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French retains Olympic test lead

July 6, 2011

by Lulu Kyriacou

Piggy French and DHI Topper W increased their lead at the London Olympic Greenwich Test Event, by galloping around inside the 5.05 minute optimum, one of six riders to do so.

Piggy French and DHI Topper W remain in the lead after the cross-country. © Lulu Kyriacou

Mark Todd and NZB Campino at the water. © Lulu Kyriacou

Three riders were eliminated (rider fall or multiple refusals) and four had 20 penalties but all the others were clear without incident, time being the only penalty factor.

French's lead is now just over eight penalties over Sara Algotsson Ostholt (Mrs Medicott). Michael Jung did not quite make the time on River of Joy but his 0.4 time penalty was sufficient to hold onto third spot when Clayton Fredericks and Bendigo gained 1.20 to add to their score.

French said that the course was very intense with the questions coming quickly and concentration was needed all the way round. "If I am lucky enough to be selected next year, I think I will need a very rideable horse so I can save time when I set up for fences," she said.

Course designer Sue Benson said that there had been mostly positive comments about the way the track rode, although there were a couple of slippery patches. But it needed to be remembered that the organisers were only nine months into their ground improvement plan, which has another year to run.

During the press conference, the Equestrian Manager for the London Olympics, Tim Hadaway, said that the venue had a capacity of 50,000 for cross country day but models were still being done. "We have been very happy with the visitors today, though, it has been especially nice to have so many of the local school children amongst the 5000 or so that were invited to watch."

All the Kiwi riders were clear, Andrew Nicholson being the best placed of them, lying 10th now with Viscount George. Needless to say he was one of the riders to get inside the optimum. Clarke Johnstone is now 19th on Incognito and Mark Todd 21st with NZB Campino.

Michael Jung and River of Joy. © Lulu Kyriacou
Todd commented that the course was very twisty "and a bit like riding a jump off! Although I wasn't trying to win this one!"

For Johnstone, who has been based at Pixie Thomas's yard near Gatcombe in Gloucestershire, it was the first time he had spent any time in the city. "This has been totally exciting for me. I had a brief stop in London when I was young but this is the first time I have spent any time here though I have only really toured Greenwich so far," he said. Johnstone said he was planning to stay in Gloucestershire until the Olympics "when hopefully I will be part of the team and if so I would hope to bring Orient Express - but there is a long way to go until then!"

Team New Zealand used the opportunity to have a meeting after the competition ended, attended by the European based riders and also Joe Meyer, now based in Florida.

"We all like getting together when we can, it's good for team spirit," Todd said afterwards.

The stats

39 starters
19 fences
3 eliminations - Italy's Alberto Giugni (Pastel L'Anguillere) for three refusals and both Lukasz Kazmierczak (Branco) from Poland and Germany's Sandra Auffarth (Parancs) for falls.
5 horse and rider combinations finished without any additional penalties
25 picked up just time faults
Four horse and rider combinations had a single refusal - US's Logan Rawlings (Jaybee Star Celebrity), Brazil's Renan Guerreiro (Rongotai), Thailand's Nina Ligon (Jazz King) and Colombia's Brian Nunez-Hughes (Libro Archie).



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