Two of the world’s best exponents of the Dressage phase are sharing the lead at Les Etoiles de Pau (FRA), the eagerly awaited finale to the 2010 HSBC FEI Classics™. Karin Donckers (BEL), who only just missed an individual medal at the recent Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ in Kentucky, was the first of the field of 38 to score below 50, and about an hour later there were no surprises when Britain’s Ruth Edge equalled her score of 41.8 penalties.
Their two horses have contrasting experience: Donckers’s Lamicell Charizard, who she bought as a two-year-old from racing sales in Germany, is now 10 and contesting his first CCI4; Edge’s 17-year-old Two Thyme won Luhmühlen in 2007 and led the Dressage at Burghley this year before a Cross-Country refusal put paid to their chances.
Sharon Hunt (GBR), currently sixth in the HSBC FEI Classics™ rankings and therefore tantalisingly close to winning some of the US$333,000 prize-pot, is only one penalty in arrears on her vastly experienced 16-year-old Luhmühlen winner Tankers Town, with American rider Boyd Martin, competing in Europe for the first time, hard on her heels in fourth on Remington XXV.
Hunt, who brought the day to a fitting climax with a beautifully ridden test on her long-time partner Tankers Town, is the only two-horse rider in the field and is planning to use her first round, on the up-and-coming Kenny, to her advantage.
“It will be nice to have an early spin round,” she said. “It’s the sort of Cross-Country course where you need a bit of luck – there are so many turns and arrowheads, but ‘Jasper’ (Tankers Town) is such a quick, agile horse that it should be good for him. “The prospect of the HSBC FEI Classics™ has definitely been a motivation for me this autumn, but whatever happens, I’ve had a great year.”
Martin, currently 14th in the HSBC FEI Classics™, is similarly motivated, and a high placing could rocket him into the money prizes. His weekend got off to a bad start with a bout of food poisoning, but his good mark of 43.2 clearly cheered him up.
“Remington should do a good test – he is by the German dressage sire Rubinstein and was bought into the US as a dressage horse,” explained Martin, who added that the gelding has had an interesting career – he had a spell as a hunter before starting Eventing two years ago and rose quickly through the ranks to be reserve horse for the US team at Kentucky.
Kai Rüder and the stallion Leprince des Bois, also reserves for Kentucky, are in fifth place ahead of four British riders. Oliver Townend, last year’s HSBC FEI Classics™ winner, is sixth, despite ODT Master Rose spooking dramatically at the sight of the moving camera above the judges’ boxes, and this year’s current leader, William Fox-Pitt (GBR) is ninth on Navigator.
Fox-Pitt was keeping an eye on his closest rival for the $US150,000 first prize, Andreas Dibowski (GER), who is in 11th place on FRH Fantasia, but he admitted: “I’m just very happy to have the horse here; he’s had a few setbacks and it’s been a real team effort to get him here. This is my seventh CCI this autumn and I have to thank my wife, Alice, for doing all the work with the horse at home.”
Fox-Pitt echoed other riders’ sentiments when he said that Pierre Michelet’s (FRA) Cross-Country track has more galloping stretches than last year but he warned: “That almost makes the twisty bits more difficult. There are constant turning questions, especially in water, and several drops. And there are some fences which look small, but actually take a lot of riding.”
Townend was one of many riders to say: “Pierre Michelet is a fantastic designer; you never know what will happen.” But one thing is for sure, when Sharon Hunt and Kenny kick off the action at 1.30pm CEST, a thrilling day’s sport is in store.
Follow the competition on www.event-pau.fr
1 eq Ruth Edge/Two Thyme (GBR) 41.8
1 eq Karin Donckers/Lamicell Charizard (BEL) 41.8
3 Sharon Hunt/Tankers Town (GBR) 42.8
4 Boyd Martin/Remington XXV (USA) 43.2
5 Kai Ruder/Leprince des Bois (GER) 44.2
6 Oliver Townend/ODT Master Rose (GBR) 45.8
7 Lucy Wiegersma/Simon Porloe (BR) 46.5
8 Emily Baldwin/Drivetime (GBR) 46.7
9 William Fox-Pitt/Navigator (GBR) 48.0
10 Pascal Leroy/Glenburny de Leou (FRA) 48.8
HSBC FEI Classics™ Standings (after 4 of 5 events)
1 William Fox-Pitt (GBR) 27
2 Andreas Dibowski (GER) 22
3 Caroline Powell (NZL) 21
4 Mary King (GBR) 18
5 Paul Tapner (AUS) 15
6 Sharon Hunt (GBR) 15
7 Oliver Townend (GBR) 14
8 Ingrid Klimke (GER) 12
9 Phillip Dutton (USA) 12
10 Clayton Fredericks (AUS) 10
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)
HSBC has contributed US$ 1million to the series over three years. Prize-money is awarded, as follows, to the top five riders on the leaderboard after the fifth and final event:
WINNERS OF THE 2009 SEASON
1. Oliver Townend (GBR) - US$ 150,000 (Series champion);
2. Dirk Schrade (GER) - US$ 75,000;
3. Andreas Dibowski - (GER) US$ 50,000;
4. William Fox-Pitt (GBR) - US$ 33,000;
5. Sam Griffiths (AUS) - US$ 25,000
Photo Caption: Joint leader, Ruth Edge at Pau