Pau, France—Oct. 24
Michael Jung of Germany gave a masterclass in cross-country riding at Les 4 Etoiles de Pau CCI**** (France), the opening leg of the FEI Classics™ 2015/2016, and remains in first and second places on Halunke FBW and fischerRocana FST.
Michael Jung maintained his lead with a great round on Halunke FBW. Photo by Trevor Holt/FEI
However, tomorrow’s jumping phase promises to be a thriller as he does not have a fence in hand over CCI**** first-timer Emily King of Great Britain, who is still in third place on Brookleigh, or France’s Astier Nicolas, fourth on Piaf de B’neville.
The top 10 has changed little after dressage with 28 clear rounds from the 47 cross-country starters, 15 of them inside the optimum time.
The U.S. contingent didn’t have the best of days, as top-placed U.S. rider after dressage, Jennie Brannigan, had a rider fall on course, eliminating her and Cambalda. She and the 13-year-old Irish Thoroughbred gelding started out determinedly on course but an unfortunate sticky moment at 15, the racecourse hedge, resulted in a fall, but both horse and rider were fine.
The only U.S. rider who completed the cross-country and will show jump is Katie Ruppel, of Anthony, Fla., and her own Houdini. They gained valuable experience at Pau on cross-country day, crossing through the finish flags at the end of a course that caused a fair amount of problems. She and the 11-year-old Thoroughbred gelding collected 40 jumping penalties for refusals at 6C, an angled house following a drop, and 16A, a bullfinch, but finished strongly. The pair added 67.6 time penalties to their score to head into the final day of competition with a score of 156.9.
Katie Ruppel and Houdini on their way to being the only U.S. pair to complete cross-country at the Pau CCI****. Photo by Libby Law Photography
Lillian Heard of Poolesville, Md., and her own Share Option, a 13-year-old Thoroughbred cross gelding, began well, but had refusals at 8B, a narrow wedge at the first water complex, and 13A, a cottage, where they elected to retire.
Barbara Crabo of Scottsdale, Ariz., and her own Eveready, a 16-year-old Swedish Warmblood gelding, were having a great round until a large effort at 24A, a table into the final water complex, popped Crabo loose resulting in a rider fall between the A and B elements, but Crabo and Everyready were both unharmed.
Pierre Michelet’s track was shorter by 24 seconds than last year and the time allowed of 11 minutes 38 seconds proved easily achievable on the good footing; several riders enjoyed the luxury of being able to take the long option at the last complex at fence 27 and still finish comfortably inside the time.
Jung’s first round on fischerRocana FST was sheer poetry; the Olympic and triple European champion rides the mare with the lightest of contact and has an extraordinary eye for distances, flying the fences spectacularly with hardly a pull on the reins.
Michael Jung had a foot-perfect round on fischerRocana FST to stay in second place. Photo by Trevor Holt/FEI
He had to work a bit harder on Halunke FBW; the white-faced black gelding had some time off after winning the European title in 2013 and is a heavier type to steer, but although his name means “rascal”, the 11-year-old proved perfectly well-mannered at his first CCI**** and finished just 1 second over the optimum time.
Emily King’s performance was also a joy to watch, as the teenager, visibly concentrating hard on the job in hand, maintained a perfect rhythm throughout and took all the direct routes to finish six seconds inside the optimum time.
She will find herself under severe pressure tomorrow, but the 19-year-old has spent time training with British Olympic gold medalist Ben Maher and is well capable of a good performance in the jumping arena.
Emily King on Brookleigh—a clean round kept them in third in the Pau CCI****. Photo by Trevor Holt/FEI
“I’m so pleased, I’ve never had such a good round on the horse, so it was great timing for it to happen here,” said a delighted King. “My plan was to keep attacking on a forward stride and he listened to me all the way and felt so happy. The jumping is probably our weakest phase, but I will just have to keep Ben’s words ringing in my ear!”
Neither King nor Astier Nicolas have a Jumping fence in hand over Tim Price of New Zealand, who had a typically smooth round on Wesko to remain in fifth place. Popular French rider Karim Florent Loughouag incurred just 2 time penalties on the stallion Entebbe de Hus, allowing Tim Lips of the Netherlands on Concrex Bayro and Paul Tapner of Australia on Indian Mill to rise a place each to sixth and seventh respectively.
Brannigan’s fall allowed Bill Levett of Australia to move up a place to ninth on Shannondale Titan and last year’s runners-up, Andreas Dibowski and FRH Butts Avedon, to come up into the top 10.
Pathfinder Sarah Bullimore (Great Britain) set the tone for a good day with a double clear on Valentino V, and she is now in 12th place behind Sir Mark Todd, who produced a masterful round on NZB Campino, 11th.
However, Bullimore’s day deteriorated with a frustrating run-out on Reve de Rouet at 27B, a brush fence on an acute turn, and she was stopped on course and eliminated after Lilly Corinne got the flag between her front legs on the narrow “bunch of grapes”, fence 21.
Lucy Wiegersma of Great Britain had the day’s strangest misfortune. She was going well on Mr. Chunky when jumping too far to the left into the final water complex at 24; the gelding, unable to make the sharp right-hand turn in time to the bounce up over a fish-shaped fence, took off over the boundary railings and fell in the much deeper water on the other side, leaving Wiegersma wading in chest-high water.
Results after Cross Country
1 Michael Jung/Halunke FBW (GER) 34.5 + 0.4 = 34.9 penalties
2 Michael Jung/fischerRocana FST (GER) 35.4 + 0 = 35.4
3 Emily King/Brookleigh (GBR) 38.3 + 0 = 38.3
4 Astier Nicolas/Piaf d’B’neville (FRA) 38.5 + 0 = 38.5
5 Tim Price/Wesko (NZL) 40.0 + 0 = 40.0
6 Tim Lips/Concrex Bayro (NED) 40.9 + 0 = 40.9
7 Indian Mill/Paul Tapner (AUS) 42.3 + 0 = 42.3
8 Karim Florent Laghouag/Entebbe de Hus (FRA) 40.6 + 2 = 42.6
9 Bill Levett/Shannondale Titan (AUS) 42.9 + 0 = 42.9
10 Andreas Dibowski/FRH Butts Avedon 42.9 + 0 = 42.9