Piggy French (pictured) leads the dressage at the end of the first day at Blenheim Horse Trials.
Piggy re-routed the 14-year-old What A Performance to Blenheim after a run-out at the troublesome Discovery Valley complex (fences 6, 7 and 8) at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials last week.
Today What A Performance managed his best yet dressage score at this level, 40.6, to head the leader board.
“Burghley was a bit of a disappointment because we made mistakes in bits he should be good at. I just wanted to make sure I didn’t let him down [today],” said Piggy.
Piggy holds a narrow lead over last week’s Burghley winner William Fox-Pitt, who rides Kaleidoscope this time. William took on this ride earlier this year while owner Jessica Thomas is on “maternity leave” and they were 12th at Bramham in June.
Another pair who retired at Burghley’s Discovery Valley — Ruth Edge and Mr Dumbledore, who led the dressage at last week’s four-star — are third.
Having recorded a score of 33.7 at Burghley, they scored some 10 marks worse today at Blenheim, which can be partly attributed to a technical fault which meant Carl Hester and Stuart Buntine’s commentary on her test, which should be available for spectators through headphones in the grandstands, was played over the loudspeakers.
“You try to put it to the back of your mind, but you can’t help but listen,” said Ruth. “You might think maybe that’s an advantage, but I certainly didn’t think it was and we both lost concentration.”
Gemma Tattersall holds fourth with Nyali Beach, with whom she has already enjoyed success this year, winning the CCI** at Barroca d’Alva, Portugal, in March, and more recently the CIC** at Gatcombe’s autumn fixture.
Young rider Ginny Howe will be first into the arena tomorrow with Cavort, while some strong contenders come forward at the end of the day, when Bramham winners William Fox-Pitt and Navigator, the runners-up there Mary King and Kings Fancy, plus former junior European champions Laura Collett and Fernhill Sox, all perform their tests.
RESULTS AT THE END OF THURSDAY
1. What A Performance (Piggy French, GB) 40.6
2. Kaleidoscope (William Fox-Pitt, GB) 41.7
3. Mr Dumbledore (Ruth Edge, GB) 43.8
4. Nyali Beach (Gemma Tattersall, GB) 47.3
5. Secret Picnic (Stephen Way, AUS) 48.3
6. Nereo (Andrew Nicholson, NZL) 49.6
Keep logging onto www.horseandhound.co.uk for daily reports from Blenheim, and don’t forget to buy next week’s H&H (18 September) for a six-page report from the event, including Mark Phillips’s comment.