Michael Jung‘s bid to secure his world number one title for a third consecutive year is now in jeopardy following La Biosthetique Sam‘s withdrawal before dressage at Les Etoiles de Pau CCI4*.
With no other events left for him to pick up points, Michael is now locked in for the season at 463. Tim Price and Gemma Tattersall are also locked in, both sitting on 450 points. Maxime Livio, sitting in equal third on 40.2 after dressage at Pau with Opium de Verrieres, can overtake Tim and Gemma, but he cannot overtake Michael.
So we look to Andrew Nicholson and Mark Todd as the only two riders who can challenge Michael to be world number one as the European season draws to a close. After dressage this morning, Mark sits equal third on 40.2 with NZB Cambino and equal fifth on 40.4 with Kiltubrid Rhapsody. Andrew is 11th with Qwanza on 42.1 and 31st with Jet Set on 49.4.
Andrew has a cushion after finishing third with 6-year-old Yacabo BK in the FEI World Breeding Championship for Young Horses at Le Lion d’Angers, where Mark didn’t compete.
If Andrew finishes fifth or better at Pau with either horse — Qwanza the likely contender as she sits 11th after the first phase — he would tie Michael on 463 points and ultimately pass him with a better tie-breaker score.
If Andrew can’t climb to a fifth place finish on one horse, he still has multiple pathways to pass Michael — but it will require results with both horses. Finishing 10th and 11th would overtake Michael, as well as 9th and 12th, 8th and 13th, 7th and 14th or 6th and 15th.
For Toddy to pass Jung, he MUST keep both horses in the game. Finishing both horses in the top nine would guarantee he passes Michael and launch a head-to-head Kiwi battle for the top spot.
Mark could also pass Michael by finishing 7th and 10th, 6th and 11th, 5th and 12th, 4th and 13th, 3rd and 14th, 2nd and 15th and 1st and 16th.
Andrew needs to finish one in the top five to overtake Michael, BUT he’ll need both horses in the game if Mark delivers with his two rides. Here are the key times to watch tomorrow:
Andrew Nicholson and Qwanza – 1.13 pm local/12.13 pm BST/6.30 am EST
Mark Todd and Kiltubrid Rhapsody – 1.23 pm local/12:23 pm BST/6.23 am EST
Mark Todd and NZB Campino – 4.04 pm local/3.04 pm BST/9.04 am EST
Andrew Nicholson and Jet Set – 4.18 pm local/3.18 pm BST/9.18 am EST
What are the numbers telling us? Three of these four horses have had trouble on cross country in the 2017 season.
Andrew and Qwanza had a crashing fall at Burghley early on course and re-routed to Pau as a result. The mare has a 67% clear jumping rate at CCI4* level and has never been to Pau. She made the time at Kentucky in 2012 but hasn’t made the time at CCI4* level since, averaging 4.4 time penalties.
Kiltubrid Rhapsody is making his CCI4* debut with and has never made the time on cross country in his six international runs with Mark to date. He picked up 20 jumping penalties early in the season at Chatsworth but has been clear since. He finished in the top six at both Saumur and Boekelo in his CCI3* runs with Mark and averages 4.8 time penalties at that level.
Mark’s experienced four-star campaigner NZB Campino is making his eighth four-star start and second appearance at Pau, where he finished 10th in 2012 with a clear cross country round inside the time. He had 20 jumping penalties at Burnham Market early in the season but then went on to finish fourth at Badminton. He averages 6.2 time penalties at CCI4* level.
Jet Set, making his four-star debut with Andrew, is the only one of these four that has a 100% clear cross country jumping record in 2017. He also has one of the best cross country records in the field, jumping clear at all 13 of his international appearances with Andrew. He also has never had a time penalty at any CCI in his career, including at Bramham where he won last year.
We could be set to see two of the greatest riders the sport has ever seen in a two-horse jump off to be world number one on Sunday. Imagine! First, we need to see if they can get home clear tomorrow. The power will shift hour-by-hour on cross country, and EquiRatings will have you covered with live updates on Twitter.