William Fox-Pitt (GBR) is in line for a memorable double – and a big pay cheque - having leapt into a commanding lead after Cross-Country at Les Etoiles de Pau (FRA), the final leg of the valuable HSBC FEI Classics™, in which he also holds top position.
Fox-Pitt showed just why he is one of the world’s best horsemen, his magnificent round coming at the end of a dramatic afternoon’s sport in which Pierre Michelet’s (FRA) technically demanding track and the elusive optimum time of 10 minutes 35 seconds proved hugely influential.
He was only ninth after Dressage on the long-striding chestnut thoroughbred Navigator, who produced the second fastest time of the day despite taking two long routes. However, the pair survived a dramatic moment at fence 14, when the horse jumped strongly over the first of two angled houses and had to stretch over the second.
“He’s still a bit exuberant and tends to jump out of your hand,” explained Fox-Pitt, “but he’s a wonderful galloper and a lovely genuine horse.”
One of the joint Dressage leaders, Karin Donckers (BEL) on the promising 10-year-old Lamicell Charizard, is still at the top of the leaderboard, in second place with 16.8 time penalties, but the other, Ruth Edge (GBR) on the 17-year-old Two Thyme had a stop when taking the long route at the third and final water complex. However, such was the influence of the Cross-Country that Edge is still in eighth place with the fast time of 12.4 penalties.
After Dressage, there were six British riders in the top 10; now there are only two. Sharon Hunt (GBR), lying third on Tankers Town, was not as fortunate as Fox-Pitt at fence 14 and after the 16-year-old gelding had launched himself over the first element, she was unable to turn him to the second.
Emily Baldwin (GBR), seventh, did not start Drivetime because she was suffering from a heavy cold, and Oliver Townend (GBR) has dropped from sixth to 11th after ODT Master Rose scrambled out of the third water and failed to make the turn to the upturned boat fence.
Lucy Wiegersma (GBR), seventh, was unluckier, getting a soaking when Simon Porloe caught a foreleg jumping over the boat into this complex and came down in the water; minutes later, France’s Pascal Leroy on the veteran Glenburny de Leou suffered an almost identical fate.
The top 10 is certainly more international now, with Boyd Martin (USA), paying his first visit to France, moving up to third place on the Hanoverian black gelding Remington XXV. Martin, who switched from Australian to American nationality last year, was one of only a handful of riders to achieve the straight route over the acutely angled brush corner at fence 28.
“My horse isn’t that good at turning at the end of a course,” explained Martin. “My main aim all the way round was to be economical with him because he’s not a natural galloper. We took all the straight routes and I tried to be as light as I could. “I knew there had been problems on the course, but I was confident that he would keep jumping – he’s never had a Cross-country fault.”
Andreas Dibowski (GER), Fox-Pitt’s closest challenger in the HSBC FEI Classics™, has risen from 11th to fourth on the mare FRH Fantasia, having also taken the straight route at 28, and his compatriot Kai Rüder (GER) has remained in fifth place on the powerful stallion Leprince des Bois.
Thirty-one of the 37 Cross-Country starters completed, with 19 clear rounds, but it was Denmark’s Peter Flarup and the flying grey Silver Ray who were stars of show as the only combination to achieve the optimum time. This has resulted in a meteoric rise from 28th to sixth.
Fox-Pitt now has a Jumping fence in hand over Donckers, and provided he finishes no lower than third, his US$150,000 prize in the HSBC FEI Classics is assured, but if he were to falter, he’s got the always dangerous Dibowski, hungry for a first CCI4* victory, breathing down his neck.
Martin, with eight points, is poised to leap into the top five and even Townend, if he jumps clear, could gain a few points and leapfrog Paul Tapner (NZL), an absentee from Pau, and Sharon Hunt (GBR).
The Jumping phase at Pau always provides a worthy climax to the Eventing season, so a thrilling conclusion is assured when the competition kicks off at 2.15pm CEST tomorrow.
1 William Fox-Pitt/Navigator (GBR) 48.0 + 3.2 = 51.2
2 Karin Donckers/Lamicell Charizard (BEL) 41.8 + 16.8 = 58.0
3 Boyd Martin/Remington XXV (USA) 43.2 + 16.0 =59.2
4 Andreas Dibowski/FRH Fantasia (GER) 51.0 + 10 = 61.0
5 Kai Ruder/Leprince de Bois (GER) 44.2 + 17.2 = 61.4
6 Peter Flarup/Silver Ray (DEN) 66.0 + 0 = 66
7 Joe Meyer/Sanskrit (NZL) 56.2 + 11.6 = 67.8
8 Gwendoline Fer/Leria du Ter (FRA) 61.8 + 10.8 = 72.6
9 Ruth Edge/Two Thyme (GBR) 41.8 + 20 + 12.4 = 74.2
10 Karim Florent Laghouag/Havenir d’Azac (FRA) 56.5 + 20 = 76.5
Full results on www.event-pau.fr
HSBC FEI Classics™ Standings (after 4 of 5 events)
1 William Fox-Pitt (GBR) 27
2 Andreas Dibowski (GER) 22
3 Caroline Powell (NZL) 21
4 Mary King (GBR) 18
5 Paul Tapner (AUS) 15
6 Sharon Hunt (GBR) 15
7 Oliver Townend (GBR) 14
8 Ingrid Klimke (GER) 12
9 Phillip Dutton (USA) 12
10 Clayton Fredericks (AUS) 10
HSBC FEI Classics™ Calendar of Events in 2010
1. 21-25 April - Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event (USA)
2. 30 April - 03 May - Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials (GBR)
3. 17-20 June - Luhmühlen presented by E.ON Avacon (GER)
4. 2-5 September - Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials (GBR)
5. 4-7 November- Les Etoiles de Pau (FRA)
HSBC has contributed US$ 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: Leader after the Cross Country phase, William Fox-Pitt