The pathfinders at the European Eventing Championships cross-country phase in Avenches, Switzerland, have shown that the track is jumpable, and the time achievable.
Although the first two riders incurred jumping penalties, Ireland’s Sam Watson came out next and jumped clear a few seconds over the time.
The sixth pair out, Jean-Lou Bigot and the hard-pulling Utrillo Du Halage, laid down the gauntlet for the third-placed French team, finishing seven seconds inside the time on their dressage of 29.5. He even had time to take a long route at the angled fence 6.
“It’s a championships, so for the team, and as I was early to go, I couldn’t take any risks,” said Jean-Lou. “It didn’t take too much extra time, and I started to realise by the third minute that I could make the time. This is a very good galloping horse, so I let him go, and I had time to set up for the jumps.”
Starting out at 11am Swiss time, trailblazer Jordy Wilken and his grey Burry Spirit, from the Netherlands, set the tone as they came home safely, albeit with an early run-out at fence 4C (The Hollow) and 21.6 time-faults. The second pair out, Belgium’s Kris Vervaecke and Guantanamo Van Alsingen, also ran out – at 16b – but the early signs show that the course is jumpable.
European Eventing Championships cross-country: “I had one big scare”
Sam Watson, third out to go for Ireland, put in the first fast round, riding Ballybolger Talisman. They added 6.8 time-faults to their 50th-placed dressage of 33.5 and jumped clear, and an initial 15 for missing a flag at the last water complex was quickly removed. The fourth pair out, Malin Josefsson and Golden Midnight, were even better – indicating the time would be achievable as the top-ranked horses come to the fore. They stopped the clock 13 seconds over for 5.2 time-faults.
“His heart to jump through all the fences is top-class,” said Sam. “His engine and stamina were superb. We put in a few more strides in places than was the plan but he always wanted to go through the flags. I just had one big scare coming on to the racecourse, he slipped –nowhere near a fence – and nearly went right down. He pulled a shoe earlier and that was a frightener.”
Britain’s Mike Etherington-Smith designed the cross-country track at this Swiss racecourse venue. It consists of 40 jumping efforts and 32 fences over a distance of 5,678 metres, to be covered in 10min 7sec to avoid time-penalties.
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