Andreas Dibowski (GER) finally achieved the CCI4* win he so deserves with an immaculate Jumping round in the most testing of conditions at a rain-soaked Les Etoiles de Pau (FRA), the final leg of the HSBC FEI Classics™. But William Fox-Pitt’s (GBR) second place on Navigator, who hit three rails, was still good enough to win him a second HSBC FEI Classics™ title in three years and US$150,000.
Dibowski, who has endured four runner-up spots at CCI4*s, earned a rapturous reception from an excited, if damp, French crowd. “I am really happy and excited,” he said. “After my Dressage (he was 11th), I didn’t expect to win, but everyone needs a little bit of luck at this level and today it was my day.”
Fox-Pitt was generous in defeat. “If someone had told me I’d be second at the start of this week, I’d have thought it was a dream. It’s the first time I’ve had a clear Cross-Country at Pau! And I had to stay in second place to win the HSBC FEI Classics™, so I’m very relieved and pleased and pleased with my horse for coping so well.”
Third place went to Karin Donckers (BEL), who had two fences down on the thoroughbred Lamicell Charizard, her best CCI4* result and what looks like the start of a promising future for this horse.
The HSBC Training Bursary worth US$150,000 was awarded to Giovanni Ugolotti (ITA), who impressed when finishing 12th in his first CCI4* on Stormhill Kossack, an attractive grey formerly ridden by Paul Tapner (AUS).
Three horses dropped out before the Jumping: Joe Meyer (NZL), lying seventh on Sanskrit, did not present at the final horse inspection, and Georgie Spence’s Running Brook and Sharon Hunt’s Tankers Town were withdrawn from the holding box.
Early jumping rounds yielded some hefty scores, and Lucy Jackson (NZL) had an unfortunate fall when Animator spooked after the treble, but then torrential rain set in and the true test began.
Both Peter Flarup (DEN) and Gwnedolen Fer (FRA), who had endured a difficult Cross-Country due to her breastplate breaking, produced superb clears in extremely difficult circumstances – the rain was so heavy you could barely see across the arena. Fer finished sixth and best French rider, for the second year running. She said: “I’m not waiting another five years to win a four-star! I’m planning to go to Badminton next year to get a different view.” Flarup ended up in fifth place, easily his best CCI4* result, and was the only rider to finish on his Dressage score.
Boyd Martin (USA) was the biggest casualty, dropping from third to seventh with 17 faults, but Ruth Edge (GBR) kept her cool, Two Thyme only hitting the last fence, to stay in eighth, ahead of Andrew Nicholson (NZL) on the big grey Mr Cruise Control, who crept into the top 10 despite a Cross-Country run-out the previous day.
The French press joked that Fox-Pitt, as a Briton, should be used to rain. “It wasn’t much fun,” he admitted, “but we were laughing out in the warm-up because it seemed so unbelievable. The ground was difficult to read and you couldn’t really see, but at least we were on an all-weather surface.”
He and Dibowski received a rousing reception as they received their HSBC cheques. In perhaps the most thrilling finale yet, the order of the top five in the HSBC FEI Classics™ remained unchanged, with Burghley winner Caroline Powell (NZL) remaining in third place, ahead of the consistent Mary King (GBR) and Badminton winner Paul Tapner (AUS), who just beat Luhmühlen winner Sharon Hunt (GBR) to the cash prizes by dint of having a better finishing score.
1 Andreas Dibowski/FRH Fantasia (GER) 51.0 + 10 + 0 = 61.0
2 William Fox-Pitt/Navigator (GBR) 48.0 + 3.2 + 12 = 63.2
3 Karin Donckers/Lamicell Charizard (BEL) 41.8 + 16.8 + 8 = 66.0
4 Kai Ruder/Leprince de Bois (GER) 44.2 + 17.2 + 8 = 69.4
5 Peter Flarup/Silver Ray (DEN) 66.0 + 0 + 0 = 66
6 Gwendoline Fer/Leria du Ter (FRA) 61.8 + 10.8 + 0 = 72.6
7 Boyd Martin/Remington XXV (USA) 43.2 + 16.0 + 17 =76.2
8 Ruth Edge/Two Thyme (GBR) 41.8 + 20 + 12.4 + 4 = 78.2
9 Andrew Nicholson/Mr Cruise Control (NZL) 52.5 + 20 + 10.8 + 4 = 87.3
10 Karim Florent Laghouag/Havenir d’Azac (FRA) 56.5 + 20 + 12 = 88.5
Full results on www.event-pau.fr
HSBC FEI Classics™ Final Standings
1 William Fox-Pitt (GBR) 39 points - US$ 150,000 (Series champion)
2 Andreas Dibowski (GER) 37 - US$ 75,000
3 Caroline Powell (NZL) 21 - US$ 50,000
4 Mary King (GBR) 18 - US$ 33,000
5 Paul Tapner (AUS) 15 - US$ 25,000
(Full standings on www.fei.org)
HSBC FEI Classics™ Calendar of Events in 2010
1. 21-25 April - Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event (USA)
2. 30 April - 03 May - Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials (GBR)
3. 17-20 June - Luhmühlen presented by E.ON Avacon (GER)
4. 2-5 September - Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials (GBR)
5. 4-7 November- Les Etoiles de Pau (FRA)
Photo caption: William Fox-Pitt (GBR), 2010 season's winner of the FEI HSBC Classics (c) Peter Nixon/FEI