Harry was second out of the start box with Mandy Gray’s Et Hop Du Matz, the first of his two CCI4*-L rides at Blenheim Horse Trials. The pair breezed across designer David Evans’ testing cross-country course to come home a comfortable four seconds inside the optimum time of 10 minutes 20 seconds.
Anyone watching Harry’s first round who believed this would be an uneventful cross-country day was soon corrected, with plenty of combinations incurring penalties on course.
“There’s an advantage sometimes in going early because you don’t watch everyone – you have a plan, although obviously there’s the element of the unknown,” said Harry.
“Et Hop Du Matz was lovely. He is green – it’s only his second ever long-format event. He did one CCI3*-L at Millstreet last year and won it. I have never let the handbrake off, apart from Millstreet, and he was easy and lovely.
“He’s a proper type – rangy and confident, and looked at what he was doing.”
The British rider backed up his course form with a smooth performance aboard his second ride, Annaghmore Valoner. This gutsy mare, who is owned by Dinah Posford, Jules Carter and Stephen Posford, cruised home with nothing to add to her dressage score of 30.6.
The 11-year-old was produced by Australia’s Sam Griffiths, with whom she finished seventh in the young horse CCI4*-S in 2021.
“She was super,” said Harry. “My main aim for her was just to come out of the start box, settle her into a gallop and just let her breathe. Both them were up on their minute markers the whole way around and just happy and confident and she was super inside the time. I’m delighted with them both.”
He added: “Sam did a great job starting this mare off and when he took on the elevated position of high performance coach for the New Zealand team, I was very lucky to deputise for him.”
Their fault-free performances mean that both horses have catapulted up the Blenheim Horse Trials leaderboard after the cross-country.
Et Hop Du Matz, 44th after the first phase, heads into the final phase in provisional 11th, while his stablemate Annaghmore Valoner has climbed from 16th to provisional fifth.
Harry added: “I think that David has done a really good job. Hats off to the whole ground team, because the going was positively firm when we arrived, not through their fault but because of the conditions we’ve had. They’ve done a really good job, working really hard with loads of watering and spiking.
“I thought the course rode really well, that he designed some good questions and had some good, attacking distances.”
He added that both of his horses galloped through the Noonans Treasure Chest Combination (fences 8 & 9ab) on four strides, compared to the five or six strides some others found in there, and that the table to arrowhead question at fence 22ab also “rode really well”.
“The one thing I would say is that perhaps – although my horses were good at this fence – the [rail, ditch, arrowhead at fence 19abc] was a bit long.
“Not so much the exit, but particularly the entrance, so they dwell over the ditch and then the exit was also long. But it was a good course, it was clear for horses and took some riding, but it was all of an appropriate standard.”
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