‘You could call the terrain here another fence’: changes at the top following Blair Castle CCI4*-L cross-country

  • The Land Rover Blair Castle International Horse Trials CCI4*-L has seen a reshuffle at the top of the leaderboard on an influential cross-country day where the terrain ensured the time was difficult to achieve.

    New leader Rosie Fry and Too Blue Too II added 2.8 time to their dressage score to take the provisional top-spot ahead of Sunday’s showjumping. But Tom McEwen is snapping at their heels with Magdalena Gut’s Dream Big – the former racehorse who produced the only jumping clear round of the day without time-penalties. Rounding off the top-three is Alice Casburn and Top Spin II who moved up from 11th, adding six time-penalties to their dressage score.

    Leaders after the dressage Nicola Wilson and Erano M produced a foot-perfect jumping round, but a costly 14.4 time-penalties dropped the pair out of the top-spot to provisional sixth.

    Rosie said she “was not expecting” to be in the lead with the home-bred gelding after the cross-country.

    “I have been in this position before. Nine years ago here I had two horses here, when it was then the three-star. One ended up overnight leader but it fell apart in the showjumping so I don’t really like to be in this position here!” she laughed.

    “He’s done one four-star long at Bicton in June and had 20 penalties [in the cross country] early on and he got better and better. He’s an amazing cross-country horse, all I have to do is sit and steer. Bicton made him into a man and now he’s gone up a gear. We had a few time faults, but coming here and having a few time faults isn’t a bad thing.

    “He was bred by my aunt Di White-Hamilton and has been with me since he was four so I know him inside and out. We knew this course would suit him because he’s a proper galloper and he’s so straight and honest.”

    Tom said it was “a really tough track”.

    “There’s enough to do – the first water really throws you into it. You could call the terrain here another fence,” he told H&H. “There were a lot of people out on track, which is one thing she hasn’t really seen. She was phenomenal. Being an ex-racehorse and coming up through the grades with her has been amazing.

    “With her the time was really easy. She kept ticking over at the same speed going up the hill as she was coming down the hill. I had a lovely time. I was just working out the minute markers so I wasn’t going over the top!”

    Blair Castle cross-country day: Ros Canter stays on top in the CCI3*-L

    Ros, who took the honours in the CCI4*-S on Lordships Graffalo, had a fantastic run on cross-country day in the three-star, maintaining her one-two with Shannondale Nadia and Izilot Dhi. Hayden Hankey rounds off the top-three on his own and Phillipa Heler’s eight-year-old gelding Fools In Love.

    “Shannondale Nadia is a really lovely little horse. She spends all week asleep – she is so laid back she’d sleep in the start box if you let her,” Ros told H&H. “But she’s really learning to gallop. Sometimes you’d look at her and think ‘would she go to the distance?’, but she seems to get gamer the further she goes on the course.

    “Today both my horses made the time and didn’t get too tired so I was delighted. That was the reason for coming here, really to test their stamina. I thought it was a really good track. You just have to be very aware of the terrain here and the cumulative effect of it. The horse you have at the end is a different horse to what you had at the beginning.”

    Hayden, who also sits 11th with mare Cartown Galaxy, said both his rides were almost a “bit too bold” across country.

    “Their confidence ran them into trouble occasionally,” he told H&H.  “Occasionally with them being so brave and really enjoying their job, I was having to say ‘wait, wait, jump the fence!’.

    “But the course rode fantastic. There was a lot of questions, everywhere – not just specifically the waters or triple brush, it’s the whole undulation of Blair. That’s what makes it so special, that’s why we make the trek up to Scotland from Cheshire.

    “More riders should come and ride at Blair because you learn so much about having to ride your horse and look after it. You can’t just abuse it, you’ve got to make sure you’ve got enough in the tank to come home.” 

    CCI2*-L overnight leaders stay on their dressage score

    Sarah Bullimore and her husband Brett and the Seahorse Syndicate’s Evita AP made light work of the two-star track on Blair Castle cross-country day, attacking it from the off.

    “She did start off a bit going ‘whoopee’. I didn’t want to let her go too quick, especially with the hills. She’s a big girl and she’s quite solid. We might need to rethink bits again! Today I had a pelham with a soft curb, but we might have to try something different altogether. We only used it for the first time last week,” Sarah told H&H.

    “The mound rode a lot better than it looked, it was just an ugly one to walk. The first water at nine is hideous. You’re coming off a tight left hand, and as they turn they don’t really see where they’re going because there is the bank and spectators, so they’re a little bit ‘where are we going?’. Then there is this silly seal there that doesn’t really look like a jump.

    “There was a lot of things to look at. Near the end suddenly you’re giving them a tiny arrowhead to jump which is difficult for them to read. She landed after that and I said ‘on then’ and flew home.”

    Looking ahead to the showjumping, Sarah said the mare is a “good jumper” but can get “a bit impetuous”.

    “She’s a woman – she just wants to get on with it,” she said.

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