The Royal International is always a great show. The weather forecast at the start of the week wasn’t so good but by the end it was gorgeous — and that always helps to make any show feel a bit more special. To my eye, the crowds were up, the stands were all full for the big classes and there was an excellent atmosphere.
Ireland didn’t have a team for the Nations Cup, which was disappointing, but it was still a really enjoyable class for me to watch and to walk the course.
The jump-off was an exciting conclusion and you would have definitely picked Beezie Madden as the favourite going in. She turned a bit tight and it went wrong for her but it shows everyone has an off-day.
Janika Sprunger had a cracker of a round and I didn’t think it could be beaten, only for Pieter Devos to take nearly 2secs off. Beezie more than made up for the error by going on to win the King George V Gold Cup.
It would’ve been the perfect end to the fairy tale if Adventure De Kannan (pictured at the Derby meeting) could have won for me and added the final piece to the puzzle. Although the full house of classics wasn’t to be, he is still a great horse, especially at Hickstead.
He jumped his heart out, as he always does on a big day. He knows when I try and he does too — and I was really trying on Sunday. He jumped the first, second and third and the treble superbly and I thought it was going really well. We got to the gates the way I wanted but he clipped it behind — it was just one of those things. They took a lot of jumping and I was victim to it as well.
The horse was fantastic and all I can ask of him is his best. One thing is for sure — Addy doesn’t owe me anything. He’s been my top horse for six or seven years and I’ll never be annoyed or disappointed with him. He’s been an unbelievable servant for me and his owner Karen Swann.
Up against five-star riders
When I walked the course for the King George, I didn’t think it was a killer. I expected eight to 10 clears but it turned out to be more difficult, with only six going through.
The gates played their part but everywhere needed care — especially the combination and the last line to the Bunn Leisure oxer. Course-designers Kelvin Bywater and Bob Ellis got it spot-on.
I watched Hickstead on TV growing up and it’s a show I always try and gear towards. I’m lucky I have two really good Derby horses, so at the Derby meeting I knew I had a chance.
Going to the Royal International is a different experience, and I’d be an outsider to win the grand prix here — you’re pitched against five-star riders such as Beezie, Marcus Ehning and Christian Ahlmann. I don’t get to jump at five-star shows week in and week out and it’s great to be up against them.
I won the first day here in the 1.45m Bunn Leisure vase with Georgie D’Auvray. He’s only nine and a relatively new ride — there’s a lot more to come from him.
As an Irishman, Dublin is the pinnacle. Hickstead the week before is ideal for getting the horses up to speed at five-star level. I’m hoping for good results in Dublin to put myself in contention for future Nations Cups.
Ref: Horse & Hound; 6 August 2015