Quite apart from the fact that it was a bit of a wait (til 4 pm which is a long day on XC day) it was like busses….no sooner had Jonelle kicked off proceedings with McClaren than all the Kiwis went at once. Jonelle departed the start box in pouring rain which did make the cross country tactically tricky as the ground changed. Astier Nicolas was commenting on H and C TV and as he put it, the ground was on the firm side at the start of the week so the rain simply made the going slippy as opposed to deep. Jonelle had to bear this in mind as she and Mac set out on a tough track, Mac’s first 5 star and the recent memory of the 20 in Aachen much to the fore of her mind.
Mac was incredible. Jonelle rode her socks off. Mac answered every question but you could see towards the end of the track how his attention began to wander! Jonelle did an amazing job of focusing him and Mac did an exemplary job of jumping the fences. They literally blitzed his first 5 star and it was poetry to watch as the little horse oozed scope and ability and Jonelle made every line work. Just 4.4 time added to finish on 28.8 and into 6th spot…..but not a rail stands between 2nd and 6th spot and Mac is a very good jumper so it is possible he will claim back his 2nd slot tomorrow. Today Mac stepped up to what we always expected of him…. a 5 star pony and whilst Sir Mark Todd started that journey Jonelle has completed it.
After Tayla Mason and Maddy Crowe had both picked up 20 penalties in a rookie first time European 5 star which will be a huge learning curve for both of them and their horses and Caroline Powell had picked up 15 penalties for a missed flag at the skinny in the water late on Tim exited the start box as leader of the pack.
And what a round it was. Falco has always had masses of ability, huge scope and an unbelievable jump but he has managed to amass more than his fair share of 20’s along the way. He also had a pearl of a faceplant in a trakhenner a couple of years ago… which for a careful horse could have been a game changer…and his only really un-genuine run out was a cheeky one at Barbury 4*S a few years ago. Mostly his huge jump in has led to an issue on the way out but he and Tim have developed a belief and a system and in some funny way the dimensions of 5 star have helped…even Falco is limited on how much height he can give the in of a 5 star fence! He is also so trainable and trained….Tim was turning in the air over so many A elements which made the B so easy.
They came home some 10 seconds under time and hold the lead going overnight. Falco is without doubt the product of a very patient rider, an incredibly patient owner ( cheers to you Sue Benson!) and the truth in that all roads to the top are not the same. The pleasure of watching this pair act as a total team was so cool….. even when there was the one hairy moment Falco was totally focussed on the job.
Yesterday may have been a record with a Price 1/2. Today its a Price 1/6. Tomorrow still could be a momentous day! And I stand by my early week message to Sue Benson… “This week is the big one we have been waiting for!”