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Touzaint Tops Rankings with French Double
Martinvast, France

Nicolas Touzaint (FRA), the reigning FEI World Cup Eventing, used all his characteristic flair to rise above the unseasonal conditions described by the organisers as "the height of winter" - and win the last European qualifier of the 2007 season, at Martinvast (FRA), at his first attempt.

Having won both French qualifiers this year Touzaint took Fontainebleau in March on his European Championship ride Galan de Sauvagere - he now grabs the lead in the 2007 FEI World Cup Eventing Rankings with just one more qualifier to go, in Mansfield, Ontario (CAN) next month.

Touzaint was fifth after dressage at Martinvast on 43.1 penalties with the 12-year-old Hethi Bey, by Galoubet A, but sprang into the lead thanks to a clear show jumping round, one of only four in the muddy conditions which have dogged this summer's northern European Eventing circuit.

Described as being "as solid as a rock", he easily held that lead with just 2.8 time penalties in the final, cross-country, phase, despite the boggy ground which prompted seven withdrawals.

These departures included those of the dressage leaders and 2005 FEI World Cup Eventing Champions, Clayton Fredericks (AUS) on Ben Along Time, who had three show jumps down, second-placed Bettina Hoy (GER) on Ringwood Cockatoo, and defending European Champions Zara Phillips (GBR) and Toytown, who were only 26th after dressage on 55.9.

Fellow Frenchman Karim Laghouag, who is renowned for his fast cross-country riding, went inside the optimum time to rise meteorically from 16th after dressage to take the runner-up spot on Havenir D'Azac (54.4pen), but time penalties in double figures were the order of the day for all but six of the 30 cross-country starters.

Last year's winner, Pierre Marie Dubois on Ira d'Islea Eas was the only other to achieve the time, finishing fifth on 57.1.

Andrew Hoy (AUS) had two stops on Peaceful Consort, eighth after dressage, and withdrew Balloo despite lying second after show jumping, but he stuck it out to finish third on the experienced Thoroughbred four-star horse Yeoman's Point (55.2).

The reigning Badminton and Burghley champion Lucinda Fredericks (AUS) was eliminated across country on her new ride, Rosealier, whom she was trying to qualify for Blenheim CCI 3* next month, but finished fourth on Mr Alligator (56.3).

Nicolas Touzaint, who is the first rider to win two qualifiers in a season and now has 200 points, can only be beaten in the FEI World Rankings by a rider from North America. It all hinges on the successful participation at Mansfield of Kelly Prather (USA), currently joint second with Viachaslau Poita (BLR) on 160 points or Jonathan Holling (USA), third on 138.

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