Tom McEwen is poised to take the CCI3* at the Land Rover Blair Castle International Horse Trials after a cross-country clear inside the time today (Saturday, 25 August) on dressage leader Strike Smartly.

“He was absolutely phenomenal and I couldn’t have asked any more of him,” said Tom of Penny and Fred Barker’s horse. “He was straight as a die and bold, stretched out when needed and cruised along the bottom.”

Tom will have to fend off Izzy Taylor (Director General) and Tim Price (Pats Jester) tomorrow to take the class — both also went clear inside the time today, so are within one showjump of him.

Piggy French still leads the CCI2* after going clear inside the time on Jennifer Saunders’ Cooley Monsoon.

“He’s 100% genuine and a lovely horse to work with,” she said. “We brought him here for a step up from Tattersalls — it’s an old-fashioned cross-country and the terrain plays a big part, which is great to see. This is a good step for having to dig that extra big deeper in fitness and a good bridge to our next plans.”

Tom McEwen also held onto the runner-up spot with CHF Cooliser, but third-placed Polly Stockton dropped down the order after she and Drummer had a run-out at the second of the double of corners, sponsored by Gilespie Macandrew, at fence 11.

This means Piggy has two horses in the top three as she went clear inside the time on her first ride Castletown Clover, who moved up from fourth after dressage to third.

The top 13 places in the CCI* are unaltered after today’s cross-country produced plenty of clears in the time and New Zealand’s James Avery still heads the field with Lizzie Edwards’ Seaflower.

“She’s not run round lots of hills before so I’m really pleased with her and the course was awesome,“ said James, who does not have a fence in hand heading into tomorrow’s showjumping.

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Oliver Townend landed the first class to finish at Blair this week when he won the CIC3* riding the Hazeldines and the Mitchell Fox Group’s Tregilder, an eight-year-old who was contesting his first three-star.

As planned, Oliver withdrew his top four horses after the showjumping. At this stage he lay ninth on Tregilder, but he moved up thanks to the only cross-country round inside the optimum time over Alec Lochore’s track.

“He showjumped very professionally — he knows exactly where the pole is and where his legs are and let me help him where he needs help,” said Oliver.

“I didn’t know where I was on my minute markers across country, but I gave him time to breathe up the hill and every time he jumped a skinny I just moved him up a gear. I couldn’t believe it when I crossed the line and looked at my watch.”

Full report from Blair in H&H this week (issue dated 30 August) plus complete World Equestrian Games preview.