Pau, France - Cross country day at the 2013 Les Étoiles de Pau CCI4* saw American combinations climb the leaderboard with efficient, clear performances. Pierre Michelet's 33 obstacle track produced trouble throughout the day with thirty six combinations coming home without jumping penalties and of those only six were able to finish within the 11:48 time allowed. Phillip Dutton, Clark Montgomery, Marilyn Little and Lynn Symansky proved their mettle with classy efforts on a day that saw many top names in the sport fail to finish.
Dutton (West Grove, PA) and the Mr. Medicott Syndicate's 14-year-old Irish Sport gelding Mr. Medicott set out on course lying in seventh place and climbed three places with a classy performance. The pair cruised effortlessly around Michelet's track to finish one second over the optimum time and add .4 time faults to their dressage score of 44.2. They will head into the show jumping in fourth place on a score of 44.6 just 3.1 points out of the lead.
"It was good; obviously he's a great horse. I'm still trying to get to know him and we were trying to go fast without making a silly mistake," remarked Dutton of his ride on Saturday. "This wouldn't be the ideal course for him but he got better and better as the course went on."
Both Dutton and Mr. Medicott brought a wealth of experience to Pau but are contesting their first CCI4* together. Dutton has represented both the U.S. and his native Australia at numerous Olympic and FEI World Equestrian Games, including winning Olympic Team Gold with Australia in 1996 and 2000, while Mr. Medicott completed the 2008 Olympic Games and 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games with Germany's Frank Ostholt. He was also ridden by Karen O'Connor to ninth place at the London Olympic Games.
"It gets better with each time. He's got to get to know me and my reactions but I think this weekend is good for us," remarked Dutton about his growing partnership with Mr. Medicott. Dutton looks to secure Mr. Medicott's third top-10 Pau completion on Sunday. The gelding was third in 2008 and 10th in 2011 with Ostholt.
Montgomery (Wiltshire, UK) and Jessica Montgomery, Carole Montgomery, Janet Higgins, and Elizabeth Smith's Universe were the pathfinder for the U.S. as the first American pair on course. The Land Rover Competition Grant recipients set the tone for the U.S. camp by flying around the course faultlessly to finish two seconds inside the optimum time. The talented pair are looking for their second CCI4* completion of 2013 after having placed 27th at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials in the 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding's first attempt at the level.
Montgomery and Universe, who stood 31st after the dressage, head into the show jumping in ninth place on a score of 52.
Little (Frederick, MD) and Raylyn Farms and Team Demeter 's 11-year-old Oldenburg mare RF Demeter were the final U.S. pair on course and cruised to a clear round finishing just four seconds over the time. The pair, which was seventh at the Luhmuhlen CCI4* in June, is competing in Pau on a Land Rover Competition Grant and is poised for another top 12 CCI4* finish as it heads into the show jumping on a score of 52.8. With its quick clear round on Saturday the pair climbed 16 places after the dressage and now stand in 11th places after two phases.
Symansky (Middleburg, VA) and her own Donner were the second U.S. combination to produce a double clear effort on Saturday. The pair, which is contesting its first European competition after having been awarded Jacqueline B. Mars Competition and Training Grant, proved its place among the top in the world with a scorching round. The 10-year-old Thoroughbred gelding utilized his classy galloping style to finish 15 seconds within the time allowed. The 2011 Pan American Games Team Gold medalists climbed 26 places with their clear round and will enter the final phase on a score of 53.3 in 12th place.
Michael Pollard (Dalton, GA) and Carl Bouckaert's 15-year-old Thoroughbred gelding Mensa looked on target to produce another clear round for the U.S. until a run-out two-thirds the way around the course. The Land Rover Competition Grant recipients collected 20 jumping penalties for a run-out at 20B and added a further 24.8 time faults. They head into the show jumping in 47th place on a score of 100.
Land Rover Competition Grant recipients Hannah Sue Burnett (The Plains, Va.) and Jacqueline Mars' Harbour Pilot set out on Saturday laying in equal 11th place. The 2011 Pan American Games Team Gold and Individual Silver medalists slipped between elements at the first water and were subsequently eliminated when Burnett came out of the tack.
Kristi Nunnink and her own 12-year-old Holsteiner mare R-Star travelled to Pau from their base in Auburn, CA on a Land Rover Competition Grant. The pair ran into some trouble at the first water and were eliminated after jumping the option in the wrong order.
Great Britain's William Fox-Pitt again proved why he's among the best in the game as he produced three double clear performances to hold the top three spots at the conclusion of the cross country. The 2012 Olympic Games Team Silver medalist leads with Seacookie TSF on 41.5, Cool Mountain stands second on 42.2, and Neuf Des Coeurs is third standing on 43.2.
Learn more about the Les Étoiles de Pau CCI4*, visit www.event-pau.fr/en/homepage/.
For start times and results, click here.
Follow the 2013 Land Rover U.S. Eventing Team here.