Germans In The Driving Seat After Cross-Country at Strzegom
Photo: Kit Houghton/FEI
Frank Ostholt (GER) and his brilliant long-time partner Air Jordan brought Cross-Country to a stirring climax, sweeping into a 3.4 penalty lead over Michael Jung (GER), who rode a superbly accurate round, the fastest of the day, on La Biosthetique Sam. In addition, their compatriots Andreas Dibowski, Marina Köhncke and Kai Rüder are in 5th, 6th and 8th places.
However, defending champion Clayton Fredericks (AUS) is still in 3rd place, 4 penalties behind Ostholt in third, and with Ben Along Time's renowned prowess in the Jumping arena he cannot be ruled out from a historic third title, so the scene is set for a nail-biting finale on Sunday.
Dressage leader Oliver Townend (GBR) departed the fray in the most dramatic and frustrating fashion. Having made the long journey across Europe to Poland in the hope of adding the HSBC FEI World Cup Eventing title to his lead in the HSBC FEI Classics, his horse Flint Curtis suddenly tripped over on the bend preceding fence 8 and fell, resulting in elimination.
Instead, it was left to Ruth Edge (GBR) to fly the British flag, which she did in great style with a determined round on PC Wilson, one of the least experienced horses in the field and with whom she only made the decision to travel to Poland at the start of the week. She is now in 4th place.
And the home crowd had something to cheer about with a great round by Pawel Spisak (POL) on Weriusz, the last combination on course and now lying in 7th place.
Peter Flarup (DEN) and Silver Ray are one of the best and fastest Cross-Country combinations around and, first on course, they made it look easy. But when they came home with 19.2 time penalties, it was obvious that this would be a challenge.
And, as Course-Designer Rudiger Schwarz (GER) has proved many times at Aachen (GER), he is the master of producing a varied course within a limited space, and one which proves a more influential test than at first sight.
Clayton Fredericks commented that perhaps some riders may have under-estimated the test. "It was an exciting day," he said. "I had a long wait and to see so many good riders make mistakes just added to the tension."
The first major casualty was Dirk Schrade (GER), lying 6th after Dressage on King Artus when they had a refusal at the narrow brush into the sunken road at fence 18, and everyone was disappointed for Mark Todd (NZL), 7th after Dressage, when he had a fall with Gandalf at the first of the angled Hong Kong Hedges at 20. The grey, who had been going beautifully, shuffled a stride and jinked to the left, decanting his rider.
It wasn't a great day for the Americans, either. Buck Davidson (USA), 8th after Dressage, had a run-out with My Boy Bobby at 15c, a narrow chest taken on a tight turn following a bounce of substantial chests. His compatriot, Kelly Prather, had two refusals.
Stuart Fitzgerald (RSA), the first South African to compete in the HSBC FEI World Cup Eventing Final, had an unfortunate experience when his horse, Classic Diamond Charm, refused point blank to enter the HSBC Water over the house fence at 14; Paul Tapner (AUS) and Tiger Flynne fell at the penultimate fence, a brush corner at 26; and Erwan Le Roux (FRA) was well and truly submerged in the water when Fidji de Magne Mili landed steeply over the fence in to the second water at 21.
1 Frank Ostholt/Air Jordan (GER) 30.6 + 2.4 = 33
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