FEI Classics™: French joy as Astier Nicolas wins first CCI4* – PAU

 Astier Nicolas (FRA) had an excited French crowd on the edges of their seats as he scored his first ever CCI4* win in fantastic style at Les 4 Etoiles de Pau (FRA), opening leg of the FEI Classics™ 2015/2016.

Astier Nicolas of France riding Piaf De B'Neville Winner of the CIC Four Star Competition at Le Etoiles De Pau 2015 on Sun 25th October 2015 Pic Trevor Holt
Astier Nicolas of France riding Piaf De B’Neville Winner of the CIC Four Star Competition at Le Etoiles De Pau 2015 on Sun 25th October 2015
Pic Trevor Holt
With the hopes of his home country resting on his shoulders and Pau’s Jumping course proving as influential as ever, Nicolas, who was third after Cross Country, rode a skillful clear round on Piaf de B’neville in the Jumping arena.
This put serious pressure on 19-year-old Emily King (GBR) and Olympic, world and European number one Michael Jung (GER), who was down to one horse after withdrawing the overnight leader Halunke FBW at the final Horse Inspection, and, to Nicolas’s evident disbelief, they each had a fence down.
King dropped from second to fourth on Brookleigh, but it was a brave effort at her first CCI4*, and Jung, who has made very few mistakes this year, slipped from first to second on fischerRocana, losing the win by just 0.9 penalty, after the mare hit the third fence.
Tim Price (NZL) and the Dutch-bred Wesko, a reliable horse in the final phase, having started his career in a Jumping yard, rose from fourth to third with an immaculate clear round.
Astier Nicolas is the first French rider to win the CCI4* at Pau since Nicolas Touzaint in 2007 and, to make it even more special, the city of Pau is his home, although he is a familiar face on the British circuit, having been based there for a while.
“I wasn’t at all nervous because I had two riders in front of me and didn’t think I would win,” said Nicolas. “It’s very special to win my first CCI4* in France.”
The French crowd had even more to cheer about when two of the seven clear rounds came from Karim Florent Laghouag (FRA), who rose from eighth to fifth place on the lovely black stallion Entebbe de Hus and from 14th to seventh on Punch de l’Esques.
The young German rider Claas Hermann Romeike, watched anxiously by his Olympic gold medalist father, Hinrich, also kept a cool head, jumping clear on Cato 60 to rise seven places to sixth at only his second CCI4*.
Tim Lips (NED) slipped five places to 11th when Bayro incurred 12 Jumping faults and Andreas Dibowski (GER) was lucky to only drop two places to 12th when FRH Butts Avedon had four fences down. Paul Tapner (AUS) also departed from the top 10, falling from seventh to 17 with an unfortunate six rails down on Indian Mill.
As well as the sad departure of Halunke FBW from the Horse Inspection, Bill Levett (AUS) also withdrew Shannondale Titan, 10thafter Cross country. Thirty-three horses completed the competition.
The FEI Classics™ 2015/2016 season has started in style with a thrilling contest. Next, the action moves to the southern hemisphere for the Adelaide International 3 Day Event (AUS) on 19-22 November.
About the Les 4 Etoiles de Pau winner
Astier Nicolas (FRA), 26, is the youngest CCI4* winner this year. He represented France at Pony, Junior and Young Rider level and won an individual silver medal in the Young Rider Europeans at Waregem (BEL) in 2009. His previous best CCI4* result was sixth at Pau in 2012 on Jhakti du Janlie.
Riding Piaf de B’neville, he won the u25 CCI3* at Bramham (GBR) in 2012 and was a member of France’s senior bronze medal team at the 2013 FEI European Eventing Championship in Malmö (SWE).
The combination finished runner up at Saumur CCI3* this year. He was also recently second in the young horse CIC3* at Blenheim and ninth at Boekelo CCI3* (NED) on Spes Addit’Or.
Nicolas is from Pau in France but has been based for some years in Gloucestershire in Great Britain, where he came to study for a degree in equine management at the West of England University at Hartpury College.
Kate Green
Piaf de B’neville is a 12-year-old Selle Francais gelding by Cap de B’neville.
Final results
1 Astier Nicolas/Piaf de B’neville (FRA) 38.5 + 0 + 0 = 38.5
2 Michael Jung/fischerRocana FST (GER) 35.4 + 0 + 4 = 39.4
3 Tim Price/Wesko (NZL) 40.0 + 0 + 0 = 40.0
4 Emily King/Brookleigh (GBR) 38.3 + 0 + 4 = 42.3
5 Karim Florent Laghouag/Entebbe de Hus (FRA) 40.6 + 2 + 0 = 42.6
6 Claas Hermann Romeike/Cato 60 (GER) 44.1 + 3.2 + 0 = 47.3
7 Karim Florent Laghouag/Punch de l’Esques (FRA) 49.3 + 0 + 0 = 49.3
8 Sarah Bullimore/Valentino V (GBR) 45.8 + 0 + 4 = 49.8
9 Clare Abbot/Euro Prince (IRL) 49.1 + 1.6 + 0 = 50.7
10 Sir Mark Todd/NZB Campino (NZL) 43.3 + 0 + 8 = 51.3
Full resultswww.event-pau.fr.
FEI Classics™ 2015/2016 Leaderboard (after 1 of 6 events)
1 Astier Nicolas (FRA) 15 points
2 Michael Jung (GER) 12
3 Tim Price (NZL) 10
4 Emily King (GBR) 8
5 Karim Florent Laghouag (FRA) 6
6 Claas Hermann Romeike (GER) 5
7 Sarah Bullimore (GBR) 3
8 Clare Abbot (IRL) 2
9 Sir Mark Todd (NZL) 1
See full leaderboard here: http://bit.ly/1PP9nNx

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