Michael Jung (GER) is in the French Pyrenees to see if he can add the CCI4* at Les 4 Etoiles de Pau, first leg of the FEI Classics™ 2015/2016 – which unites the world’s top six four-star Eventing competitions – to his trophy cupboard.
Jung, the reigning Olympic and European champion and runner-up to Ingrid Klimke (GER) in last year’s series, has won at Kentucky (USA) and Burghley (GBR) this year, and is a previous victor at Luhmühlen (GER), as well as being a Badminton (GBR) runner-up.
His best result at France’s premier event so far is a third place in 2012, but German riders have a good record here, winning four out of eight times since the CCI4* began in 2007.
He is bringing the brilliant mare fischerRocana, his Kentucky winner and the horse on which he had a rare Cross Country mistake – an early fall in the water at Burghley last month. His other mount, Halunke FBW, the 2013 European champion, has been saved especially for Pau as it is thought Pierre Michelet’s (FRA) flat racecourse track will suit the 11-year-old German Württemberger gelding.
Sir Mark Todd had won his first CCI4* – Badminton in 1980 – before Jung was even born. New Zealand’s double Olympic champion has been in fine form this season and has an obvious chance to win at Pau on the 13-year-old German-bred NZB Campino, winner of two CIC3*s this year.
Todd’s compatriots have plenty of CCI4* form between them, especially former world and Olympic champion Blyth Tait, who has followed his old team mate out of retirement. Tait, who has never competed at Pau before, rides Bear Necessity V.
Eventing’s ‘power couple’, Tim and Jonelle Price (NZL), are also sure to make an impact. Tim has his Kentucky runner-up Wesko and has picked up a new ride on Julie Tew’s (GBR) Lord of the Owls, while Jonelle will be seeking her first CCI4* win. She has a great chance on the talented little grey mare Faerie Dianimo, fourth here in 2014 and second at Luhmühlen this year.
There hasn’t been a French winner since Nicolas Touzaint in 2007, so expectations will be high for the in-form Astier Nicolas, who rides Piaf de B’neville and the well-named Quickly du Buguet, plus former world champion Jean Teulere with the experienced Matelot du Grand Val.
Other competitors to watch include the 2010 winner Andreas Dibowski (GER), who rides FRH Butts Avedon, and Lucy Wiegersma (GBR), who will soon celebrate her marriage to Irish team rider Padraig McCarthy – she rides Mr Chunky.
Germany’s Claas Hermann Romeike (Cato 60), the son of 2008 Olympic champion Hinrich Romeike, and Britain’s Emily King (Brookleigh), daughter of the 2011 FEI Classics champion, Mary King, also make their débuts at Pau.
Ten nations will be represented and around 50 horses are expected to start in what promises to be a thrilling competition.