The current world #1, British William Fox-Pitt, took the lead in Pau with the cross-country on Saturday that he started off without taking any risks: “I might have taken chicken ways, but my priority was to return home in one piece.” This strategy proved to be successful as the Briton took command in this class, thus strengthening his top position in the HSBC FEI Classics.
Only one of Friday’s “dressage champions” managed to stay in the top 3 after the cross-country: Belgian rider Karin Donckers with her "young 10-year-old" horse as she likes to remind everyone. This year’s course was a very harsh one as the statistics show: 16 refusals, 5 leading to elimination, 5 rider falls, 3 horse falls (notably Glennbury du Léou with French rider Pascal Leroy falling in the water at 26 A B C) and one withdrawal. That makes it 14 couples that weren’t able to finish this big adventure.
“There were many green horses, explains the excellent course designer Pierre Michelet, and a great number of them were running their first four star event; this could explain the number of incidents.”
William Fox-Pitt knows that the course in Pau is not one of the easiest having rarely finished a cross-country here without any incidents. “That is why I didn’t want to take any risks. Even if Navigator is one of my best horses – by the way, I wondered if I should take him to Lexington, I didn’t play with fire and did often take the longer options even though I knew that he was capable of taking the direct options.”
A wise decision that helped the vice-world champion to take the lead of the ranking in front of Belgian Karin Donckers (Lamicell Charizard) and the Australian naturalized American Boyd Martin for whom Pau is his first European competition. “The food is great, the coffee very strong, but, oh my God, the turnings!” This third place was somehow the surprise of the day. His horse Remington used to be a dressage horse and then hunter that an American woman gave him so he could sell it. But the horse never passed the veterinary check … which didn’t prevent him from proving today that he was one of the world’s best eventing horses.
The best French performance was realized, just like in 2009, by the surprising Gwendolen Fer who finished her course without any incident even if her saddle was dangerously sliding on the back of the horse after the breast plate, supposed to hold the saddle, broke ! What a hero! The young rider placed 8th tonight.
For more information visit www.event-pau.fr
Photo: William Fox-Pitt and Navigator… 2nd place without GPS! © Marianne Delleci