Australia’s Christopher Burton continued his recent good form, winning the CCI*** at Saumur with Santano II, and in the process bolstered his chances of making a second consecutive Australian Olympic Team.
The event was the horse’s first competition at this level but the nine year old gelding showed his class leading from start to finish. The pair scored 40.2 in the dressage ahead of Switzerland’s Felix Vogg and Cleeveland (43.0), who went on to retire on the cross country after a refusal at fence three.
Time was a crucial factor with none of the combinations coming home under the optimum time. However, Chris was one of the riders to complete the course closest to the time to add just 1.2 time penalties to his score, thus giving him a fence in hand going into the show jumping.
Weather played a role in the final phase, with plenty of poles dropping. Chris used his fence in hand early in the course when Santano II rolled fence four, but they went on to complete without any further faults to take victory.
Chris said: “What a special horse Santano is. Big thanks to the Black Run Syndicate for believing in him with me and making this all possible. It is always nerve-wracking when we ride a horse that is doing his first three star cross country course. You never know if he will hold the distance and if he will continue to jump. We are very excited by this horse,” he said. “He has an interesting background. Because of his bloodlines people say it is a dressage horse but that is not the case. He has a lot of energy and good jumping skills.”
The French riders continued to show their form with Thomas Carlile and Upsilon finishing in the runners up spot. The eight year old stallion was fourth after the dressage but pulled up the order with a fault free cross country round and just 4.4 time faults, and finishing with one of 11 clear rounds in the show jumping.
Compatriot Arnaud Boiteau pulled up from 15th after the dressage to finish the competition in third with Sultan De La Motte, with a further three French riders rounding out the top ten (Maxime Livio 4th, Cedric Lyard 7th and Astier Nicolas 9th).
After taking Team Bronze at the FEI European Eventing Championships at Blair Castle last September, the French have been scoring a succession of top results as they look to Rio. Thierry Touzaint, National Coach, commented after: “For several weeks, we repeat the good performances in France and abroad. We are competitive from the training and many horses have run well this weekend. Even though we did not win today, our riders occupy half of the rankings places. All this is going in the right direction.”
The top British combination was Oliver Townend and Cillnabraddon Evo who finished in fifth, closely followed by Frankie Reid Warrilow and Dolley Whisper in sixth. Oliver showed his consistency at this level with another horse in the top ten – ODT Gareeb in eighth.