Kiwis hoping for a Big Ka-Pau
Kiwis hoping for a Big Ka-Pau
Kiwi eventers will be looking to continue their dominance of the world’s elite events at the Les Etoiles de Pau in France this week.
Defending four star champion Andrew Nicholson does not have his 2013 winner Nereo (owned by Deborah Sellar) on the card, however has three top horses entered in Quimbo (owned by Deborah Sellar), his own Mr Cruise Control and Viscount George (owned by Robin and Nicola Salmon).
Nicholson holds three of the six four star events – the highest ranking in eventing – having won Pau, the Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event and Luhmuhlen, was second at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials and third at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials, which gave him the HSBC FEI Classics crown.
The 2013 Pau event marks the start of the new season classics, which again covers those same events, as well as the Australian International Three Day Event.
The cash rich classics is worth nearly $180,000 to the victor.
It is also a chance for New Zealand riders hoping to make the 2014 World Equestrian Championships (WEG) to impress selectors – despite the event still being 10 months out.
So this week’s Pau is an important event for all.
Equestrian Sprots New Zealand high performance director Sarah Harris is expecting big things from all entered.
“This is the last event (in Europe) of a great season and we will be looking to cap it off with another victory,” says Harris. “A lot of training has paid off as we are consistently seeing the Kiwis in the top 10.”
And Pau is one of the targeted events for New Zealand for many reasons.
“We’ll all be looking for good runs in preparation for the worlds next year.”
Also lining up in the four star class is Nicholson’s London Olympic team-mate Caroline Powell aboard Onwards and Upwards (owned by Cameron and Mary Crawford and Powell), Lucy Jackson on Willy Do (owned by Gillian Greenlees and Jackson), Megan Heath on her own St Daniel, Tim Price on his own Ringwood Sky Boy, Annabel Wigley on her own Frog Rock and Craig Nicolai on his own Just Ironic.
In the CIC2*, Sir Mark Todd is entered aboard Haokonn (Panda Christie) and Powell on The Earl of Belvederer (owned by Richard Ames).
ESNZ high performance coach Erik Duvander says it would be nice for the Kiwis to end what has been “an absolutely fantastic cracking season” on a high.
“The riders and horses line up here are in great shape, so it is gearing up to be an exciting event for everyone.”
Duvander says the world number one Nicholson is “super strong”, that if Jacson pulls all three phases together she could score a big result and that Powell’s improvement in the dressage makes her in line for top three.
However, a record number of entries have been attracted to the event, largely because WEG 2014 cross country designer Pierre Michelet (FRA) is plying his talent at this event too.
The winner of the four star, which has attracted 76 entries, pockets nearly $57,000.
“This is the first time Pau have had to have a ballot list,” says Duvander. “Pau is going to be tough to win – many riders are here to get experience on Pierre Michelet’s courses. Course builders are like artists . . . each have their own style, so riders planning on going to WEG need to get the feel of how Pierre’s tracks ride..”
Duvander felt the track would suit both Quimbo, who won at Kentucky, and Mr Cruise Control who won at Luhmuhlen.
“It is late in the season, but there is incredible staying power in these riders and they are all fighting fit, so there will be no holding back whatsoever.”
The event gets underway with the first horse inspection on Wednesday (France time), followed by two days of dressage, the cross country and finally the showjumping.