The leaderboard at the end of the Blenheim Horse Trials cross-country phase in the CCI4*-L class had a similar look to the dressage placings after the top-ranked riders largely took the track in their stride.
Ros Canter produced a copybook round on the highly regarded Lordships Graffalo to put pressure on the leaders and frank third place in the final session of the cross-country phase.
“He’s the nicest horse I’ve ever ridden cross-country because he goes as fast as you want him to go and when you sit up he slows down in balance,” said Ros of the horse she has had since he was a three-year-old. “He was on it today – he didn’t bat an eyelid at the people, and made it feel easy which is exciting.
“There were kids everywhere, running up and down the strings – a brilliant experience for the horses.”
“I felt like a proud mother on his first big day”
Piggy March steered the second of her CCI4*-L rides into the top 10 when Sportsfield Top Notch moved up from seventh to sixth. She was already holding second place with Brookfield Quality.
“He was great, brilliant, I couldn’t fault him,” said Piggy. “I’ve had him since he was a young horse, and it’s always cool when you are going into the unknown and this is their first big day and you feel like a proud mother.
“It was a beautiful ride, he loved the crowds, thought everyone was there to see him, which is great if you want to be a good horse and like atmosphere.”
Piggy said the Harlequin Du Carel-sired gelding used to be a bit “gobby” and lack rideability, but he came of age over this track.
“He felt even better than I hoped he might be, he felt absolute class,” she said. “He jumps so out of his stride, like he’s done it all his life. Now I want to go round again!”
Time-penalties proved costly at the top of the leaderboard. Pippa Funnell accrued just 1.2 faults on SHE Eventing’s 11-year-old Maybach, which pushed her down from fifth to seventh. She was frustrated by mis-timing the round on her stopwatch.
“I actually thought I was bang on [the time] and had three seconds leeway – it was expensive,” said Pippa. “I was thrilled with his jumping. He’s built a bit downhill, but he’s such an honest, lovely horse.”
‘The most wonderful ride’ at Blenheim Horse Trials cross-country
Gemma Tattersall kept herself in contention on Jalapeno III, stopping the clock bang on the optimum time of 10min 28sec to maintain her place in the top 10. The Chilli Morning mare fractured a splint bone in her stable at Houghton in May, and has had only one run since.
“I’m so proud of that little mare because she has had just one OI [open intermediate] run since,” she said. “It was a tiny injury but she had to have time off to fix it and she’s since been swimming and treadmilling loads and loads. I’ve hardly been to the gallops. So I was very scared, but it’s worked; she was pretty much foot-perfect and gave me the most wonderful ride. She winged the first three fences and that set the tone for the whole round. She was so smooth.”
Gemma admits the showjumping isn’t Jalapeno’s strongest phase.
“I’ll be using all my showjumping ring experience, and she’s feeling great, so let’s hope things swing our way,” she said.
Olympic silver medallist Tom McEwen also jumped clear inside the time, riding Bob Chaplin, to take eighth spot, ahead of Oliver Townend on new ride Swallow Springs in ninth.
“He’s a mega horse and he’s got a good bit of graft in him, so he keeps plugging away to the end,” said Tom, who credits Chris Bartle with helping this horse to attack his fences. “He was awesome, he cruised round very straight and the ground was perfect – it looks no different to how it did this morning.”
Oliver praised Andrew Nicholson, who has competed Swallow Springs until this summer.
“I’ve ridden a lot of horses and that was as near to a steering job as you can get in this game,” he said. “He’s a different athlete to [the sort of horses] we see on a day-to-day basis.”
Polly Stockton (Chicko) and Harry Meade (Red Kite) both walked away from uncomfortable falls. Chicko stopped before the narrow hedge at the second water, while Red Kite chested the hedge and ditch at 23, two fences from home.
Yasmin Ingham maintained the lead she has held since the dressage phase, coming home clear inside the time on Banzai Du Loir. But there is no margin for error. One rail covers the top 10, and Yasmin is just 0.6 of a penalty ahead of Piggy March on Brookfield Quality, meaning she cannot afford to be more than a second over the time in the final showjumping phase.
You may also like to read…
Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday, is packed with all the latest news and reports, as well as interviews, specials, nostalgia, vet and training advice. Find how you can enjoy the magazine delivered to your door every week, plus options to upgrade your subscription to access our online service that brings you breaking news and reports as well as other benefits.