Astier Nicholas Takes Lead After Dramatic Pau XC

Credit : Pauline Chevalier

Saturday 28 October - 22h26 | Lulu Kyriacou

Astier Nicholas Takes Lead After Dramatic Pau XC

There was a complete shake up on the leader board after cross country at CCI4* Pau, which left the French hopeful of a home win as Astier Nicholas climbed to the top of the pile with a fine clear inside the time on Carole Broad's Molakai.

 - Astier Nicholas Takes Lead After Dramatic Pau XC

Sarah Bullimore, Reve du Rouet
Credit : Paulline Chevallier

Nicholas and countryman Cedric Lyard were the only two riders to get home iside the time over Pierre Michelet's course which caused significant issues for many riders. The corner combination at seven and the bank to angled rails over ditches at eleven were probably the biggest issues followed by the three fence combination at 28abc. Unusually for Pau, the water jumps caused little concern this year. Michelet said afterwards, "I built a technical course voluntarily with permanent questions all along the course, I was wary of this hand because the last one There were a lot of routes, so I made it very difficult, and I admit that I was surprised at the number of refusals on the second combination, on that point along the road. problem played their role. " And these questions, the riders had them all  through the eleven minutes ten of the course. They also had to work on horse fitness, many of whom came home tired."

Whatever his plan was, a third of the 62 starters failed to complete although of those there were significant retirements.  Of the leaders, Ros Canter and Zenshera were clear but got some time penalties.

Canter is the only one of the top five after dressage still in contention. Dressage leaders Shane Rose and CP Qualified ended up in the ditch at Fence 11. Mark Todd did not get past fence 7 safely on his first horse although he opted to continue his round on Kiltubrid Rhapsody after the run out but he retired when NZ Campino ran past 11b.  Fence 7 also saw the end of Maxime Livio's, Izzy Taylor's and Caroline Powell's chances.

​Mark Todd could have challenged for the world number one spot if he had had a better day and so could have Andrew Nicholson  but his day was only marginally better in that he got further round the course.  He had already had a stop at nine on Qwanza, when the mare stopped again at 11b and he retired. On his second ride, Jetset, he was clear and going well when the horse appeared to leave a leg at the skinny at Fence 25 giving Nichoson no chance of staying on, so MIchael Jung will end 2017 as he begun it; on top of the rankings!

Going back to those who did better, Astier Nicholas had this to say about the course afterwards. "It was a difficult course and my horse was very tired when I finished, because the technicity required to make the horses come back on a fluid track and it caused him a lot of effort. But I would like to congratulate Pierre who knew how to build us an interesting course with difficulties everywhere and not just keep the peace!"

​His feelings wer shared by Sarah Bulimore, who was without a doubt the rider of the day. Three horses ridden and three clear rounds, on a day when most people could not go clear on just one! She is now third on Reve du Rouet, eigth on Lilly Corinne and tenth with Valentino.  All in all a significant acheivement for Bullimore and her team.


Resurgent French....

Although not every thing went according to plan for them, the home side looked most impressive and left observer once again wondering what on earth went wrong at the European Championships. The first French rider to make an impression was Gwendolyn Fer with Romantic Love. Galloping with ease and confidence, Gwendolen ran a fluid and perfect course. The couple returned almost in time and took  second place. "I'm so happy," says the Toulouse rider. "I rode the way I felt it and everything was great ... Romantic was not tired at the finish, I took a few seconds of time because I wanted to take care of my surroundings from start to finish as Ihad extraordinary feelings! "

Also for France, we must salute the great performance of Pascal Boutet. The first Frenchwoman to pass with her faithful Wind Pol showed a lot of application and returns with time penalties. After her, Denis Mesples and Oregon of the Vine are without incident on the cross too. The couple ranks fourteenth in the provisional. After him, Cédric Lyard has thrilled the public, the French staff and especially Alain Chevalier his owner who celebrated his birthday a few days ago. With the big shot of Quatar Puech Rouget, he swallowed up the cross  country to make the second faultless  round of the day, the almost perfect course to one second only of the ideal time. It was  remarkable performance that takes him from twenty-seventh to fourth place.

​Sadly for the visiting American team it was not a great day. Although Alexandra Knowles was clear on Sound Prospect and Buck Davidson had just one late run out on Copper Beach, the day was marred particulaly for them when team mate Boyd Martin's horse Cracker Jack, had to be put down after a freak accident on the flat ground between fences resulted in a shattered pastern and the horse being put down. 

​Tomorrow morning though, all the remaining horses and riders must pass the veterinary inspection so things may yet still change before the show jumping course is even walked.

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