The dressage came to an end today without setting new records or any one horse dominating, and it is perhaps a measure of what we have come to expect from William Fox-Pitt that barely an eyebrow was raised when at close of play he had his three rides within a hair’s breadth of each other in 2nd, 3rd, and 4th. The only rider to better him was Lucinda Fredericks who rode a beautifully presented test on her 2013 Blair Castle*** winner Flying Finish.
Flying Finish kept a very consistent outline throughout the test, and kept beautiful rhythm in all the changes within the paces. The changes were clean, accurate and expressive, and whilst Lucinda was perhaps less brave in how far she kept the extended canter going across the long diagonal prior to the first flying change the quality of the work was undeniable. William’s final ride of the day, his silver medal winner from the last WEG Cool Mountain, looked like he could make it a close run thing, but a smattering of sixes for some of the work and one clean but tight change kept him in 3rd between William’s two other rides, Seacookie TSF and Neuf des Coeurs. Andrew Nicholson lies =4th with William on his first ride, Quimbo, whilst the last of his three, Mr Cruise Control, marred his test with an ad-libbing of changes when only one was required across the short diagonal to lie 10th. Only the top 9 of the 75-strong field scored over 70% averages. The second half of the top 10 is nicely international, with Lucy Wiegersma well-poised for a good result on Simon Porloe in 6th, American Phillip Dutton in 7th on Mr Medicott, German Frank Ostholt on Little Paint in 8th, and the host nation’s Maxime Livio on the in-form Cathar de Gamel who won at Haras du Pin in August in 9th.
Tomorrow’s cross-country will almost certainly shake things up, it is not hugely changed from last year’s which had a fairly high rate of attrition, and the 11.48 optimum time could be problematic due to the numerous turning combinations. Fence 3 will leave no-one in any doubt that they are jumping round a 4*, and the double of angled houses at the bottom of the bank below 3 will not be any easier than the corner they replaced! The first water decimated last year’s field, this year it has been changed a little, with one of the ducks remaining, then three committed turning strides to a low but very skinny log with a big drop into the water, where most will almost certainly head straight on to a steeply angled 2nd duck on two strides. On their way back through the lake towards the end of the course a tired horse may struggle with the 5 efforts required that take the riders on a 180 degree turn through the water twice, with 3 of the 5 efforts being accuracy questions. The good will make it look smooth, others may not. The ground is currently quite firm and has been spiked, and there is some rain falling tonight, but hopefully last year’s pre-xc deluge will not be repeated. The CIC** will set off cross-country at 8.45, when it will not have been light for long, and the CCI**** will get under way with William Fox-Pitt trailblazing at 12.15 local time.