The final horse inspection at Les 5 Étoiles de Pau was eagerly awaited on Sunday morning following the effort put in by the horses during cross-country on Saturday. Two were not presented and a third was refused.
Cross-country day had been extremely influential in shaking up the leaderboard at this annual eventing fixture in France. The British riders confirmed their supremacy in the competition, taking the first seven places in the provisional ranking, ousting the top three after dressage. Rosalind Canter (GBR) took the lead in front of her compatriot Tom McEwen, riding a brilliant round marred by just 3.2 penalty points for overshooting the allocated time. After taking a fall with her first horse – thankfully no harm done – British rider Kirsty Chabert also rode a near-perfect round in 11:08 (allocated time 11:06) and took third provisional place.
The cross-country track designed by Pierre Michelet made life difficult for many of the riders. Only 20 out of the 55 horse-rider pairs on the starting list managed to complete the course without a hitch.
A total of 34 competitors started the final show jumping test on a course designed by Yann Royant. The technical course did its job and delivered a 100% British podium, with no real surprises. More than 10,000 spectators attended Sunday’s epic final with as much legendary enthusiasm as ever. Overall attendance at this popular event increases every year, with a 30% growth in visitors for the 2023 edition to between 42,000-43,000 fans.
After her European Champion title won last August at Haras du Pin, Rosalind Canter added another major victory in Pau with a different horse, Izilot DHI. The French terrain seems to favour the British rider; now she has to keep up the momentum towards the Paris Olympics.
Canter won with just a handful of penalties ahead of world number 1 Oliver Townend (GBR). A magnificent clear round put Townend on the second step of the podium. Unfortunately for fellow countryman Tom McEwen and JL Dublin, a fallen bar dropped them back to third place. This disappointment was offset by the fact that his friends were planning a stag party on Sunday evening, as the Englishman is getting married next Friday.
The reigning European Champion nation confirmed its current great form by occupying the top six places in the final ranking in the 5 Stars of Pau, one of just seven CCI5*-L events worldwide. Last year’s winner, New Zealand’s Jonelle Price, was eighth with Hiarado, just ahead of American Boyd Martin.
Canter commented afterward, “I’ve had an incredible week with both horses; in fact, both have really given it their all. I’m extremely proud of Izilot DHI. We’ve come a long way since we got him as a five-year-old, he’s very much ‘on the eye’ but he’s really taking a big step forward. We’ve had our ups and downs and a few little difficulties but he’s been absolutely incredible this week.
“I’m learning all the time with a horse like him – he’s taught me a lot of things, he’s really taught me not to react, to deal with these kinds of situations by almost letting go of the reins, telling him he’s a good horse. If he wants to panic, he’ll panic, there’s nothing I can do about it, it’s just a question of giving him a lot of confidence.
“It’s pretty obvious that the British team is in great shape. My aim is to be selected for the Paris Olympics – that’s my dream. On the other hand, I don’t know with which horse. That’s not entirely up to me, but it’s great to have two horses that could be selected.”
Second-place finisher Townend said, “I’m incredibly proud of my horse and my team, and I’m very happy for the owners of my horse Tregilder, who have been with me for nineteen years. A podium finish in a five-star is a dream for them. He’s a genuine horse, always straightforward, always doing his best in all three tests. This performance is the fruit of the work of the whole team that looks after him, especially at the stable, which enables him to achieve results like this.
“I’m a competitor, I don’t feel the need to prove anything. This is my nineteenth five-star podium, and fortunately there are plenty more to come. I’m still young compared to some! Being surrounded by all these female riders is an enviable position to be in.”
McEwen offered, “I had an incredible run. It was fantastic, the cross-country course was incredible, the show jumping was great, the crowd was enthusiastic and for me with JL Dublin it’s just a great way to end what’s been a bit of a shit year.”
~ with files from Les 5 Etoiles de Pau – Media Office
Final Results here.