Townend's Quest In Sight At The HSBC FEI Classics Final
Photo: Kit Houghton/FEI
Man of the moment Oliver Townend (GBR) continues to ride the crest of a wave, setting himself up for a third 4* victory this year, not to mention his longed for victory in the HSBC FEI Classics.
Following a beautifully timed Cross-Country round at Les Etoiles de Pau CCI**** (FRA) on the genuine grey Thoroughbred Carousel Quest, he now has a Jumping fence in hand over Dirk Schrade (GER), who produced a classic performance on King Artus to rise three places to 2nd place going into the final phase.
Andreas Dibowski (GER) has slipped a place to 3rd with 4.8 Cross-Country time penalties on Euroridings Butts Leon, but Lucy Wiegersma (GBR) will be well satisfied with her rise of a place to 5th after a solid performance on her Blenheim CCI*** winner Granntevka Prince, a 9-year-old at his first 4*.
Townend admits that when he saw William Fox-Pitt (GBR), his rival for the HSBC FEI Classics title, crash out of the reckoning with a run-out on Macchiato, he had to force himself to concentrate, but that it did give him the leeway to take a long route at the narrow houses in the second water (20/21/22).
"I'm not rich, but I am richer!" he joked. "It was a very nice feeling to have the HSBC FEI Classics in the bag, but it was very difficult to concentrate and to ride sensibly, knowing I'd won. I had to tell myself to shut up and concentrate, because there's still a long way to go before I add Pau to my list of wins."
French riders seemed to put a disappointing HSBC FEI European Championship behind them with some superb Cross-Country riding, showing the rest of the world that Course-Designer Pierre Michelet's accuracy testing routes were perfectly rideable as long as you showed commitment.
Pascal Leroy (FRA) was particularly noteworthy, rising 6 places to 4th on the 9-year-old Minos de Petra, while veteran hero Jean Teulere (FRA) is lying 6th on the magnificent big horse Matelot du Grand Val and Rodolphe Scherer (FRA) is 7th on the remarkable 19-year-old Fairfax, who will be retired amid great ceremony after the Jumping phase.
Gwendolen Fer (FRA), 24, was exceptional, producing the only round within the optimum time; she is now in 8th place on Leria du Ter and in line to win the HSBC FEI Training Bursary for the best 4* debut.
Andrew Nicholson (NZL), the rider representative and a regular and popular visitor to Pau, had a thoroughly bad day. He had a run-out at fence 17 (Le coffin), a spread on top of a steep slope to an arrowhead, when the exuberant Armada over jumped. However, their fast time of 2.4 penalties means they are still in 14th place.
Nicholson's hopes were then placed on the 9-year-old Avebury, 4th after Dressage, but the young grey, who was going well and confidently, missed the jump out of the last water (fence 27) and tripped, firing his rider onto the ground. Nicholson had to have stitches for a cut lip.
Susanna Bordone (ITA) will be pleased with her first ride, Ava, who is in 9th place after accruing 17.2 time penalties, but she was eliminated for 3 refusals on Blue Moss, with which she was in 3rd place after Dressage.
Clea Phillipps (GBR) and Lead The Way ran out at the same spot as Armada, and Jan Bynny (USA) and Waterfront ran out at the narrow fences on a mound at 11 and at the corner on a sharp turn at fence 26.
Fox-Pitt's mishap occurred at the corner at 25 (La cour de ferme), while Austin O'Connor (IRL) had the gross misfortune to fall from The Pocket Rocket at the final combination, fence 30.
Here, his compatriot Mark Kyle (IRL) made his only mistake of the day in 3 rides, when, last on course, he ran out at the narrow fence at the bottom of the steep slope and ran into the string on Step In Time. Kyle's heroic effort - 3 Cross-Country rides in 2.5 hours - was, however, rewarded with 21st and 23rd places on Willow Fairgreen ATTR and Nitetime Cavalier respectively.
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