With the dressage and showjumping phases behind riders, the team contest in the CICO3* at the CHIO Aachen in Germany is turning into a super tight competition. Australia lead with 139.8 penalty points, with New Zealand right behind them on 142.2, Great Britain a smidgen back on 142.5 and hosts Germany on 142.9.
Jonelle Price and Faerie Dianimo had an uncharacteristic two rails in the showjumping to slip from second to seventh. Dressage leader Bettina Hoy (GER) and Seigneur Medicott also dropped two rails to move to fourth, with current world champ Sandra Auffarth (GER) and Opgun Louvo up from sixth to third thanks to a clear round, with Julia Krajewski (GER) and Samourai du Thot taking the lead, up from fifth.
Jock Paget with Clifton Signature, Blyth Tait on Xanthus III and Tim Price aboard Bango all went clear inside time to sit in 12th, 21st and 24th places respectively. Their efforts moved the team up from third after the dressage to the second spot.
Of the 41 starters in the class, just 17 were clear and inside time. Jonelle Price was the star of the dressage, held this morning. She and Faerie Dianimo’s 35.3 penalty point test saw them sit in second at the end of the phase, even bringing a tear to the eyes of the grey’s connections. Jonelle was rapt. “When you get it right with her, it’s really special,” she said.
The combination previously scored 32 penalty points at Luhmuhlen in 2015, but Jonelle felt their efforts at Aachen were a far better performance. “Here we had a plan and executed it well,” she said. “She is so talented and has something not every eventing horse can do . . . but it is about getting it all right on the day and then she’s a real contender.” Jock Paget was very pleased with Clifton Signature. “His energy was good and he just felt much more matured,” he said. “It was a shame there were a few little things like square halts which would have cost us. It is just a matter of getting all the details right with the quality.”
Blyth Tait, who is on debut at Aachen, is confident Xanthus III will produce some great tests in time. “But dressage just isn’t his favourite place,” says Tait. “However, he is quite capable. I have been struggling a bit with him this year . . . he worked well in the practice arena, and maybe I worked him in a bit long. I am not displeased though, this is a very hot class with the best in the world and he certainly hasn’t disgraced himself.” Tait has been doing a lot of work with specialist dressage coach Isobel Wessels and he is confident it is just a matter of time. “This is a real step in the right direction for the rest of the year.”
Tim Price was disappointed with Bango’s mark. “It is the best preparation we have had,” he said. “In the past where he was a bit green, this time it was mistakes, and too many mean an average score. It is a real shame really.” But Bango is still a young advanced horse and Price says, not ready to perform at the bet of his ability. “If you look at Burghley later this year, you will see a far different horse. Everything is still new for him and there is no substitute for experience.”
Eventing dressage specialist coach Isobel Wessels was very pleased with all of the team. “I think the preparation was great,” said Wessels, “everybody put in all they possibly could. We started off with Jock with a much more confident Signature. Then there was Blyth who had a really good preparation. I felt maybe he was harshly marked but there were some lovely work and he rode really well.
“Tim was perhaps the best prepared ever and his horse looking amazing every session. It was unfortunate Bango got a head shake in the arena. All the suppleness and fluency we had built up in the warm-up didn’t come through in the test. He is a horse for the bit time, who just needs time,” said Wessels. “And Jonelle . . . she was outstanding. She rode like a real star and the horse just owned the arena. It was beautiful to watch. I was blown away by the professionalism and feeling she has for riding such a good test.”
Tomorrow is the cross country which riders are describing as certainly “tough enough” with a tight time to match. The cross country gets under way at 10am (GER time).