Two British riders, long-time team mates and friends, will do battle for the HSBC FEI Classics™ 2011 top spot this weekend (October 13-16 ) at Les Etoiles de Pau (FRA), which is also the 2012 season opener. 

Athletes from 17 nations will compete at the popular CCI4* in the shadow of the Pyrenees, where they have the unique opportunity to secure points for the 2012 season which for the first time includes Australia’s premier event, the Adelaide International Horse Trials (November 18-20).

HSBC FEI Classics™ 2011 – closely fought battle
Only series leader Mary King (GBR) or compatriot William Fox-Pitt can win this year’s HSBC FEI Classics™ and with just 13 points between them it will be an intense finale.

Fox-Pitt, who won the HSBC FEI Classics™ in 2008 and 2010, can only beat King if he wins and she finishes lower than eighth. So while he heads into Pau as the world number one in the HSBC Rankings – this time 13 points ahead of Mary and with the prospect of receiving the 50,000 USD bonus – he is leaving no stone unturned in his quest to become Series Champion and has taken advantage of Pau’s decision to allow riders to compete with three horses.

Fox-Pitt will ride two nine-year-olds, Oslo and Lionheart, recently first and third in the Blenheim (GBR) CIC3* for young horses, and the experienced CCI4* horse Macchiato, fifth at Burghley (GBR) last year.

King, who has declared the HSBC FEI Classics™ to be her major goal this year, has planned her season carefully and still has two horses fresh: Apache Sauce, eighth at Luhmühlen, and Imperial Cavalier on which she was third at Badminton (GBR) but suffered a fall at the HSBC FEI European Championships.

“Pau will provide a unique opportunity for athletes who have not figured prominently in this year’s HSBC FEI Classics™ to get an early foothold on the 2012 series,” explained Catrin Norinder, Director of Eventing & Olympic at the FEI.

“We have seen incredible performances this season and we expect some significant changes at the top of the leaderboard at Pau – it will be a fitting finale and launch into the 2012 season.” 

Piggy French (GBR) and Mark Todd (NZL), currently occupying third and fourth places, do not have rides for Pau. They could be overtaken by fifth-placed Andreas Dibowski (GER) who is bringing his good mare FRH Fantasia, but with which he also suffered a fall at the Europeans. Andrew Nicholson (NZL) is sixth, only just outside the top five money prizes could also benefit with his three experienced rides: Mr Cruise Control, Henry Tankerville and Armada.

His compatriot Caroline Powell (NZL), currently seventh, was in the money last year, and she could do it again this time with Boston Two Tips. Clayton Fredericks (AUS), ninth, is also sure to give it his best with Dunges Laurent Rose and Lady Dancer, and no one should rule out the European bronze medallist Frank Ostholt (GER), who has his Olympic horse Mr Medicott back in action or the 2009 series champion Oliver Townend (GBR) who rides Imperial Master.

Riders such as the newly crowned European Champion Michael Jung (GER), who rides Leopin and Weidezaunprof’s River of Joy, and former dual European Champion Nicolas Touzaint (FRA), who has his 2008 Badminton winner Hildago d’Isle back in action, are also sure to take advantage of the new format at what promises to be a very exciting, competitive and – for some – a lucrative weekend at Pau.