Michael Jung (GER) gave a masterclass in Cross Country riding at Les 4 Etoiles de Pau (FRA), opening leg of the FEI Classics™ 2015/2016, and remains in first and second places on Halunke FBW and fischerRocana FST.
However, tomorrow’s Jumping phase promises to be a thriller as he does not have a Jumping fence in hand over CCI4* first-timer Emily King (GBR), who is still in third place on Brookleigh, or France’s Astier Nicolas, fourth on Piaf de B’neville.
The top 10 has changed little after Dressage with 28 clear rounds from the 47 Cross Country starters, 15 of them inside the optimum time.
Pierre Michelet’s track was shorter by 24 seconds than last year and the time allowed of 11 minutes 38 seconds proved easily achievable on the good footing; several riders enjoyed the luxury of being able to take the long option at the last complex at fence 27 and still finish comfortably inside the time.
Jung’s first round on fischerRocana FST was sheer poetry; the Olympic and triple European champion rides the mare with the lightest of contact and has an extraordinary eye for distances, flying the fences spectacularly with hardly a pull on the reins.
He had to work a bit harder on Halunke FBW; the white-faced black gelding had some time off after winning the European title in 2013 and is a heavier type to steer, but although his name means “rascal”, the 11-year-old proved perfectly well-mannered at his first CCI4* and finished just one second over the optimum time.
Emily King’s performance was also a joy to watch, as the teenager, visibly concentrating hard on the job in hand, maintained a perfect rhythm throughout and took all the direct routes to finish six seconds inside the optimum time.
She will find herself under severe pressure tomorrow, but the 19-year-old has spent time training with British Olympic gold medalist Ben Maher and is well capable of a good performance in the Jumping arena.
“I’m so pleased, I’ve never had such a good round on the horse, so it was great timing for it to happen here,” said a delighted King. “My plan was to keep attacking on a forward stride and he listened to me all the way and felt so happy. The Jumping is probably our weakest phase, but I will just have to keep Ben’s words ringing in my ear!”
Neither King nor Astier Nicolas have a Jumping fence in hand over Tim Price (NZL), who had a typically smooth round on Wesko to remain in fifth place. Popular French rider Karim Florent Loughouag incurred just two time penalties on the stallion Entebbe de Hus, allowing Tim Lips (NED) on Concrex Bayro and Paul Tapner (AUS) on Indian Mill to rise a place each to sixth and seventh respectively.
American rider Jennie Brannigan, ninth after Dressage, was eliminated for a dramatic horse fall with Cambalda at the racecourse hedge (fence 15). Her departure allowed Bill Levett (AUS) to move up a place to ninth on Shannondale Titan and last year’s runners-up, Andreas Dibowski and FRH Butts Avedon, to come up into the top 10.
Pathfinder Sarah Bullimore (GBR) set the tone for a good day with a double clear on Valentino V, and she is now in 12th place behind Sir Mark Todd, who produced a masterful round on NZB Campino, 11th.
However, Bullimore’s day deteriorated with a frustrating run-out on Reve de Rouet at 27b, a brush fence on an acute turn, and she was stopped on course and eliminated after Lilly Corinne got the flag between her front legs on the narrow “bunch of grapes”, fence 21.
Lucy Wiegersma (GBR) had the day’s strangest misfortune. She was going well on Mr Chunky when jumping too far to the left into the final water complex at 24; the gelding, unable to make the sharp right-hand turn in time to the bounce up over a fish-shaped fence, took off over the boundary railings and fell in the much deeper water on the other side, leaving Wiegersma wading in chest-high water.
Results after Cross Country
1 Michael Jung/Halunke FBW (GER) 34.5 + 0.4 = 34.9 penalties
2 Michael Jung/fischerRocana FST (GER) 35.4 + 0 = 35.4
3 Emily King/Brookleigh (GBR) 38.3 + 0 = 38.3
4 Astier Nicolas/Piaf d’B’neville (FRA) 38.5 + 0 = 38.5
5 Tim Price/Wesko (NZL) 40.0 + 0 = 40.0
6 Tim Lips/Concrex Bayro (NED) 40.9 + 0 = 40.9
7 Indian Mill/Paul Tapner (AUS) 42.3 + 0 = 42.3
8 Karim Florent Laghouag/Entebbe de Hus (FRA) 40.6 + 2 = 42.6
9 Bill Levett/Shannondale Titan (AUS) 42.9 + 0 = 42.9
10 Andreas Dibowski/FRH Butts Avedon 42.9 + 0 = 42.9