Aussies dominate across the world
Warwick, Queensland, Australia
by Kate Green
The Aussies seem to be enjoying a purple patch after Andrew Hoy's CCI 4-star double at Kentucky (USA) and Badminton (GBR) in the preceding two weekends, while Phillip Dutton (AUS) still leads the FEI Eventing World Cup rankings on 170 points.
There are now five Australians in the Top Ten of the FEI Eventing World Cup rankings after 11 of the 17 qualifiers for this year's final at Malmö (21-24 September) have taken place. Clayton Fredericks is third on 152 points behind Karin Donckers (BEL, 165), Shane Rose is sixth on 118, Andrew Hoy seventh (114) and Lucinda Fredericks ninth (103).
Eight nations were represented at Chatsworth, but it was yet another Australian, Bill Levett, who held the clear dressage lead on Minuto (39.1). However, as the horse was returning to work after a year off, he decided to withdraw him after that phase.
The old turf cross-country going held up well during a damp weekend at the beautiful parkland of the Duke of Devonshire's Chatsworth House, but it is an undulating course and no one came anywhere near the optimum time of 6min 40sec.
Lucinda Fredericks (AUS) was second fastest on her 2002 Blenheim CCI 3-star winner Headley Bravo and added 15.6 to her third-placed dressage score (45.7) which was good enough to take her into a narrow lead for the final, jumping, phase on 61.3.
However, the mare hit two rails to drop to second place (69.3) and allow her husband Clayton, the reigning FEI Eventing World Cup champion on Edwin and Peta Macauley's Ben Along Time, to rise from third into the top spot (66.1) after he achieved one of only seven clear rounds.
Lucinda took her demotion in good humour, saying: "I'm hoping Clayton will get to the FEI World Equestrian Games so I have more chance of winning the World Cup final!"
Cindy Rawson (USA) was second after dressage on Ashdale Davids Way (43.4), a place she just retained in the next phase by just 0.1 after adding 20.8 cross-country time penalties. However, an unfortunate three rails down plus a time penalty dropped her to eventual sixth (77.2).
Fiona Hobby (GBR), who works as a physiotherapist, was best of the home side and scored her best ever international result in third place on Smart Approach (71.2).
Andrew Nicholson (NZL) atoned for a disappointing dressage mark (58.4) on the Spanish-bred Fenicio with a storming cross-country round easily the fastest (9.6) - and rose to eventual fourth place with just one show jump down (72).
All but six of the 32 starters completed the competition and there was little trouble over Mike Etherington-Smith's immaculately presented cross-country course David Evans, the same duo responsible for the track at the 2008 Olympics.
There was one big form upset, though, when the favourite, William Fox-Pitt (GBR) took a crashing fall over the second fence on Moon Man (fourth after dressage on 48.3) and was eliminated.
Matt Ryan (AUS) also caused excitement when Slight of Hand ran out and took off over the ropes, galloping through tradestands and crowds before Matt could get him back on to the course. He withdrew before show jumping.
The winning horse, Ben Along Time, a quality 11-year-old son of the Irish jumping sire Cavalier, has rarely put a foot wrong in his Eventing career. Clayton hopes the horse will gain him his first Australian squad placing since 1995, despite the pair not competing at Badminton.
"The format of these World Cup qualifiers really suits this horse, so I'm hoping we have done enough to impress the selectors," said Clayton, who is the hard-working chairman of ERA (Event Riders Association).
Clayton, 36, is from Perth, Western Australia, but has lived in Britain for many years. He met Lucinda, 38, who represented Great Britain as a young rider, at Blenheim and, after their marriage, she switched to Australian nationality. The couple, who run a busy and successful yard near Devizes, Wiltshire, have a baby daughter, Ellie.
Over at Warwick, Shane Rose (AUS) took a commanding lead from the start on the appropriately named All Luck, who was returning from a six-month lay off, and was never headed.
Their closest rivals were the 2005 runners-up, Australian team coach Heath Ryan (brother of Matt), who finished second again on Diablo Heart, 11.1 penalties in arrears.
Shane produced a magnificent dressage test (38.2) and was easily the fastest across country (0.8), all of which proved somewhat fortunate when, admitting that All Luck's show jumping was perhaps a little rusty, he hit three rails.
His nearest rival after dressage, Craig Barrett (AUS) on Staccato (45.7), who scored the only other sub-50 mark in the field of 18 Australian riders, dropped down the order to eventual sixth (87.7) after a cross-country stop.
Carlene Barton was third on Covers (74.9), ahead of Robert Palm (The Regulator, 75.4) and Blair Richardson (Moneystone Equity, 78.3).
A great deal of work had been done on the cross-country course at Warwick, with six new complexes and themed fences representing kangaroos, echidnas and wombats.
The FEI World Cup series stays in Australia, for Melbourne (9-11 June). The Swedish fixture at Segersjo (15-18 June) has been cancelled.
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