‘Not a track to go round on a wing and a prayer’: find out what riders think of Blenheim’s CCI4*-L cross-country course

David Evans’ 2019 CCI4*-L cross-country track at the SsangYong Blenheim Palace Horse Trials looks set to be a true challenge.

Sweden’s Sofia Sjoborg and Targa D will be the first combination out of the start box to take on the 24 fences on Saturday (21 September) morning at 9.30am.

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Overnight leader Izzy Taylor (22.7) has a lead of 2.7 penalty lead over Piggy French and Brookfield Inocent in second, meaning she can afford to be six seconds over the time allowed and still retain her lead.

“It’s a good track, there’s plenty to do, there’s plenty of places you could have an annoying run-out, but it is a very fair track,”she said. “For an eight-year-old [which Monkeying Around is], there’s a lot to do out there, but fingers crossed it will go well.”

Emily King, lying equal eighth with Dargin on a score of 27.1, added: “It is a big, bold cross-country and the undulating terrain is bound to make the time extra hard to get.

“Dargun is a good galloper and I know they are doing lots of work to the ground, so as long as they take the sting out of it, the horses should find it easy to gallop on.”

The team at the Oxfordshire event has been preparing the ground and watering, with tractors pulling water bowsers in action both in the run-up to and during the opening days of the event.

“There’s a lot of potential for run-outs, a lot of corners and difficult turns,” said Nicholas Lucey, who rides Kroon Leader.

“The building of it looks incredible, the team have done a great job. There are certainly a lot of corners and the coffin, which will cause 20s, and there is plenty of room for error all the way round. I think it should be a good test.”

US rider Katherine Coleman pin-pointed the skinny arrowhead after the ditch at fence 19ABC as a combination that has historically proved influential.

“I’m aiming to get out there, set him into a good rhythm and test him [Monte Classico] out a little bit,” she said. “Blenheim is one of my favourite events. It looks a really nice track, forward and bold, and hopefully something they can get their confidence up on.”

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Matthew Heath, who brings forwards Thornton Jones on a score of 34.7, added the designer has been “clever with his distances”

“You will either have to be very committed through the combination, or very balanced and really hold a line and stick to a plan,” he said. “I don’t think it is the kind of track you would be able to go round on a wing and a prayer. You’ve got to ride with precision and accuracy.

“I’m very lucky that he is normally a very rideable horse across county, so I wouldn’t swap him for anyone else’s that’s for sure!”

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