The gutsy Swedish star Linda Algotsson scored a remarkable back-to-back victory in the second FEI Eventing World Cup Final CIC*** at Pau, France, Oct. 21-24. She defended her title, despite having to withdraw her mount from last year, Stand By Me, at the last minute.
Algotsson, who has foregone her teaching career to pursue eventing, had planned to ride Stand By Me, her Olympic mount and two-time European silver medalist. But when the Swedish Warmblood was discovered lame in the field with a pulled muscle, she was forced to switch to that horse’s half-sister, My Fair Lady.
“It never crossed my mind that I would win again,” said Algotsson, whose highly popular victory was even more appropriate as the 2005 World Cup Final moves to Malmo in her home country, Aug. 11-14.
“My Fair Lady is elegant, brave and fast, but she is very strong and tends to get long in the jumping phases and I didn’t think we could win. I thought the cross-country wouldn’t suit her, but the twists backed her off,” said Algotsson.
“It’s great the next World Cup will be in Malmo, but I have obviously grown fond of Pau!” she added. “But Malmo is a great event; it’s in a beautiful situation, is easy to travel to and has a really good, difficult cross-country.”
The field of 46 starters was disappointingly small, considering that 17 qualifiers were held in 12 countries across four continents. But it still produced a thrilling competition, thanks to a brilliantly designed cross-country course and a huge and difficult show jumping track, both of which contained a high level of technical difficulty befitting a world final.
The field, though modest in size, was also properly international. France’s world champion and exquisite horseman Jean Teulere finished second with one of only three clear show jumping rounds. Germany’s Malte Dohm produced the only show jumping round inside the time to finish 10th on Cayenne, and 12-fault rounds proved the norm.
Teulere is clearly enjoying his new ride on the experienced Bambi di Briere, 15, a majestic, white-faced liver chestnut who was ridden to fourth place at the Sydney Olympics by Teulere’s compatriot Rodolphe Scherer. “Bambi has only been show jumping since then, but it is still his weakest phase!” said Teulere.
Belgium’s Karin Donckers, partner of the FEI rider rep Carl Bouckaert, finished third on her Olympic ride, the Irish-bred Gormley. Having been in tears after her disappointing dressage performance in Athens, Donckers was right up there at Pau, standing second after dressage and a fast cross-country. However, this time–as at the 2003 European Championships when she dropped out of the individual medals–her show jumping let her down. Despite her work with leading Belgian show jumper Philippe Lejeune, she lowered two rails.
“I had been really confident, but it wasn’t to be. If only I could get it all together at the same time I would be in the medals every time” said a rueful but cheerful Donckers.
French riders Eric Vigeanel (Coronado Prior), Thierry Meyssonnier (Helicine) and Pascal Leroy (Glenburny du Leou) finished prominently in fourth, seventh and 11th positions. Berenice Villoing and Benoit Parent posted two of the three clear cross-country rounds for France–the third clear round was Sonja Johnson of Australia on Ringwould Jaguar. Villoing finished 17th due to a show jumping stop on Djina, and Parent, on his Badminton CCI**** (England) horse Milcane, had to withdraw before show jumping. Marie-Christine Duroy of France also withdrew her lovely horse Crazy Love before show jumping due to a pulled back muscle.
A Testing Track
It’s not difficult to see why French riders are beginning to take over the world when they have tracks like Pau on which to practice. Mark Phillips described the first dozen fences of the cross-country, produced by Pierre Michelet, France’s imaginative, premier designer, as “some of the most serious fences seen in the world all year,” and Rolex Kentucky designer Mike Etherington-Smith said it had given him some ideas.
The much-talked about fence 4 was a perfect example of Michelet’s craft. The complex comprised a steep run up onto a bank, on which was perched a massive into-space ditch and brush, followed four downhill strides later by a narrow, angled brush. If ridden with commitment, though, like all Michelet’s trademark rider-frighteners, it jumped beautifully, and Algotsson’s powerful mare even took it in three strides.
Interspersed with massive tables and hedges, there were numerous turning, accu-racy questions on and off man-made undulations–the racecourse at Pau is completely flat. Fence 13, a drop over rails off a bank to an angled corner, was a serious test, which proved influential.
Bouckaert, on Welton Molecule, ran out here, as did the U.S. combination of Sara Kozumplik and As You Like It, and Britain’s Polly Stockton on Sir Lancelot, who had to retire when she lost her reins–and control of her horse–at the next fence.
Bonnie Mosser and Jenga, winners of the 2002 Foxhall Cup CCI*** (Ga.), fell on landing at 14, another corner on a turn. They continued on course but were stopped two fences from home by technical delegate Hugh Thomas as the horse had come down.
Germany’s Kai Ruder, the dressage runner-up, had suggested that “many things would change” after cross-country day. “It is big and technical with lots of combinations, which will make it difficult to get the time. In fact I would be surprised if anyone got the time, which will make it more interesting.”
His words proved prophetic, as he was unshipped at fence 10, a narrow tree stump sited on a turn in the first water complex after horses landed off a big bank. Australia’s Matt Ryan also shot past this fence on Bonza Puzzle, and Mark Phillips’ daughter Zara had a glance-off on Springleaze Macaroo when failing to gather her reins in time.
Slim American Showing
Pau was not exactly a roaring successfor American, British or New Zealand riders. James Moore’s journey from the States proved expensive when Greiko was lame at the first horse inspection, and only California-based Natalie Rooney-Pitts completed, finishing 18th on her four-star horse Aladdin with a good but slow (20.4 time penalties) cross-country and 16 faults in show jumping.
Britain’s Rolex Grand Slam winner Pippa Funnell, riding her Blenheim CCI*** (England) winner Viceroy, withdrew after dressage as the stallion was lame.
Only Leslie Law, the new Olympic champion, had a good weekend, finishing 12th on his debut with an exciting new ride, Coup de la Coeur, a classy galloper that he hopes to take to Rolex Kentucky in 2005.
“I’m so lucky to get this horse because he is right behind my two grays [ShearH20 and Shear L’Eau], and I need something else that is ready to go on at four-star level,” said Law. “He’s been beautifully produced to three-star level by Rebecca Gibbs; he doesn’t question anything and has a fantastic gallop.”
New Zealand’s Matthew Grayling was eighth on his Olympic ride Revo, who had been left in the northern hemisphere, though not competing, for the two months since Athens. However, Joe Meyer’s Silent Spy broke down at the start of the cross-country, and Andrew Nicholson, the World Cup runner-up in 2003 on Fenicio, failed to make up ground on Flush Banker through a fast cross-country, hampered by an explosive dressage test and 16 faults in show jumping.
But it was a good weekend for Australia. British-based Clayton Fredericks was sixth on his rising star Ben Along Time, just 0.2 penalties behind Johnson, in fifth (see sidebar).
One feat the World Cup series–and the new trend for short format three-day events–has achieved is that well-known horses can run regularly, and, therefore, gain the desired public following.
For instance, Ypajo Karuso and Pia Pantsu of Finland, who were ninth at Pau, finished fifth at Boekelo CCI*** (the Netherlands) two weeks before Pau. Viceroy had won Blenheim six weeks before, and Flush Banker had run at both. Revo, Gormley and Anna Hasso’s Son Of A Bitch ran in Athens.
However, it has to be said that the endless journey to Pau, at the foothills of the Pyrenean mountains, proved perhaps a step too far for some of these. And the likes of Rooney-Pitts, for instance, who had flown from California, were still faced with a two-day drive from Amsterdam.
FEI Eventing Chairman Wayne Roycroft commented: “Pau has been an excellent competition, but it is too late in the season and too inaccessible. Malmo should be easier for travelling and a better time of year for horses en route to Burghley. We plan to leave it at Malmo for two years, to get the competition established, but after that we will consider moving it out of Europe.”
Ringwould Jaguar Gallops To Fifth
Sonja Johnson made a meteoric rise from 29th to fifth on the little stock horse Ringwould Jaguar. Their cross-country round, an extraordinary 17 seconds inside the optimum time of 7:34, did, however, earn her a rebuke from Hugh Thomas for taking liberties with the final fences.
Johnson’s result was just reward for an epic effort. She runs the family farm in Western Australia and had travelled 4,657 miles just to qualify for the final, the only rider in the World Cup series to win two qualifiers, at Melbourne and Warwick. This feat earned her $7,465 from the Equestrian Federation of Australia to pay for a flight to Europe, but her story captured local interest.
“I’d never have got here without so much support from home,” said Johnson, 36. “My local restaurant ran a fund-raising murder mystery evening, and the local Pony Club held a barbeque. I was really touched when a couple of pensioners who I’d never even met sent me 40 dollars.”
Amazingly, Johnson’s horse hadn’t even jumped a fence until he was 9. “He was bred to be a stock horse, but his cattle cutting days were over when he got frightened by a bull getting into his pen,” she said.
When asked if she had any plans to tackle the northern hemisphere four-stars, Johnson interestingly replied: “Not until Badminton goes short format! I’m not risking my horse on steeplechase and roads and tracks.”