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Dressage leader stays ahead at Blenheim

Jessica Irvine-Brown, the teenage event rider from Australia, leads going into the show jumping phase after a flying cross-country round at the Petplan Blenheim CCI***

Australia’s Jessica Irvine-Brown flew around Mike Etherington-Smith’s 27-fence cross-country course in the Petplan Blenheim CCI***, clocking up just 1.6 time penalties and remaining at the head of the field.

Jessica went into the lead in thisprestigious competition, which offers a first prize of £9,000, on Thursday afternoon with a classy dressage test aboard her grandmother’s 13-year-old mare Belcam Aaberdeen.

She suffered just one blip on speed and endurance day, when the 15.3hh brown mare by Aachen lost her footing on a turn at the influential arena fence, the Petplan Kennels.

“I rode pretty aggressively. I knew it was the sort of course that I had to attack,” said Jessica, 19, who went on to explain how her horse had frightened herself negotiating a drop fence at Highclere one-day event last month.

“I was aware of that as I was going round and it made me wake up,” Jessica confessed.

Sunday’s showjumping

As for tomorrow’s show jumping phase, Jessica is looking forward to going last – “the more other people get wound up, the calmer I get”, she said – although at this year’s Sydney CCI, she relinquished second place with two fences down on the final day and finished third. She did, however, win at Adelaide, where she had been the overnight leader.

A speedy round by Britain’s Milla Clayton Bailey and Zarzoo pulled this combination up into second place.

They were one of just five pairs to beat the clock and finish within the 9.28sec optimum time. This was a vast improvement on their performance at Blenheim last year, when they clocked up two refusals.

“I’m thrilled with him,” said Milla. “He just keeps on running and jumping.”

America’s Karen O’Connor had her foot to the floor aboard the compact 13-year-old Joker’s Wild and as a result pulled herself up into third place from equal 11th.

Joker’s Wild is not unlike Karen’s great horse Prince Panache and Joker’s Wild reminds her of her old campaigner.

“He’s got a great gallop and he understands the cross-country just like Prince Panache does,” she said. “I’ve had him for a while, but he’s had some bad luck and injuries, stupid things, and so he’s been slow to get going.”

Clayton Fredericks and Ben Along Time clocked up four time penalties and fell one place to fourth, while France’s Jean Lou Bigot and Nogency, who had been second, fell to fifth with 5.2 faults.

Lucinda Fredericks joined her husband Clayton in the top 10 with a great round on Headley Britannia for just 0.8 of a time fault; the great Lucinda Green showed the many younger riders in the field how it should be done with a masterful clear round aboard Miss De Meena IV, which secured seventh place at this stage.

France’s Franck Bourny, a winner of this event in 1999, rose from equal 14th to eighth place, Tim Davies (Quackers) and Tom Robinson (Conspicuous) both entered the top 10 with well timed clear rounds.

Those who disappeared from the reckoning included Sweden’s Viktoria Carlerback and Onyx, whose 14.8 time faults left them in 20th, while Neil Spratt (Cosmos), William Levett (Norwegian Connection NJ) and Mary King (King Richard) all fell foul of the Petplan Kennels.

At present, 76 combinations remain in the competition to contest tomorrow’s show jumping phase, where, amazingly, the overnight leader, provided she gets her horse through the final vet’s inspection, is likely to be the coolest customer of all.

Results after cross-country

    1, Belcam Aaberdeen (Jessica Irvine-Brown)

    2, Zarzoo (Milla Clayton-Bailey)

    3, Joker’s Wild (Karen O’Connor)

    4, Ben Along Time (Clayton Fredericks)

    5, Nogency (Jean Lou Bigot)

To read Friday’s Blenheim report click here

To read Thursday’s Blenheim report click here

Keep in touch with the latest news with our daily online reports from Blenheim, plus see full report with pictures in next week’s Horse & Hound (12 September), plus expert opinion and review of this event in the October issue of Eventing magazine

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