The good days are without doubt the easiest and simplest to report on and today was unequivocally one of the exceptionally good days. A five star horse is a very special thing and a 5 star win is the stuff that dreams are made of, especially when it comes at the last event of the year and winter is looming large on the horizon.
The jog wasn’t until 12.30 to allow the driving to finish so thats a bit different! Then the track caused all the usual Pau issues, it was big, tight time, technical, short distances and plenty of rollbacks. It actually suited a short striding bouncy horse as opposed to a big, long striding type and it was just so for both Grappa Nera (Grape) and second placed (to the delight of the ardent French crowd!) Karim Florent Laghouag with his lovely Triton Fontaine. You have to feel for David Doel who led all the way until the last fence to hand Jonelle and Grape the lead but as we know from another outgoing leader, “Them’s the breaks”. You have to leave them all standing to win when you don’t have a fence in hand.
It wasn’t without the odd rattle (like another little black mare we know and love!) but what stood out was the confidence and the rhythm. Jonelle never stopped riding forward and Grape stayed in a balance that allowed her to take every fence from a flowing stride.
Hats off to the Grape Syndicate who have owned her since 2018 and have had a roller coaster ride to culminate in this, their biggest win of all. And congrats to fellow Kiwi Caroline Powell who wound up in 5th with a double clear on her 9 year old Greenacres Special Cavalier, (Cavvy) owned by Chris Mann and produced beautifully for her 5 star debut.
Grape looked like the seasoned campaigner she actually really isn’t in the prize giving…she went to Kentucky 5 star in what turned out to be Baltic conditions as a 9 year old and hit top level with Covid and no crowds. Then she had some time out and to see her today just drinking in the cheers and applause makes you realise she was born to be a star. And she’s a Karendasj…the same as Tim’s beloved Wesko (Dash) who kicked off all this 5 star winning malarchy back in 2014.
Maryland and Pau were just 2 weeks apart…thats the closest Team Price have come to winning back to back 5 stars since the magical year of 2018 when they won Badminton, Luhmühlen and Burghley. And by my calculations ( and take into consideration maths was never my strong point here!) I think it will leave them as World No.1 and No.2 come the November FEI World Rankings which will hold for the whole winter and much of the spring.
Happy days Team Price. What a way to round off the 2022 season! Oh wait…if TP could just bring back the driving pony too…..