Pau, France – Oct. 25
After Day 2 of dressage at the Les Étoiles de Pau CCI****, U.S. rider Phillip Dutton sits in the top 10, taking seventh place with Mr. Medicott with a score of 44.2. On Thursday, Hannah Sue Burnett rode Harbor Pilot into a tie for 11th place with a score of 45.7.
Dutton, of West Grove, Pa., only began riding the Mr. Medicott Syndicate’s 14-year-old Irish Sport gelding in late June, but the pair is putting their partnership to the test this weekend in France. They earned their best dressage score to date with a polished performance that earned high marks for the canter work and flying changes at the end of the test.
“I’m very pleased. I don’t know the horse that well so it’s not about educating him; it’s about getting to know him more,” said Dutton. “There are still parts to improve but I’m very pleased.”
The combination will set out on Pierre Michelet’s technical cross-country track looking to climb higher up the leaderboard with a quick, clear round. Dutton will use the experience earned representing both his native Australia and the U.S. at numerous Olympic and FEI World Equestrian Games to produce a top result in his four-star debut with the gelding.
Mr. Medicott also brings a wealth of experience, having completed the 2008 Olympic Games and 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in addition to garnering two top-10 results at Pau (2008 and 2011) with Germany’s Frank Ostholt. The talented gelding was also ridden by Karen O’Connor to ninth place at the London Olympic Games.
“It’s a very different course than I’ve ridden before but it’s good to be here and see it because [Michelet] is the designer for the World Championships next year,” said Dutton. “There are lots of lines and angles we don’t usually see.”
Australian Lucinda Fredericks currently leads the competition aboard Flying Finish. Fredericks was the only rider to break the 40-penalty barrier with a score of 39.2. However, the next six horses, three of them ridden by William Fox-Pitt, are within 5 penalties of the leading score.
Flying Finish, a 13-year-old gelding by Candillo, is Fredericks’ top horse; they were second at Luhmühlen (Germany) and members of the Australian Olympic team in 2012.
Fredericks said the Dressage was “the easy bit. I enjoy it and I’m lucky because my horse has a good brain. So often as a horse gets more experienced they can blow up in the atmosphere, but he settles. I was a bit weak in my halts. I don’t know if it’s because I had practised them too much or not enough, but to do three bad halts and still be leading isn’t bad!”
This year, after a slow start to the season due to Fredericks breaking a collarbone in March, they were 10th at Luhmühlen.
“Pierre is certainly testing us,” commented Fredericks of the cross-country, who is competing at Pau for the first time since 2002. “I’ve never ridden in the four-star here but the advantage of going later is that I’ll be able to watch. The downside is that I’ll have more time to get nervous.
“I think the first and last sections of the course will be a lot slower than the middle part [on the racecourse] and as my horse isn’t a Thoroughbred, I can’t switch on the turbo, so I need to make a plan,” she continued.
Fox-Pitt, a three-time winner of the HSBC FEI Classics™ series (in 2008, 2010 and 2012) and a winner at Pau in 2011 on Oslo, performed the remarkable feat of achieving three dressage marks less than 2 penalties apart to lie second, third and equal fourth.
He is second on Seacookie TSF, who was runner-up at the Rolex Kentucky CCI**** in April, third on the 2010 WEG individual silver medalist Cool Mountain, and equal fourth on Neuf des Coeurs, third at Luhmühlen in June but retired early on the cross-country at Burghley (England) last month.
Of his three rides, he was particularly pleased with Cool Mountain, back in major competition for the first time since a member of Britain’s bronze medal team at the 2011 HSBC FEI European Eventing Championships in Luhmühlen.
Last year’s Pau winner Andrew Nicholson, the 2012/13 HSBC FEI Classics series champion, is also in close contention. He is in equal fourth with Fox-Pitt on his Rolex Kentucky winner, the black Spanish-bred Quimbo, and 10th on his Luhmuhlen winner, the big Irish-bred grey Mr Cruise Control. Viscount George, competing in his first four-star, is in 29th place on 51 penalties.
The remainder of the U.S. field scored in the 50s. Raylyn Farms and Team Demeter’s 11-year-old Oldenburg mare RF Demeter were the final U.S. pair to perform their dressage test, scoring 51.2. They earned high marks for their consistent trot work to begin the test, but mistakes in the first and second flying changes owered their score. The pair, which placed seventh at the Luhmuhlen CCI**** in June, are in 27th place.
Clark Montgomery stands in 31st after his test with Jessica and Carole Montgomery, Janet Higgins, and Elizabeth Smith’s Universe scored a 52. Lynn Symansky and her own Donner completed the first phase in 38th place on a score of 53.3. The 10-year-old Thoroughbred gelding began the test with a tense entry that kept the first set of marks down, but the 2011 Pan American Games team gold medalists kept their poise through the remainder of the test to produce consistent work.
Kristi Nunnink and her own 12-year-old Holsteiner mare R-Star finished the dressage in 41st place. The 2013 USEF National Open Horse Trial Reserve Champions scored 54.5 in a test that was highlighted by the mare’s flying changes.
Rounding out the U.S. effort at Pau was Michael Pollard and Carl Bouckaert’s 15-year-old Thoroughbred gelding Mensa. The combination earned a score of 55.2 for a consistent performance that was just marred by the gelding breaking into canter during the extended canter. They head into the cross country standing in 47th place.
Montgomery will be the first U.S. competitor on course Saturday for the U.S. at 2:19 p.m. local time (8:19 a.m. EST), Burnett is next out at 2:39 p.m., followed by Symansky, Pollard, Nunnink, Dutton and Little, who is the final U.S. rider at 4:27 p.m. (10:27 a.m. EST).