Oliver Townend dominated completely in the CIC3* dressage today (Friday, 24 August) at the Land Rover Blair Castle International Horse Trials. He holds the top three places at the end of the day on the horses with whom he was long-listed — but not selected — for the British squad for the World Equestrian Games (WEG) next month.

Oliver leads the way on Angela Hislop’s Kentucky CCI4* winner Cooley Master Class (24.4), with Cooley SRS (24.5) and Ballaghmor Class (25.3) close behind. He is also sixth on MHS King Joules (29).

“There are still another three or four marks to come from Cooley Master Class,” he said. “I had him a little bright and I didn’t give him the best ride, I didn’t think, but he’s beautiful to ride. I know him very well and he knows me very well so he’s pretty push button, so it’s just getting the right work into him. But I couldn’t be happier with him.

“He has come on again since Kentucky both mentally and physically — he’s never moved better and physically never been in such a good place.”

Oliver has five horses still entered for Burghley — Cooley Master Class, Cooley SRS, Ballaghmor Class, MHS King Joules and Ulises — and has not yet decided which he will ride. He will not run any of these top horses across country here at Blair, although eight-year-old Tregilder, currently in 12th, will take on the test.

“The five for Burghley are all sound and well, touch wood,” he said. “They will have a final gallop on Monday afternoon, and do some quiet work and pop a fence on Tuesday. It’s an unbelievable position to be in and I’m struggling to believe all five are so well. We are lucky to be able to run three at Burghley — it’s something we can’t do at Badminton, but Burghley are very accommodating.”

McEwen holds top spot in CCI3*

British WEG rider Tom McEwen leads the CCI3*. This class’s dressage wrapped up yesterday, when Tom and Strike Smartly scored 26.9. The 11-year-0ld grey is owned by Penny and Fred Barker.

“He’s been very regular with his scores as it’s come together with his strength and me getting to know him a bit more as he was a new ride last year,” said Tom. “The walk and canter were the highlights of his test.”

Another Cooley horse heads up the CCI2* after the first phase, with Piggy French piloting Jennifer Saunders’ Cooley Monsoon to a score of 25.1.

In the CCI*, James Avery and Seaflower retain their lead from yesterday on a score of 25.2. The New Zealander rides the seven-year-old for Lizzie Edwards.

“Seaflower is a little pocket rocket,” said James. “She’s by Sir Donnerhall so was bred for dressage which explains her great paces. She’s super talented and will hopefully enjoy the Blair hills and take it all in her stride.”

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Competitors in the CCI classes all run across country round Blair’s famous hills tomorrow before showjumping on Sunday. The CIC3* riders will showjump and then go cross-country to complete their competition tomorrow afternoon.

Blair also hosts the final leg of the 2018 Event Rider Masters (ERM) this weekend, with the ERM pairs doing dressage tomorrow and both jumping phases on Sunday. Oliver rides Cillnabradden Evo in this class.

Full report on Blair in next week’s H&H (dated 30 August) plus our complete World Equestrian Games preview.