New Zealand has just two riders and three horses taking on the last CCI 4* event in the Northern Hemisphere eventing calendar, at Les Etoiles de Pau in France this weekend.
Kiwi hopes are down to Jonelle Price, who is ranked ninth in the world, and Jock Paget, who will ride two horses, following the withdrawal of Andrew Nicholson’s mount Qwanza.
There are 35 entries in the CCI4*, including combinations from Australia, Britain, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Ireland and the United States. They are headed by Britain’s William Fox-Pitt who has a two-pronged tilt for honours with Parklane Hawk and Seacookie entered to start, while compatriot Pippa Funnell has Redesigned and Mirage D’Elle. Louise Harwood has been having a good season with Whitson, on which she was second at Tattersalls CCI3* and third at Blair Castle CCI3* this year, and Francis Whittington, fresh from celebrating his first CCI3* win, at Blenheim, rides West Side at Pau.
Kentucky 2013 runner-up Lauren Kieffer is another to watch with Veronica, and French rider Pascal Leroy will be a force to be reckoned with on the seasoned Minos de Petra, fifth at Badminton (GBR) earlier this year.
There are just two German riders expected to start; Ingrid Klimke (Horseware Hale-Bob) and former Pau winner Andreas Dibowski (FRH Butts Avedon).
While Pau is the end of the 2014 season, it marks the start of the FEI Classics Series, which encompasses the world’s six CCI4* events – Pau (FRA), the Australian International 3 Day Event (AUS), the Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event (USA), the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials (GBR), Luhmuhlen (GER) and the Land Rover Burghley International Horse Trials (GBR).
The series, which was won by Andrew Nicholson in 2013, carries a $US40,000 prize for the winner.
New Zealand’s Price will start Faerie Dianimo in their first four star start together, following a win in their last outing in the Young Horse CIC3* at Blenheim in September. It is Price’s first time at Pau, and she has high hopes for the pretty nine-year-old grey mare.
“She’s a talented little horse but is only nine so it is a tall order for her, however, she has demonstrated that she definitely has the ability. She’s a tough and gutsy little mare.”
Jock Paget has two in Shady Grey and Kilcoltrim Ambassador. It is the first four star start for the 12-year-old grey gelding Shady Grey, and Paget’s first outing with Kilcoltrim Ambassador, who did Pau with previous rider Lucy Jackson.
Nicholson was disappointed to have to withdraw his 11-year-old mare Qwanza, who was coming back from a year off. “We’ll miss this, write the year off and start afresh next year,” Nicholson said.
“It’s disappointing to finish the season like this, but there is not much point in going there if the horse is not 100%. She’s just not quite fit enough.”
Pau starts on Wednesday with the first horse inspection, followed by the dressage, the Pierre Michelet (FRA) designed cross country, and finishes with the showjumping on Sunday. The winner pockets €11,000.