|Mr Cruise Control | Still the “Horse To Take Home From Pau”|
Well, What A Day, What A Four Star! After today Pau is definitely on my calendar as a permanent fixture! The weather and the end of season atmosphere certainly helps, but this is also a very interesting track. Pierre Michelet had clearly planned the placement of every fence to the last millimetre, making use of every opportunity to break concentration, and force riders to think how their horses might react.
|Few Made Fence 26 Look Easy|
How The Course Rode:
The combination of glorious sunshine and mature trees, whilst sent from heaven for spectators, left competitors constantly diving in and out of shadows, until the late afternoon, and the vast majority of fences meant jumping into shadow and out into bright sunlight.
I missed a few influential fences in my preview of the cross country on eventingnation.com, in particular the first water that caught out numerous riders, including Andrew Nicholson, albeit on the less reliable of his three rides, Henry Tankerville.
|Fence 21A | Eventually Removed|
Two fences required significant repair, Fence 14, which took about half an hour to put right, and Fence 21a, which was constantly being dislodged, and clearly hadn’t been staked in place. It seems the fench course builders tend to use wire or chains to pins their fences in place. This latter fence being bulking and light weight made it easy to shift I imagine, and after several attempts at a permanent solution, it was eventually removed from the course. A length of string separating the 2 & 4 star galloping lanes in a particularly narrow section was also removed shortly after the completion of the two star cross country phase.
Lucy Jackson had a tumble right behind me, as she exited the final water complex, making me jump as her air jacket blew up and she rolled downhill towards me. Both She and the horse were up and OK straight way, and Lucy when onto complete clear on her second ride (that one fall rule seems obsolete in cases like this).
I spent a few hours in the lorry park this evening, and I think the general consensus is the course rode as expected, problems all over the course, mainly on mounds where the striding could end up being good or bad, just predictably unpredictable.
Here’s how it looked for Paul Tapner:
|Chris Burton In The Lead|
In terms of nations, Australia has probably come out on top with all of their riders finishing in the top 20 going into showjumping. Chris Burton, rode a particularly impressive round, finishing clear and well inside the time allowed to maintain his lead. Clayton Fredericks managed to slice a few seconds off his time after appealing to the ground jury about having to dodge one of the fence judges doing a bit of ‘freelance gardening’ (raking) in front of one of the fences on his approach, but this still left him with time faults and so has dropped from the joint lead down to third place.
|William Fox-Pitt & Oslo at Fence 21A|
At one point I thought I was going to be treated to another ‘plough through the water’ moment by William Fox Pitt as Oslo pecked on landing over the fence that was eventually removed, but he and the horse were unshakable, and maintained their line and striding for the related distance to the following obstacle.
Mr. Cruise Control continue to hold the ‘horse to take home from Pau’ status after a foot perfect round to jump up to fourth place, and with less than a rail separating the top 8, it’s still a very open competition, with riders from five nations in with a shout. With the prospect of leading the HSBC classics series at stake in addition to prize money, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to hear the stables have run out of ice, as everyone looks to bring their horses out rejuvenated.
|Packed In The Shade|
I have it on good authority [a straw poll] that this was a Blenheim size crowd, and I was thankful for my official pass, as I would most certainly have got lost in Pau for the third time in two days had I not been able to dodge the road blocks on the way in. Out in the main loop of the course, during the lengthy hold up whilst fence 14 was repaired spectators were packed under every available spot of shade to escape the searing heat.
|Getting Around The Old Fashioned Way|
Beer Tents and the French equivalent of burger vans were dotted around the cross country course, all accessible on foot, segway or even horse drawn carriage, making the whole experience refreshingly different from the Badminton & Burghley I’m so used to. The English were abroad in force too and I was feeling particularly privileged by friends that had driven 3 hours to meet me. I’m hoping I can now make this an annual pilgrimage and tack on a few extra days in the future.
Two things in particular struck me about the French crowds, they love cheering on their riders with cries of “Allez, Allez” and they love their photography, I’ve never seen so many cameras at a 3-day event.
More updates from the cross country tomorrow until then I’ll leave you with a host of useful links:
ps. If I ever offer you a lift whilst abroad, make sure you can map read, or politely decline, I can easily go round and round in circles……
’til tomorrow, Au Revoir Mon Amie.