Rio 2016 Olympic Games team bronze medallist Christopher Burton from Australia topped the 6-year-old division with the KWPN Fire Fly at the FEI World Breeding Federation Eventing Championships for Young Horses 2016 at Le Lion d’Angers, France yesterday.
This was the 31st edition of these Championships which have been staged annually since 1992, and spectators flocked into the lovely venue at the Haras National at l‘Isle de Briand throughout the weekend, with a massive crowd of almost 35,000 spectators for Saturday’s cross-country phase.
Exciting new talent was highlighted in both age categories, with a total of 99 horses representing a range of studbooks. The Selle Francais claimed the overall Studbook title with a score of 154.6 points, but finished only a single point ahead of the KWPN in second on 154.7 while last year’s winners, the Irish Sport Horse Studbook, lined up third this time around with their final tally standing at 168.2 when the results of both age categories were analysed.
The Ground Jury for the 6-year-olds consisted of Germany’s Ernst Topp, Ireland’s David Lee and Bulgaria’s Yuri Dinev Valev and, from the field of 40 starters, they placed Germany’s Kai-Steffen Meier and the Trakehner stallion Painter’s Maxim (Philox/Painter’s Moon/Painter’s Row) in pole position after dressage on a score of 40.03.
Belgium’s Lara de Liedekerke-Mei and the Hannoverian gelding Ducati D’Arville (Diarado/Pricilla/Perpignon) filled second spot on 42.3 while Britain’s Izzy Taylor and the KWPN chestnut mare Jockey Club Fleurelle (Vivaldi/Zarelle/Sydney) slotted into third on 43.4. Burton was never far away however, holding fourth with Fire Fly on a score of 44.2 while Switzerland’s Felix Vogg and Mathurin V/D Vogelzan was sitting in fifth place on 45.3 going into the cross-country phase.
Pierre Michelet’s fantastic cross-country track jumped really well, with just one retirement and three eliminations around the course, and the time-allowed of 8’ 53” proved well within the grasp of most, only nine collecting time penalties on the day. All of the top six held their spots, so it came down to yesterday’s final jumping round to decide the medal placings.
Vogg and Burton each posted a brilliant clear to finish on their dressage scores, so when all those ahead of them faltered they soared up the leaderboard. Taylor’s single mistake cost her the win, but when double-errors dropped Meier to fourth and Liedekerke-Mei to sixth place, then the British rider claimed bronze behind Vogg in silver and Burton in gold medal position.
There was nothing boastful about Burton in the aftermath however, the 34-year-old double-Olympian acknowledging that fortune favoured him in the closing stages. “I am happy,” he said, “there were so many good six year old horses with good riders, I really needed all the luck for this win and I had exactly that in the jumping because my horse touched several poles that didn’t fall! There were others who were not so lucky. My horse performed exactly how I could have wished, and it’s great to finish this season so well.”
GOLD - Fire Fly (Christopher Burton) AUS 44.2
SILVER - Mathurin V/D Vogelzan (Felix Vogg) SUI 45.3
BRONZE - Jockey Club Fleurelle (Izzy Taylor) GBR 47.4.
Gold - Selle Francais 154.6
Silver - KWPN 154.7
Bronze - Irish Sport Horse 168.2.