|Mary King Takes Home The Big Money Winning The 2011 HSBC FEI Cassics™ Series|
I’d just started writing my love letter to Pau and lamenting about having to leave when I suddenly remembered I should at least briefly recap Sunday’s goings on and post some pictures as yet unpublished. Saturday’s cross country phase left many a sore leg on a horse, giving grooms and riders plenty to do overnight. As I left the event around 11 pm that night horses were being inspected for soundness on the tarmac roadways in preparation for the morning’s trot up.
|Ready For Take Off|
Four horses were not presented for the final horse inspection, and I counted at least another 5 that were held and represented. All in all the ‘short format on speed’ cross country course laid siege to many a four star clean sheet. Personally I always find second inspections less atmospheric that the first inspection, dress code tends to be less flamboyant, and it’s less of a showcase and more of a formality. The most exciting thing to happen during these formalities was one of the German riders jumping a flower pot during their trot up – steady! At Pau this trot-up is held in the main arena, an unusual and forgiving surface to conduct an inspection of soundness.
By the time showjumping started the sun was out, and the grandstands were packed to gills. It was very atmospheric, not as tense as some big 4 stars, more ‘relaxing excitement’, than edge of seat, nail-biting kind of thing. Pau has a large square arena with permanent grandstands on two sides, and every available space on the rails around the entire arena was at least 3 deep with spectators as well.
The main drama from the showjumping was Wendy Schaffer going straight out the front door and crashing into one of the fences – most unexpected, and a real shame considering how well she was jumping, and the good round she’s had on the cross country the day before. Only 6 jumped clear out of 44 that completed, which for me was a clear indication that the cross country course was tougher on the horses that you’d expect. Apart from this the show jumping was as you’d expect – coloured poles, a few that stayed put but most that came down at somepoint during proceedings.
One of the noticeable differences to UK events is, over here they play music during the show jumping, and after a clear round you get a little trumpet fanfare to celebrate!
I feel for Paul Tapner who has had a weekend of mixed fortunes. He led the 2 star right into the showjumping on the in form, and fabulous grey horse, Kilronan, only to have a rail down and 4 time faults letting Andrew Nicholson take first place, after a clear round, by less than a point. Out on the cross country these two riders produced the most outstanding rides, head and shoulders above the rest of the field, providing a real master class in cross country riding. Paul’s 4 star on Kilfinnie came to an end after he just proved a little too sore to be taken into the showjumping.
Fellow Aussie Chris Burton also had a mixed weekend dropping rails in the CCI**** showjumping, and slipping from the lead down to 8th place, but what a performance from this young guy who has now based himself in the UK, and is one of the highest ranked Aussie riders in the FEI league table.
The other main story from Sunday was Mary King rising to 4th place in the 4 star to secure her victory of the HSBC Classics Series and $150K for a new green truck. Given that she was down in 10th place before the show jumping (lower than she need to be to secure the prize) and that William won and was also third, Mary was certainly helped along by the misfortune of others, not that you can take any thing away for what was the exemplary performance she produced all weekend on this horse, and William Fox-Pitt was quick to remind her, had she not fallen at the Europeans in Luhmuhlen on this horse, she would not be sat here sipping champagne.
Mary’s trademark smile barely left her face since the final curtain fell, everytime I spotted her after the riders’ conference, she was laughing and smiling, and at one point I did catch her jumping up and down saying ‘we did it, we did it” when talking with owners and friends.
I still can’t stop thinking about Andrew Nicholson’s great big grey horse Mr. Cruise Control, what a lovely animal. Andrew is the most exciting cross country rider on the circuit at the moment, and whilst many of the pictures you’ll see of MCC from Pau indicate some hairy moments, these two looked foot perfect all the way round, so after a top 10 dressage placing and only one rail in the showjumping he’s still my “Horse To Take Home From Pau”. With 8 or more horses qualified for the Olympics, and the fact he struggled to name them all, I’m sure he won’t mind if I took this one home, would he?
|Mr. Cruise Control | 2nd At Pau & “The Horse To Take Home”|
|Mr Cruise Control | Pau CCI**** Cross Country|
|Cruising Round The Dressage|
Here’s a few links to my photos & videos from Pau: