By Kate Green
LES ETOILES DES PAU, France (FEI) – The organising team at Les Etoiles des Pau (FRA), 24-28 October 2012, the first event in the HSBC FEI Classics 2012/2013 season, have described this year’s entry as “a dream” with members of the gold, silver and bronze medal-winning teams at the London 2012 Olympic Games heading to the popular CCI4* in the foothills of the Pyrenees in the hope of gaining a valuable early foothold on the HSBC FEI Classics leaderboard.
Germany’s Michael Jung, the first rider in history to hold Olympic, World and European titles simultaneously, heads a distinguished field with Leopin FST, the horse on which he won on home ground in Luhmühlen earlier this year, and will be viewed by many as the man to beat.
Britain’s Olympic team silver medallist William Fox-Pitt, winner of three HSBC FEI Classics titles (2012, 2010, 2008) and a record 50 CCIs, has entered three horses: Navigator, the 2010 runner-up back in action after a year on the injury list, Bramham (GBR) winner Chilli Morning, a stallion and new ride for Fox-Pitt this year, and the nine-year-old Bay My Hero, a recent runner-up at Blenheim (GBR) CIC3* in the eight and nine-year-old class.
Fox-Pitt’s ever cheerful team mate Mary King (GBR), winner of the 2011 HSBC FEI Classics™ title, brings her Olympic ride Imperial Cavalier, fourth at Pau last year, and her home-bred mare Kings Temptress, winner of Kentucky in 2011.
Andrew Nicholson (NZL), who led the Kiwis to an Olympic bronze medal, is arguably the man of the moment. He leads the HSBC Rankings and recently won three international competitions in six weeks, including Burghley (GBR).
Nicholson, perhaps the rider with the best chance of wrestling the HSBC FEI Classics™ out of British hands for the first time since the series started in 2008, has entered his Olympic horse Nereo, on which he finished tantalizingly close to an individual medal in fourth place at Greenwich, and Mr Cruise Control, second at Pau last year.
Three of Nicholson’s team mates have rides at Pau: Jonathan Paget with Clifton Promise, 10th at Greenwich, Caroline Powell (Onwards And Upwards) and Mark Todd (Major Milestone).
Pau has attracted a field of over 60 entries representing 17 nations, many of whom will have the specific aim of gaining early HSBC FEI Classics™ points.
Other Olympians on the list include Australia’s pathfinder Christopher Burton, riding Underdiscussion, winner of the Aachen CIC3*, Karin Donckers (BEL) on Lamicell Charizard, third at Pau in 2010, and for the home side Denis Mesples on Oregon de la Vigne.
Riders familiar with Pau know that course designer Pierre Michelet (FRA) will set them a challenging Cross Country test that demands the ultimate in boldness and accuracy, but even regular competitors are in for an interesting surprise this time as the ever-ingenious Michelet has reversed the track which runs across the racecourse.
The new HSBC FEI Classics™ season, which links the world’s six CCI4*s across three continents, promises to get off to a thrilling start.