Mark Kyle proved that speed can win over accuracy in yesterday’s Ford Ranger Eventing Grand Prix at the Royal International when he smashed the course record to take home the £3,000 first prize, despite having three fences down along the way.
Faults were well spread around this year’s challenging course, which only attracted a handful of show jumpers despite being billed as an event riders verses show jumpers competition. Fences two and three, an upright away from the collecting ring, followed by a square oxer over a viaduct wall, proved particularly influential.
Kyle and Drunken Disorderly left the early bogey fences up, but clipped the unforgiving gate at fence four, before heading out of the International Arena for the cross-country section with only five penalties to add.
Out in the country, both the arrowhead after the water splash and the pole over the Devoucoux Drop fell, but Kyle allowed Drunken Disorderly to keep moving forwards and took the fences as they came. They returned to the arena neatly over the Derby Bank and stormed round the remaining fences without faults to clock up a new course record of 194.41sec, giving them a final time of 209.41sec including penalties.
The 15-year-old Drunken Disorderly is probably best remembered for running away with Kyle’s wife Tanya in the first ever running of the competition back in 1998, but the horse has had a good record in the event with a number of previous placings with both Tanya and Mark.
Kyle said afterwards: “I don’t know if you can call [riding Drunken Disorderly] fun. He is a very confident horse and you have to leave it up to him and hope it goes according to plan.”
The crowd was delighted when the evergreen partnership of Chris Bartle and Word Perfect II achieved the third clear round in the history of the competition. Bartle joins Pippa Funnell as only the second rider to have tamed Robert Lemieux’s course.
Bartle’s 17-year-old partner, who only contests this class each year after retiring from international eventing, clearly loved being back in the limelight and produced a foot perfect performance. The horse’s experience shone through as he popped in short strides where needed and soared over the larger fences with ultimate precision.
The pair was one of the few to take the steeper, but more direct option, off the Derby Bank to the crowd’s delight. Spectators then held their collective breath when Word Perfect chose to negotiate the Thatch Sunshades upright fence after the Hickstead Lake from a trot, but the clever old horse simply popped over it like it was a cross pole before clearing the final two fences in style.
“We were both blowing a bit by the end,” said Chris, who was “thrilled” with his partner. “Other than a Foxhunter class 10 days ago, he hasn’t jumped seriously since last year’s class. John [Whitaker] just told me the horse is wasted teaching my students to ride.”
In third place was William Fox-Pitt, who, as the 11th rider into the arena, was the first to leave all of the early show jumps up. However, a misunderstanding between Diamond Manati and his rider lead to faults at the arrowhead after the water splash and 5pens to add. He also rolled the poll on top of the Devoucoux Drop and had the final rail in the Devil’s Dyke to finish on 229.88, to take an early lead.
Those show jumpers who took on the challenge didn’t cover themselves in a blaze of glory: only event rider turned show jumper Jo Ward managed to complete the course.
Ben Maher made a good start but came to grief at the big Ford Corner Complex, where his puissance partner Eperlan Du Fouquet paddled his legs in the poles and planted Maher in the dirt.
Guy Williams’ partner Almaz II made light work of the early show jumps, but was eliminated on the cross-country when he appeared confused by the Horse & Hound Bounce.
John Whitaker had the bad luck of jumping during a brief heavy shower and Lactic 2 had three fences down before heading out to the cross-country. Lactic took exception to the Charles Britton Ford in both directions, dislodging his famous rider on his way back towards the International Arena.
1. Drunken Disorderly (Mark Kyle) IRL, 194.41 + 15 = 209.41
2. Word Perfect II (Chris Bartle) GBR, 217.56 + 0 = 217.56
3. Diamond Manati (William Fox-Pitt) GBR, 214.88 + 15 = 229.88
4. Slight of Hand (Matt Ryan) AUS, 221.67 + 10 = 231.67
5. Hallo Sportsfield (Gary Parsonage) GBR, 223.65 + 10 = 233.65
6. Koyuna Sun-Glo (Lucinda Fredericks) AUS, 223.71 + 10 = 233.71
7. Huszar II (Cressida Claugue-Reading) GBR, 215.13 + 20 = 235.13
8. City Slick (Jo Ward) GBR, 231.32 + 5 = 236.32
9. Sir Dino (Chris Ward) GBR, 214.31 + 25 = 239.31
10. W P In Limbo (Clayton Fredericks) AUS, 219.63 + 20 = 239.63