Eventing World Cup: Clayton Fredericks is poised for title defence
Photo: Lotta Gyllensten/RedBayStock.com
"I saw Nicolas's test and I thought there was no way I would beat that," said Fredericks. "I was fully prepared not to be in the lead, but my horse Nullarbor has a very good brain. It's nice to have a horse that you can rely on to be consistent. With this horse you can actually do inside the arena what you had hoped and planned to do when you were still outside."
Galan de Sauvagere, the only other horse to score a sub-40 mark, made a couple of mistakes, but his canter work is superb - light yet powerful - and he looked a class apart.
Touzaint explained the horse's absence since the Athens Olympics. "He has had persistent little problems about every two months, which has made it difficult to prepare him for a major competition. He was my reserve in Aachen, but I felt he was not quite fit enough for such a difficult cross-country."
Andreas Dibowswki is third for Germany on FRH Little Lemon, but the judges were not always in agreement, with the American Marilyn Payne awarding him 5% more than the other two.
Piia Pantsu (FIN), third last year here on Ypaja Karuso, is in fourth place and Linda Algotsson on the faithful 16-year-old Stand By Me is best of the Swedish in fifth.
Some horses were affected by the breezy conditions, most notably Arnaud Boiteau's Expo du Moulin (FRA) and Geoff Curran's Kilkishin (IRL), who were clearly made tense by the noise of the billowing flags.
Britain's Julie Tew, who led until the half-way mark on the handsome Irish-bred grey Sir Roselier, described the cross-country course designed by Per Magnusson as "decent!".
"There is combination following combination, acute angles and difficult distances, and it doesn't let up," she said. "It's going to be an interesting competition."
Right from the start, the fences are uncompromisingly big, with an early combination at 3, and a strong emphasis on lightly curving lines and accuracy. The obstacles do not receive their final dressing until tonight, so they look particulary imposing and stark, with plenty of opportunity for horses to run out.
The fences are mainly portables, and so the whole course sprung up virtually overnight in this public park at the start of the week. The start and finish have been re-sited, to the south end of the park, and the course this time extends right beside the sea as far as the marina in the far corner.
Linda Algotsson said: "There are some tricky combinations; riders will have to sit up and concentrate."
Nicolas Touzaint commented that he thought the optimum time would be difficult to achieve with all the twists and turns, while Anna Hilton (SWE) said there were several fences where riders would have to choose between two and three strides and make a proper plan.
Clayton said: "Nullarbor is only nine and it won't be the same as having my more experienced horse, Ben Along Time [last year's winner]. I will have to guide Nullarbor more."
Whoever ends up with the prized World Cup - and the winner's cheque for 20,000 euro - will have genuinely earned their money. This is going to be an interesting competition.
1. Clayton Fredericks/Nullarbor (AUS), 35.2;
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