Saturday, May. 18, 2024

Hoy Is Back In Top Form At Pau

She makes up for missing the Olympic Games with an emotional win in the south of France.

Bettina Hoy’s beleaguered season came to a happy conclusion when she won the Pau CCI**** (France), Oct. 23-26, with Ringwood Cockatoo.

The veteran gray, who has bounced back from the injury that put him out of the Olympic Games, led from start to finish. Husband Andrew Hoy shadowed them throughout on Moonfleet until his trouble in the show jumping phase denied the couple an end of season “one-two.”

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She makes up for missing the Olympic Games with an emotional win in the south of France.

Bettina Hoy’s beleaguered season came to a happy conclusion when she won the Pau CCI**** (France), Oct. 23-26, with Ringwood Cockatoo.

The veteran gray, who has bounced back from the injury that put him out of the Olympic Games, led from start to finish. Husband Andrew Hoy shadowed them throughout on Moonfleet until his trouble in the show jumping phase denied the couple an end of season “one-two.”

Victory also parachuted Bettina into the HSBC FEI Classics leaderboard, and she finished fifth overall, 15 points behind fourth-placed Phillip Dutton.

Pau runner-up, Nicolas Touzaint on Tatchou, finished second in the HSBC league behind William Fox-Pitt, who had effectively won the inaugural series two events beforehand and picked up the $150,000 series prize.

Third at Pau was Frank Ostholt on Mr. Medicott, who was one of several riders to bring their Hong Kong horses here.

“It is a plus point of short format that a horse can do the Olympics and another four-star that autumn,” said Ostholt. “The weather conditions were better than expected in Hong Kong, and Mr. Medicott was in fantastic form when he arrived back in Germany, so I thought it would be OK to have another round in Pau.”

Such, though, was the difficulty of the cross-country and the show jumping that the lower orders changed dramatically every day. Two riders with cross-country stops still managed high placings: Frank Ostholt, seventh on Little Paint, and Mary King on Call Again Cavalier, eighth.

Small But Glamorous

This was Pau’s second year as a four-star. In the foothills of the Pyrenees, which separate France from Spain, the setting is nothing short of glorious. Many spectators now use the event as a springboard for a fall vacation in a historic area particularly renowned for its food and wine.

Yet once more Pau struggled to provide a respectable number of runners—37 started and only 21 finished—posing questions as to whether there are really enough horses to justify continental Europe’s two fall four-star events. Numbers were swelled by some 15 British entries, some of which had diverted to Pau only because of the cancellation of the Blenheim CCI***, and Mary King was among several to freely admit that she had been tempted by the chance to pick up HSBC points.

The host side fielded just five riders, one fewer than last year, of which only two finished in the top 10.

First to go on the single day of dressage, King and Call Again Cavalier’s 42.6 penalties set the standard, and it was not until late afternoon that the order changed rapidly. Cockatoo slipped easily into the lead on 33.7, and soon afterwards, though 7 penalties behind them, Moonfleet nudged ahead of Call Again Cavalier. Ruth Edge and Mr. Dumbledore were breathing down his neck on 41.1.

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Pau is staged at a racehorse training center, though much of its extensive facility is strangely unused. The cross-country is one of the most circuitous in Europe, running hard to the highway boundary before entering the training track. Here it diverts away from the turf track and its range of attractive steeplechase fences, instead twisting back and forth along a small section of the infield before retracing its steps parallel to the outbound route.

Bettina Hoy was one of several who seemed dismayed by the many twists, turns and “skinny” fences. “It’s a very big course,” she said. “There’s just one question after another. I’d like a little more galloping and less technicalities at every jump, but I suppose that’s the way this sport is going.”

A Tragedy For Zara Phillips

The competition had a tragic end for Zara Phillips, who broke her collarbone when four-star debutante Tsunami II fell at a hedge (fence 15) and was fatally injured. At first the severity of the horse’s injury was not apparent for she had gotten to her feet, but X-rays at the on-site veterinary clinic showed she had broken her neck and Tsunami was euthanized.

Tsunami, by Mark Todd’s eventing stallion Mayhill, was bred and owned by Melanie Duff (who as Melanie O’Brien was a regular member of the Irish team with Clarence).

“Tsunami was very special, and I had high hopes for her,” said Phillips. “Losing a horse like this is awful.”

Asked if the land use had been constrained by the racing authorities, course designer Pierre Michelet said the turns were deliberate. “If we spread the cross-country right across the infield, the time would be too easy to get; that is why we have it in three distinct parts,” he explained.

In contrast, Andrew Nicholson was a fan: “It’s a typical Pierre course, technical but very fair. It’s a true four-star course, and I looked forward to riding it,” he said.

A Tough Task

Although Nicholson went on to ride two of the nine clears, the first horse on course showed that a tough task was ahead. It was a real shock to see Call Again Cavalier stop at some rails at 13B, though he had little choice after over jumping at the first element, nearly unseating his rider.

Second to go, Oliver Townend had to retire Divine Inspiration after a fall on the flat halfway around. Much later on, fellow Brit Kitty Boggis and Boondoggle, who were flying, also slipped over between fences. This led to some debate about whether or not riders should be eliminated for horse falls that could not readily be attributed to the manner in which a fence had been jumped many strides hence.

The fourth to go, Mr. Medicott, achieved the first of only two clears inside the time, though Nicholson came close on first ride Muschamp Impala, as did Mayhem and Ruth Edge, who were right behind him on the course.

But then there was another run of problems. Britain’s Joanna Killin retired Supreme Partners at fence 5. Fence 6, the first water and as awkward-looking a ride as last year despite modifications, saw the retirement of Sam Watson (son of Irish team veteran, John Watson) on Ballybolger Bushman and a refusal for Britain’s Tim Price and Vortex.

Later on, Pippa Funnell retired Ensign at fence 6, and there was a refusal for Kaline de Dun, who Lionel Guyon retired four fences later. Townend’s second ride Clover Curtis also refused here and fell four later, at another water (10).

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Fence 10, the feature fence on the infield, is a multiple effort complex that caused problems last year; Pia Pantsu and Zara Phillips both had falls in 2007. On paper this year there were negligible problems, but there were many uncomfortable sights, particularly over the skinny brush, which follows the step out of the water on a tricky distance. Clayton Fredericks believes that The Frog spooked himself here and that this may have contributed to his heavy fall at the following fence, a table (11).

Emily Baldwin (Drivetime) and Ruth Edge (Mr. Dumbledore) had both looked sensational until falling and refusing, respectively, at the last water (24), where some reported that the element shaped like a fish was difficult to see in shadow.

Ostholt ran out at the following combination with Luhmühlen runner-up Little Paint, and Idalgo jumped some string as Fox-Pitt struggled, without luck, to avoid crossing his tracks at the offset “houses” one from home.

Nonetheless there were some great sights. Ringwood Cockatoo and Moonfleet, who have had disappointing seasons, both looked flawless, while Tatchou sped round to notch the only other clear inside the time. Intriguingly, Touzaint wants the already exceptional-looking Tatchou to “assert himself more!”

Not surprisingly, Nicholson got two round with ease, though sadly Muschamp Impala did not get through to the final day.

At the end of Saturday, Bettina Hoy had added 7.2 time penalties to her dressage score, so she no longer had a fence over her husband, Andrew, who had closed the gap to just 1.6 penalties.

Fighting All The Way

The show jumping was highly influential, and only two jumped clear.

As the competition drew to its peak, Moonfleet gave his stablemate ample breathing space with five down, though there was an anxious moment when it appeared that Bettina did not realize quite how far she was behind the clock. But one fence down and 4 time penalties was just enough to keep her ahead, and she claimed the prize with just 0.5 to spare from Tatchou.

Clearly emotional after her first four-star placing in more than two years, Bettina paid tribute to her horse.
“Cockatoo enjoyed it and was fighting for me all the way,” she said. “We are like an old married couple now! We know exactly what the other will do, which is important when the course is as demanding as this one. I was so emotional after the cross-country, frankly anything that happened after that was a bonus. Cockatoo is a long way from retirement yet.”

Fox-Pitt led Pau’s two-star CIC after dressage and show jumping on Corofin Flyer but dropped out of contention
with a cross-country stop. Italy’s Giovanni Ugolotti won on Matisse di Valmarina. Lucinda Fredericks was  hospitalized and had her leg stitched after it was punctured by Jiggalong’s studs following a fall in this class.

FEI officials have already discussed ways of modifying the format for the FEI Classics in 2009, so that Pau’s final leg has a greater chance of deciding the first prize, according to FEI eventing director Catrin Norinder. Fox-Pitt had built up a commanding lead by Luhmühlen (Germany), third of the five events, and he was completely unbeatable by Burghley (England), though most of the runners-up places were decided in Pau. 

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