Christopher Burton (AUS) produced a great Cross Country performance on Holstein Park Leilani to keep his Dressage lead at Les Etoiles de Pau (FRA), final leg of the HSBC FEI Classics™ 2011, but he has no margin for error in tomorrow’s Jumping phase as one fence covers the top eight riders and a nail-biting finale is guaranteed for tomorrow.

William Fox-Pitt (GBR) was masterful in steering all three of his horses around inside the optimum time to finish in the top 10, with the two nine-year-olds, Oslo and Lionheart, second and sixth, and Macchiato ninth.

Clayton Fredericks (AUS), the joint Dressage leader, accrued 1.2 time penalties on Bendigo, the horse competing in his first CCI4*, to drop to third. The Ground Jury took 0.8 penalties off his original score after he protested that a steward raking the ground had forced him to take avoiding action.

Burton, who finished 15 seconds inside the optimum time of 10 minutes 39 seconds, commented: “I had a super ride. After our fall at Burghley, it’s good to come here and go so well and prove she is a quality horse. I congratulate Pierre Michelet on his course – I’ve never ridden one of his tracks before but it was great to ride.”

Both Fredericks and Andrew Nicholson (NZL), who has risen two places to fourth with a flowing round on the beautiful grey Mr Cruise Control, stand to leapfrog into the money prizes in the HSBC FEI Classics™.

Mary King’s (GBR) hopes of winning the 2011 HSBC FEI Classics™ are still alive – just. She retired her first horse Apache Sauce after an early run-out at the double of brushes at fences 3 and 4, but has risen to 10th place after a committed ride on Imperial Cavalier.

However, King needs to improve her position to eighth or better in the event of Fox-Pitt winning Pau tomorrow. Fox-Pitt is the only rider to have won four of the world’s six CCI4*s (Badminton, Burghley, Kentucky and Luhmuhlen), and it seems that he has a fifth in his sights – plus the HSBC FEI Classics™ for a third time.

“All my horses had lucky moments,” admitted Fox-Pitt. “The course at Pau is notorious for riding differently to expectations, so you are constantly holding your breath. The shades of light and dark play a part, especially in lovely sunshine like today, and there are lots of twists and difficult distances.”

Michelet, who explained that he had made the last water complex easier this year, commented: “It’s not just that riders are learning to ride my courses. I’ve also learned to understand their requirements in order to make them ride more fluently.”

Astier Nicolas (FRA) and Jhakti du Janlie dropped out of the top 10 with a stop at 28b, the brush corner on a downhill curve which caused five faults. Ruth Edge (GBR) and Nick of Thyme also faulted here and incurred several time penalties. The most influential fence was the first water complex, where 10 horses faulted, including Andrew Nicholson’s first ride, Henry Tankerville.

Fox-Pitt, who also stands to gain a bonus as leader of the HSBC Rider Rankings, had a sticky ride through the water complexes on his first two horses, and when Oslo hit the house in the second water, fence 21a, the fence repair team had to be called. After some 40 minutes’ hold, it was decided to remove the fence, and riders that had already jumped it had their time penalties adjusted accordingly.

However, that was the only major drama in an exciting day’s sport in which Pierre Michelet’s course, with its mix of big, bold galloping fences and turning accuracy tests, jumped fluently. There were 42 clear rounds from the 67 Cross Country starters,18 of which were inside the optimum time, and 56 completions. Yet again, Monsieur Michelet has ensured a thrilling finale at France’s premier event.

Results after Cross-Country
1 Christopher Burton/Holstein Park Leilani (AUS) 43.7 + 0 = 43.7
2 William Fox-Pitt/Oslo (GBR) 44.2 + 0 = 44.2
3 Clayton Fredericks/Bendigo (AUS) 43.7 + 1.2 = 44.9
4 Andrew Nicholson/Mr Cruise Control (NZL) 46.2 + 0 = 46.2
5 Lucy Wiegersma/Simon Porloe (GBR) 45.5 + 0.8 = 46.3
6 William Fox-Pitt/Lionheart (GBR) 46.7 + 0 = 46.7
7 Frank Ostholt/Mr Medicott (GER) 47.3 + 0 – 47.3
8 Nicolas Touzaint/Hildago de L’Ile (FRA) 46.3 + 1.2 = 47.5
9 William Fox-Pitt/Macchiato (GBR) 50.0 + 0 = 50.0
10 Mary King/Imperial Cavalier (GBR) 51 + 0 = 51.0


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