The main class at Oxfordshire’s Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials this weekend hosts a fascinating field from first-time CCI*** horses — and riders — to some highly experienced campaigners.
At the experienced end of the scale, fans will be delighted to have another chance to see Daisy Dick and Spring Along in action this autumn. During our H&H Live coverage of the dressage at Burghley Horse Trials last weekend 30% of readers thought this pair would win that event, and at times the figure went up to 50%.
Sadly that wasn’t to be — Spring Along didn’t perform his best dressage test and was then one of 28 horses to fall victim to the tough angled hedge at Discovery Valley (fence six). Daisy retired him, and he’s down to start as number 77 at Blenheim — an event that his rider won in 2006 on Springbok IV, and the venue for the 2005 European Championships when Spring Along made his British squad debut, finishing 11th. Back at Blenheim for the first time since then, can the cheeky 16-year-old go 10 places better?
J-P Sheffield and Crown Farm Consort are also Burghey refugees — a fall at the Leaf Pit (fence four) ended their campaign there, but if they can repeat their impressive dressage test, it’s all to play for.
A personal tip
Drawn number 41 is my personal tip for Blenheim Horse Trials: Emily Baldwin on Drivetime. This pair have never quite got it all together on the same weekend at four-star — their best efforts are 15th at Pau in 2007 and 11th at Luhmuhlen this year — but they will be operating well within their comfort zone at this level and have outstanding CIC*** form this year, with wins at Belton and Hartpury.
If you are betting on horses with four-star form, don’t forget Louise Skelton’s Partly Pickled. Louise picked up her best yet four-star placing — 16th — at Burghley last weekend with Pickle’s full brother Bit Of A Barney, and this year-younger sibling was fifth at Bramham last year and won the CCI*** at Blair in 2005.
Pippa Funnell brings a horse at each end of the mileage barometer. This is a favourite event for her own and her mother Jenny’s Ensign (ninth at the 2005 Europeans, second in 2006), while the eight-year-old Redesigned — winner of the British Eventing (BE) six-year-old title in 2007 — makes the step up to CCI*** level.
Lucy Wiegersma brings another former BE six-year-old champion, the 2006 winner Granntevka Prince, who was so unlucky to fall near the end of the course at Boekelo, the Dutch CCI***, last year.
The other graduate of young horse classes who shouldn’t be overlooked is Irish Jester. Winner of the CCI** at Blair last year, he’s had an easy season while his rider Sarah Cohen adjusted to motherhood, but he’s certainly got the talent.
On the young horse front, also watch out for Nick Gauntlett’s stallion Chilli Morning, reigning British intermediate champion Westwood Mariner with the in-form Polly Stockton and last year’s winner of that class, NZB Land Vision, under the maestro Mark Todd.
Finally, if you’ve been following H&H’s online diarist Alex Hua Tian this season, don’t forget he’s got two horses entered (Magenta and Jeans).
New at Blenheim Horse Trials
Blenheim runs a CIC*** this year for the first time, which means twice the action for fans, as this class will show jump at the end of Saturday after the CCI*** finish their cross-country, and then take to the park for cross-country during the lunch break on Sunday.
The entry list has been limited to 40 starters and the focus is on eight- and nine-year-olds, so perhaps you can spot a future medallist.
One of the greatest disappointments about Blenheim being abandoned due to the wet last year was the fact we didn’t get to see how Eric Winter’s new-look cross-country course rode. It’s still there for this year — running in the opposite direction to normal for the first time since the event started in 1990 — and hopefully the team will have better luck with the weather than in 2008.
Keep up with all the news from Blenheim Horse Trials with daily updates on www.horseandhound.co.uk and don’t forget to buy H&H next week (17 September issue) for a full report.