The first competition of the FEI Classics™ 2013/2014 season has been billed as a “battle of the giants” between Andrew Nicholson (NZL) and William Fox-Pitt (GBR), ranked first and second in the HSBC Rider Rankings, but Australia’s Lucinda Fredericks has swept ahead of the pair of them after the Dressage phase at Les Etoiles de Pau (FRA).
Fredericks, always a graceful and accomplished performer in this phase, was the only rider to break the 40-penalty barrier with a score of 39.2 on Flying Finish. However, the next six horses, three of them ridden by Fox-Pitt, are within five penalties of the leading score.
Flying Finish, a 13-year-old gelding by Candillo, is Fredericks’ top horse; they were second at Luhmühlen (GER) and members of the Australian Olympic team in 2012. This year, after a slow start to the season, due to Fredericks breaking a collarbone in March, they were 10th at Luhmühlen, but both horse and rider will have honed their fitness since then and are sure to be making a determined assault on Pierre Michelet’s Cross Country course tomorrow.
“Pierre is certainly testing us,” commented Fredericks, who is competing at Pau for the first time since 2002. “I’ve never ridden in the four-star here but the advantage of going later is that I’ll be able to watch. The downside is that I’ll have more time to get nervous.
“I think the first and last sections of the course will be a lot slower than the middle part [on the racecourse] and as my horse isn’t a thoroughbred, I can’t switch on the turbo, so I need to make a plan.”
Fredericks said the Dressage was “the easy bit. I enjoy it and I’m lucky because my horse has a good brain. So often as a horse gets more experienced they can blow up in the atmosphere, but he settles. I was a bit weak in my halts. I don’t know if it’s because I had practised them too much or not enough, but to do three bad halts and still be leading isn’t bad!”
Fox-Pitt, a three-time winner of the HSBC FEI Classics™ (in 2008, 2010 and 2012) and a winner at Pau in 2011 on Oslo, performed the remarkable feat of achieving three Dressage marks less than two penalties apart to lie second, third and equal fourth.
He is second on Seacookie TSF, runner-up at Kentucky (USA) in April, third on the 2010 World individual silver medalist Cool Mountain, and equal fourth on Neuf des Coeurs, third at Luhmühlen in June but retired early on the Cross Country at Burghley (GBR) last month.
Fox-Pitt was among many riders to welcome the new arena surface at Pau. “The horses seemed to go very nicely on it and now there’s a level playing field,” he said.
Of his three rides, he was particularly pleased with Cool Mountain, back in major competition for the first time since a member of Britain’s bronze medal team at the 2011 HSBC FEI European Eventing Championships in Luhmühlen.
Last year’s Pau winner Andrew Nicholson, the 2012/13 HSBC FEI Classics series champion, is also three-handed at Pau and is in close contention. He is in equal fourth with Fox-Pitt on his Kentucky winner, the black Spanish-bred Quimbo, and 10th on his Luhmuhlen winner, the big Irish-bred grey Mr Cruise Control. Viscount George, competing in his first CCI4*, is in 29th place on 51 penalties.
Nicholson has competed at Pau every year since the event started in 1990. “I love coming here,” he said. “It’s a very different competition to what we have in the UK, the site is much flatter and more compact, but the organisers do a great job here and it’s good to ride at different types of event.”
Lucy Wiegersma (GBR) is a regular visitor to Pau and returns with her top horse, Simon Porloe, seventh in 2011. They are currently in sixth place on 43.8, fractionally ahead of Phillip Dutton (USA) on his new ride Mr Medicott. The horse’s former rider, Frank Ostholt (GER), who won an Olympic team gold medal on him in 2008, is eighth on his 2011 European individual bronze medalist, Little Paint. Maxime Livio (Cathar de Gamel) is best of the home side in ninth place.
Two more former Pau CCI4* winners are in the field: the 2010 winner, Andreas Dibowski (GER, is 11th on FRH Fantasia and 35th on FRH Butts Leon; his compatriot Bettina Hoy (the winner in 2008) is much further down the order than usual at this stage, in equal 60th on Designer and 68th on Lanfranco TSF, but she will no doubt be relieved that she managed to contain Lanfranco’s notorious rebelliousness in this phase.
Fox-Pitt and Neuf des Coeurs will be first out on the Cross Country course tomorrow at 12.15pm CET. Watch all the Cross Country and Jumping action live on FEI TV www.feitv.org and keep up to date with the scores throughout on www.event-pau.fr.
Results after Dressage
1 Lucinda Fredericks/Flying Finish (AUS) 39.2
2 William Fox-Pitt/Seacookie TSF (GBR) 41.5
3 William Fox-Pitt/Cool Mountain (GBR) 42.2
4 = William Fox-Pitt/Neuf des Coeurs (GBR) 43.2
4 = Andrew Nicholson/Quimbo (NZL) 43.2
6 Lucy Wiegersma/Simon Porloe (GBR) 43.8
7 Phillip Dutton/Mr Medicott (USA) 44.2
8 Frank Ostholt/Little Paint (GER) 44.7
9 Maxime Livio/Cathar de Gamel (FRA) 44.8
10 Andrew Nicholson/Mr Cruise Control (NZL) 45.3
FEI Classics™ 2013/2014 calendar
1 Les Etoiles de Pau CCI 4* (FRA) – 23-27 October 2013
2 Australian International 3 Day Event (AUS) – 14-17 November 2013
3 Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event (USA) – 23-27 April 2014
4 Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials (GBR) – 8-11 May 2014
5 Luhmühlen CCI 4* presented by DHL Paket (GER) – 12-15 June 2014
6 Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials (GBR) – 4-7 September 2014