Unusually hot for the time of year and whilst the support crew were in shorts and T shirts Tim was sweating in his tail coat! He was first in for the second session of 5 star dressage on Friday afternoon which kicked off at 1.03 and Xavier Faer (Hugo) had his game face on right from his entrance. Not a single spook and he looked soft and supple under Tim’s guidance and the single mistake in the whole test was a late first change which is what kept him off challenging Ollie Townend for the lead. He finished on 24.3 which leaves Ollie, on 21.1, just 3.2 points ahead. Christian Landolt was commenting on H and C TV and he described the test as “very smooth, very smart” which is exactly what is was. It was by far and away the best test Hugo has done at 5 star and heartening to see him still improve at 15! His body isn’t built for dressage, its built for a relentless gallop stride and no matter how much we laugh at Hugo for being a bit dim he really is a working class boy come good with his great ethics and genuine relationship with Tim. Good boy Hugo!
Classic Moet (Molly) is also built for speed. She doesn’t have a massive gallop stride but she does have enormous stamina and a huge heart and a skimming way of jumping like a world hurdler. All of these attributes don’t really contribute much on dressage day! Jonelle had mentioned that she was fairly ‘challenging’ to ride all week and I think the 48 hours in quarantine when she wasn’t allowed to even handwalk really did go to her head. Molly is a total workaholic and is happy even just marching round a barn but from her entry down the centre line where she sneezed three times before the halt told the world that she was pretty keen to get to the cross country!
As always Jonelle did a magnificent job in containing her and the camera angle meant that commentators Christian Landolt and John Kyle were also a bit bewildered when the mark came up as 30.1 ( which I was glad about as so was I!). The trot work was good and we thought the canter work was as well but Jonelle was quick to say that Molly changed behind after the second change and again on the last centre line plus the last change was late so she thought it fair. Swapping behind is a default of Molly’s when she is tense and always has been but I still think they could have been a tad more generous as she might have made mistakes but she didn’t spook like a naughty pony as some did!
To put it in perspective whilst lying in 16th position Molly is just 2.1 marks off 4th spot. And there is no doubt that Ian Stark’s cross country track is a properly tough 5 star with stamina sapping and mentally tiring terrain that has steep climbs and sharp descents. Add to that the forecast of 27%, 80% humidity and the threat of afternoon thunderstorms and Saturday is going to be a 5 star day. Times have been brought forward and the 5 star cross country now starts at 12.14 US time instead of 1pm.
Click on the link below to read Ian Stark’s comments on his track. It gives you a real feel for the challenge!