A Toast to Classic Moet
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A Toast to Classic Moet
Jonelle Price almost provided a fairy tale finish for the New Zealand eventing team at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in France today.
The 33-year-old, who was a late call-up for the games after the withdrawal of Caroline Powell, would have just sneaked onto the podium if not for a pesky rail.
Price and Trisha Rickards' Classic Moet were in fourth going into the all-important showjumping phase, and a dropped rail saw them finish on 56.5 penalty points.
Following her in the showjumping were the top three – overnight leader William Fox-Pitt (GBR) on Chilli Morning, the defending champ Michael Jung (GER) on Fischerrocana FST and Sandra Auggarth (GER) on Opgun Louvo.
True to form, the Germans left everything in place before the 20,000-plus crowd, and Fox-Pitt had to go clear. But it wasn't his day, and a dropped rail saw him slip to third on 54.3 with Auffarth winning on 52 and Jung second on 52.3. The Germans also won the team prize, ahead of Great Britain, with The Netherlands in third.
Price's fourth place was all the more special because it was just the second four star start for the spunky black mare. Four star is the highest level in eventing.
And understandably, Price was delighted.
“But when you get that close to the medals, you can't help but think of what could have been,” she said.
And she's confident the horse is only going to get better and better.
“I came here hoping for a respectable performance . . . and never dreamed she would finish fourth at the worlds. This is the highlight of my career.”
She fired a cheeky shot at the selectors who had initially named her as a reserve.
“That'll teach them for leaving me off!”
Her bronze medal winning London team-mate Andrew Nicholson and Nereo (owned by Libby Sellar) slipped from fifth to ninth after uncharacteristically taking three rails in the showjumping.
Nicholson put it down to the pressure he had applied to the Spanish-bred chestnut during the very relentless cross country phase yesterday.
“We were five minutes from home and we had to slog through deep mud – that's what probably made the difference today.”
He now shifts his focus to the Land Rover Burghley International Horse Trials which start on Wednesday in the United Kingdom where he sits on a hat-trick.
Ninety-one combinations started in the dressage phase of the eventing at WEG, with just 59 making it through to the showjumping today. The cross country proved instrumental in whittling away the field, thanks to dreadful conditions underfoot, and despite two fences being taken out.
New Zealand's hopes of a team medal came to an end when Sir Mark Todd and Tim Price were both eliminated. Jock Paget retired early in the cross country, while individual Lucy Jackson was also eliminated. Jonelle Price rode as an individual.
Eric Duvander, Equestrian Sports New Zealand high performance coach and chef d'equipe at WEG, was ecstatic with Price's efforts, saying she had proved Classic Moet was ready for success.
He was philosophical about the dent the cross country had made in the Kiwi efforts..
“The track was very well built and a proper WEG course, but the ground conditions were terrible,” said Duvander. “It was beyond what it should be. When you are at a championships, it shouldn't be like that.”
The plan for New Zealand had always been to chase the win, and that meant sticking your neck out.
“All our riders went as hard as they could. Their attitudes are inspirational.”
For full results, head to www.normandy2014.com .
The Fact Box
• The Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games run from August 23 – September 7 in France.
• New Zealand is represented in endurance, eventing, vaulting (Sept 2-5), para-dressage and showjumping (Sept 2-7).
•New Zealand eventing has a very successful history at WEG – the team won gold in 1990 and 1998, and bronze in 2010. Individually, gold medals have been won by Blyth Tait and Messiah in 1990, Vaughn Jefferis and Bounce in 1994, and Tait and Ready Teddy in 1998. Todd and Broadcast News won silver in 1998, and in 2010 Andrew Nicholson and Nereo won bronze.
• WEG is held every four years in different locations.
• A record 76 countries are expected to take part, making it the world’s largest equestrian sport event which includes 1000 competitors.
• More than 500,000 people are expected to attend over the two weeks.
• For more information, head to www..normandy2014.com .