In a striking difference to the start of the week (not to mention as well as at home in the UK) cross country day dawned with blue skies, sunshine… and it was actually hot which was an added problem for the horses running a 5 star track that proved to be more than tough enough.
Tim Price had commented on the fact that he thought it was more “beefed up” than last year and it certainly looked bigger as well as being the usual twisty and turning course that we are used to seeing on the flat racetrack with some big fences and some tough angled questions. Heading out early on Figaro van het Broekxhof (Fig) meant that Tom had no feedback on how the course was riding but he set out looking positive and riding forwards as always. It was a bit disappointing to see Fig take the option of opting for a drive by at the angled brush at 7 but after that he seemed to man up and focus and he gave Tom a super ride round the rest of the track. 22 time and 20 jumping dropped them down the order somewhat but the important bit was that Fig finished on a much more positive note than he started!
Tom then had plenty of time to see how the course was riding and it soon became apparent that the time was nearly impossible ( in the end just Alex Bragg and the experienced Zagreb made it) although the usual speed demons like Chris Burton and Shane Rose came close. The problems were fairly well spread out although there was a suspicion of a hole in the last water as a few horses quite inexplicably tripped up and went down when looked on a good stride which is always a shame.
Toledo de Kerser has had a light season and when Tom headed out of the start box and dropped the reins to gallop down to the first Toledo thought it the best news he has had since Badminton and he literally relished the challenge. Toledo simply loves to gallop and jump and he is not allowed to do it very often so he was sure making the most of it! He looked quite the handful in the early stages but he and Tom simply zoomed through every combination and hurtled into the the main arena to finish full of running. They still finished 2 seconds over time which gave them 0.8 of a penalty and saw them slip behind Tim Price who was out on track on Wesko.
Tim and Wesko were victims of the last water and when Wesko tripped up Tom took back the lead and sits just 1.1 ahead of Alex Bragg but with a pole in hand over Chris Burton. Today was a magnificent display of power jumping and galloping and it was so good to see this pair produce the cross country round that should have been theirs at Badminton. The showjumping at Pau is always big and square but Toledo has one of the best records around over the coloured poles so things are looking pretty good tonight!