The Cream Rises to the Top in Haras du Pin Final Selection Trial Cross-Country

Michael Jung and fischerChipmunk FRH cruise home a few seconds over the optimum, but retain the overnight lead. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

For all that Haras du Pin has the reputation of not being a dressage competition, when you get a field of this calibre together to go head-to-head, it does kind of…become a dressage competition. Or at least, that’s how it’s most easily interpreted when looking at the results, which show a totally unchanged top three and a largely unchanged top ten after a long day of cross-country today in Normandy.

105 would ultimately start the cross-country after the overnight withdrawal of Christoffer Forsberg and Con Classic 2Benjamin Massie and Climaine de CacaoUgo Provasi and Shad’OCC, and Remi Pillot and Tol Chik du Levant, and 91 of those 105 starters would go on to complete the course. Among those non-completions were some surprises: Tokyo Olympic partnership Christopher Six and Totem de Brecey, who had looked an almost sure thing for the French team at Pratoni, were eliminated after a rider fall at the penultimate fence — an error that came after a shock refusal at influential fence 7B, too. That was where the day ended for Italy’s Pietro Sandei and his stalwart partner Rubis du Prere, another near shoo-in for the World Championships whose path to Pratoni looks a little more unclear now, and throughout the day, the fence continued to cause problems across the board.

The USA’s Kimmy Cecere makes easy work of the influential combination at 7AB with Landmark’s Monaco. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

7B was a colossal downhill drop fence, immediately preceded by an airy upright at 7A and followed swiftly by a log drop into the water at 8A, after which horses needed to find their way to, and over, an angled brush in the water. The four-part question, which was numbered as two two-part questions, caused a not insignificant number of horses to hesitate and peek over the edge of 7B or 8A, before committing — or not. Other notable pairs who ran into trouble here were France’s Karim Laghouag and his own Tokyo mount Triton Fontaine, who he ultimately retired after fence 10A and Swedish five-star partnership Malin Josefsson and Golden Midnight, which will give selectors much to ponder ahead of the final Pratoni call.

Though Haras du Pin’s course is unique to Pratoni’s, it does have important similarities that have made it a useful exercise in preparation and selection today: like Pratoni, it’s a course that combines open galloping space with tight technical questions, and walking the course here does feel rather like walking a long-format instead of a short. It’s not as hilly as the Italian course will be, but it does make best use of several significant undulations, peppering serious questions at the top or bottom of them to ask riders to take responsibility for the canter and balance. And while Pratoni will likely be mercifully less hot than it was today, it will still be plenty warm — and so, though many of us worried about the potential ill effects of running four-star cross-country over the hottest part of the day today, it’s also been informative to see how horses cope and recover, if they’re given the right tools to do so quickly and fully.

Mollie Summerland and Charly van ter Heiden don’t quite catch the time, but stay comfortably in second place nonetheless. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

We saw sixteen combinations make the time today, with France’s Heloïse Le Guern and Canakine du Sudre Z — this year’s Bramham under-25 CCI4*-L winners — the first to do so. The leaderboard after dressage was so tightly packed that making the time — or, indeed, coming home just outside it — could cause a real game of Chutes and Ladders on the leaderboard, but although our top two didn’t quite make it happen, they made best use of the buffers they’d created with their excellent tests to stay in situ at the top. Michael Jung and fischerChipmunk FRH remain the overnight leaders, though their 2.8 time penalties gives them just a second in hand over second-placed Mollie Summerland and Charly van ter Heiden, who added just 0.8 time penalties.

Maxime Livio and Api du Libaire round out a wholly unchanged top three. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

France’s Maxime Livio is the highest-placed rider not to add time penalties today, despite his assertions yesterday that he wasn’t necessarily intending to run the fresh Api du Libaire to time — rather, he wanted to feel how the gelding, who hasn’t run since May’s Pratoni test event, was out on course, and make his decisions from there. The pair certainly didn’t look short of match practice, and they ultimately romped home two seconds inside the 6:21 optimum time to hold third, though a healthy 3.4 penalties behind Mollie.

Christoph Wahler and Carjatan S are on flying form in their first run since Badminton. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Christoph Wahler and Carjatan S surely punched their ticket for Pratoni with today’s excellent round — their first since Badminton, where the gelding lost a chunk of hoof that’s taken aching months to regrow. This is the sort of track that suits the rangy Holsteiner: with its dimensionally big fences and good galloping lanes, interspersed with technical, continental questions, it’s a course that Christoph had hoped he’d sink his teeth into with aplomb. He certainly did just that, coming home bang on the optimum time to break the three-way tie for fifth place that the pair had been in after dressage with fellow Germans Malin Hansen-Hotopp and Carlitos Quidditch K and France’s Gireg le Coz and Aisprit de la Loge, the latter of which picked up 15 penalties halfway around the course for a missed flag.

Malin Hansen-Hotopp and Carlitos Quidditch K. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Though Christoph moved ahead of her into fourth, Malin Hansen-Hotopp won’t be disappointed to find herself still in fifth place with the ten-year-old Carlitos Quidditch K, who has truly come into his own this season. Malin and the young horse are long listed for Pratoni on the third tier list, so while they aren’t likely to pinch a spot on the team from the likes of Tier One ranked Michi, Julia Krajewski, or Sandra Auffarth, nor, indeed, Tier Two riders Christoph, Dirk Schrade (now fourteenth with two time penalties with Casino 80) or Sophie Leube (twentieth with 4.8 aboard Jadore Moi), it’s still a very exciting position to put herself in with Paris 2024 in mind. Certainly, the rangy Holsteiner by Quiwi Dream is establishing himself as a consistent, reliable competitor — and his early round today saw him add just 0.4 time, with bigger and better things yet to come.

Gaspard Maksud and Zaragoza. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The last time we saw Gaspard Maksud and the exceptional, fiery nine-year-old Zaragoza, they were finishing up an exceptional team debut at CHIO Aachen with an unexpected swim in the main arena after a flamboyant jump in. We can’t quite tell you that the flamboyance has left the building — Zaragoza still very nearly audibly shouted “WEEEEE” every time she faced a drop fence today — but the clever mare has certainly worked out how to keep gravity on her side, and the exciting duo were among the sixteen pairs to best the clock, coming home with four seconds to spare and a point well and truly proven.

Alina Dibowski and her Junior and Young Rider Europeans mount continue to impress in Senior ranks. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

If keeping an eye on the heirs apparent to the current crop of superstars is your thing, Alina Dibowski certainly deserves a bit of your attention. As the daughter of Olympian Andreas, she’s well-bred for success, but she’s also an extraordinarily hard-working rider – and at 21, she’s just graduated from the Young Rider rankings and into the big leagues, with serious results so far. She followed up a great run in Luhmühlen’s CCI4*-S German National Championships, where she finished in the top ten, with another stonking performance aboard Barbados 26 today, climbing from 11th to seventh after adding no time or jumping penalties, and just squeaking ahead of eighth placed Tim Price and Coup de Coeur Dudevin, who climbed one place after adding 0.4 time and go into showjumping a tenth of a penalty behind Alina.

Astier Nicolas’s Alertamalib’Or proves he’s as good as he ever was. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Astier Nicolas made his best effort to ensure the top ten wasn’t too German, moving up from first-phase thirteenth to overnight ninth with his 2017 Seven-Year-Old World Champion Alertamalib’Or, who’s been in and out of the spotlight in the intervening years due to injury. Now, though, he looks back on form — and, potentially, an enormous asset for France in the years to come.

Julia Krajewski and Amande de b’Neville. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Finally, Olympic champions Julia Krajewski and Amande de b’Neville hopped four spots up the leaderboard to take overnight tenth after recording the second-fastest round of the day — a bit of proof in the pudding that the still young and relatively inexperienced mare has come on leaps and bounds in strength over the last year. (And yes, it was Andrew Hoy and Vassily de Lassos who were the fastest, in case you were wondering. They came home in 6:09 and leapt up from 21st to 13th place.)

Tomorrow morning brings us a few things: a more than ten degree temperature drop, thank god, a bit of rain, thank god again, and an inexplicable final horse inspection, even though this is a CCI4*-S. We’ll be cracking on with that from 8.30 a.m. local time (7.30 a.m. BST/2.30 a.m. EST), with content and a report to follow, and then the showjumping will commence from 11.30 a.m. (10.30 a.m. BST/5.30 a.m. EST) with the first group and from 15.30 (14.30 BST/9.30 a.m. EST) for the top 30 horses and riders. We’ll catch you, as always, on the flip side.

The top ten at Haras du Pin after a long day of cross-country.

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