home just one second over the optimum time of 6:14. This is another excellent result for Christopher, who came from seemingly nowhere last year when he and Totem de Brecey stormed to fourth place at the European Championships. He’s been something of a best-kept secret for the French — and terrifyingly for the rest of us, he’s not the only one they’ve got up their sleeve.

After several days of battling to avoid the drop-score spot, Christopher and teammate Karim Florent Laghouag, riding Triton Fontaine, finally sorted it all out via a technicality. The two riders had been tied after every phase and each added just 0.4 time penalties today, but Christopher was just fractions of a second closer to the optimum time and thus pushed Karim into fifth place, clutching possibly the world’s most desirable drop score of 31.4.

The first non-French rider to appear on the leaderboard would be — surprise, surprise — Michael Jung, who added 2.8 time penalties with fischerChipmunk FRH to finish sixth, followed by Australia’s Kevin McNab and Scuderia 1918 A Best Friend in seventh on 32.2. Fellow Aussie Chris Burton left the startbox to fight for second place aboard four-star first-timer Jefferson 18, but a green run-out at the skinny C element of the water complex at 9ABC, which followed a bit of a novice-y, wobbly jump in, put paid to his competitive chances. In spite of this, the rider was one of many to praise the design of the course.

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Today the winner of the CCIO4*-NC-S Nations Cup Competition was decided at @legrandcomplet with the culmination of the cross country phase set in the stunning grounds of Haras du Pin (FRA) It was the home nation of France who emerged victorious after maintaining their lead right from the very beginning go the competition. The Australian Team were in 4th place following yesterday’s showjumping phase however some faults incurred cross country dropped the team’s final standing to 7th position. The Australian Team consisted of @burtonequestrian riding Jefferson 18 (the horses first time at 4* level), @ie_equestrian riding Feldale Mouse and @mcnabeventing riding @scuderia_1918 Don Quidam. #FEINationsCup #Eventing #crosscountry #HarasduPin #Equestrian #AusEquestrianTeam #HighPerformance #TeamAUS #gallop #horse #horses #australianequestrianteam #towardstokyo #tokyo2020

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After a spate of overnight withdrawals, 83 combinations came forward to tackle today’s cross-country, and while just six of them would romp home without any faults to add, 79 would complete, and 65 would do so without adding any jumping faults. Rider feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with many describing the course as a good refresher for themselves and their horses, allowing for an educational run with just the right amount of challenges and technicality to prepare them for further late-summer and autumn competitive aims.

Course designer Pierre Le Goupil, who, along with his wife, forms part of the Ustica committee behind the event, said: “For some riders it’s their first time out this season, so the idea was to make it a little bit on the soft side – but also because we’ve got a big field with 5* horses, it cannot be too easy, so the balance is a bit [tricky]. We need a bit of everything; some easy, some sophisticated. They need to have a go, they need to train, they need to exercise, so they’ll all know more on Sunday afternoon. The feedback I’ve had is that the trainers and riders are happy with the questions. The factor out of our control is the weather, we went suddenly from high heat and hard ground to rain that made the ground preparation a bit more difficult.”

For Pierre, one of the main challenges was rather a positive one: he had a bigger, more varied field than usual to build for, which meant that he had to bring in new ideas and different questions to create a course that offered something to each and every entrant.

“This is something new this year. With competitions cancelled we have a stronger field than usual, so maybe more than usual I’ve had to think about different scenarios. In my opinion, the first water jump  [at9ABC] is the most interesting. Having a good line with a little bump and big step at the A element makes it easy to lose your line and horses and riders will have to be quick to find their line for B and C.”

This question ended up being the most influential on course, with ten combinations faulting in the complex.

The French team — wholly unsurprisingly — finished well out in front on a final aggregate score of 88.2, with Karim Florent Laghouag losing the ongoing drop-score battle he’d fought with teammate Christopher Six, with whom he’d been tied in every phase. Second place went to a valiant Dutch team of Tim Lips and Eclips (37.7), Janneke Boonzaaijer and ACSI Champ de Tailleur (38.9), Elaine Pen and Divali (45.2), and drop-score combination Laura Hoogeveen and Wicro Quibus NOP (54.3). The team’s final score was 121.8, which goes some way towards showing just how remarkably the French performed at their home leg of this year’s condensed Nations Cup series. Great Britain took third place on 127.7, led by Richard Coney and Kananaskis (32.2), followed by David Doel and Galileo Nieuwmoed (34.9), Tom McEwen and Figaro van het Broekxhof (60.6) and drop-score Zara Tindall and Class Affair (64.2).

The next leg of the Nations Cup series takes place at Poland’s Strzegom Horse Trials, August 27-30. Prepare your pierogis, folks.

The final top five in Haras du Pin’s CCIO4*-S. Zut alors.

Haras du Pin CCIO4*-S: Individual Results | Nations Cup Results | Cross-Country Map