Blyth Tait was under serious pressure with his Olympic hope Ready Teddy this weekend. The horse was not yet qualified to go to Athens, and Punchestown was his last chance before New Zealand Olympic selections were made. But he achieved his aim in magnificent style, never losing the lead on the veteran gelding, who won an individual gold medal for Blyth eight years ago in Atlanta.
The pressure was on all the way during the show jumping, although the final phase was less influential than it might have been. Only British rider Lucy Wiegersma riding Shaabrak lost her cosy second place, dropping to fifth after rattling two unlucky poles to the ground. This is the combination’s best international performance to date, and they have been showing a marked improvement this season.
While she suffered at the hands of eventing fate, Polly Stockton exerted the strength of mind over matter. She has had a somewhat frustrating international season, falling at Lexington CCI**** when Word for Word had been going beautifully, and suffering the disappointment of a horse fall towards the end of the cross country at Badminton with Tangle Man. To add to her troubles, she tragically lost her main Olympic hope Eye Spy, who had to be put down when an “insignificant injury” deteriorated.
She has bounced back in courageous fashion, and finished in second place with a clean sheet on Tom Quigley, and eighth with Word for Word, notching up just two time penalties in the cross-country phase, and four penalties in the show jumping.
World Class Potential rider Chris King emulated the success of his Badminton debut, when he completed with both his rides. Peaceful Warrior produced a bold cross-country run and accurate show jumping to finish on his dressage score of 52.0, a mere 1.2 penalties behind Polly.
Other riders from Britain who fared particularly well were Anne-Marie Taylor with Nabatean Treat and Rodney Powell with Liquid Ice, finishing in seventh and ninth place respectively.
The British were less successful in the Olympic format section of the CCI***, with both Polly Stockton and Rodney Powell withdrawing after the cross-country phase. New Zealander Blyth Tait continued his tremendous form on his second horse, Eze to take the crown in this event. Tait has announced that he will retire from eventing at the end of this season, and on his current form looks likely to go out with a bang.
Andrew Hoy also continued to make his presence felt on the leader board. The Australian finished in 2nd and 6th place in CCI***OG. It may be that Southern hemisphere riders have temporarily gained a better grasp of the without steeplechase format than their British counterparts, but Britain’s Olympic prospects will be watching and learning ahead of the August Athens challenge.
Punchestown CCI*** final results
1. Ready Teddy (Blyth Tait NZL) 47.6
2. Tom Quicley (Polly Stockton) 50.8
3. Peaceful Warrior (Chris King) 52
4. Ginger May Killinghurst (M J Tumbridge BER) 57.2
5. Shaabrak (Lucy Wiegersma) 58.4
6. Haka (Neil Spratt NZL) 58.6
7. Nabataean Treat (Anne-Marie Taylor) 61.4
8. Word for Word (Polly Stockton) 65.8
9. Liquid Ice (Rodney Powell) 72.2
10. Special Attorney (Dan Jocelyn NZL) 76