Gelding comes back from surgery to head Blair Castle Horse Trials CCI4*-S in leaderboard shake-up

  • Frenchman Astier Nicolas has taken the lead in the Land Rover Blair Castle Horse Trials CCI4*-S aboard Babylon De Gamma – as the clock proved influential in the showjumping phase.

    Astier and the 11-year-old gelding – who were second in this class last year and won it in 2019 – produced a careful clear and added 1.2 time-penalties to their dressage. They go into tomorrow’s (28 August) cross-country phase on a score of 27.2.

    The twisty showjumping track featured a number of rollbacks and tight turns, with not many places to make up any time. Of the 44 combinations that jumped, only five came within the 76-second allowance.

    Astier told H&H he “didn’t love” his showjumping round but was “very happy” to move into the top spot.

    “It was a bit short, but I don’t blame the time – I blame my riding more, I think I could have made the time,” he said.

    “Nowadays it’s trendy to have tight times in the showjumping, it makes it a bit complex when it’s not really big. It’s something we’re seeing more and more so we’ve got to get used to it and ride accordingly.”

    Astier said Babylon De Gamma is feeling “good” at his first four-star back since having hoof surgery last winter.

    “He was meant to do Badminton but didn’t come back fast enough. He did an intermediate and this is his first CCI4*,” he said.

    “I don’t know how the cross-country will go because he hasn’t had a season so he’s not as fit as he would be as before. We’ll see how he feels with the hills”.

    Tom McEwen and Brookfield Quality, who were lying fifth overnight, moved into second after they posted a clear jumping round and added 0.4 of a time-penalty to their 27.8 dressage.

    “I’ve done two OIs with him and that was by far the biggest course I’ve jumped on him [today]. Obviously Piggy has done the most amazing job, but it’s quite hard to follow someone so phenomenally talented,” Tom told H&H, who added it has taken “a little while” to get to know the gelding in the showjumping phase.

    “The first half we were just finding equilibrium together and the second half flowed really well. To be a second over through a tight time round a decent track, I was delighted with him.”

    Overnight leaders after the dressage Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class had an unlucky pole and picked up 0.4 of a time-penalty, to drop into fifth. Oliver is also third overnight on Swallow Springs, fourth on Tregilder, sixth on As Is and seventh on Crazy Du Loir.

    Yesterday (26 August) Oliver confirmed Tregilder and As will not compete in the Blair Castle CCI4*-S cross-country phase tomorrow, as they gear up for Burghley next weekend (1-4 September). He said he will decide later this evening after walking the cross-country course whether Ballaghmor Class will run tomorrow.

    Alex Hua Tian and Don Geniro, who had been in third after the dressage, had two fences down in the showjumping and also added 0.8 of a time-fault to drop down to 14th going into the final Blair Castle Horse Trials CCI4*-S cross-country phase.

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