Both riders were on course at the same time, in a world-class 10 minutes of cross-country action over David Evans’ testing course in the Oxfordshire parkland.
“There was a huge amount of pressure,” said Yasmin, who stopped the clock 17 seconds inside the optimum time with Janette Chinn and Sue Davies’ 10-year-old Selle Francais gelding.
“I’ve never been in this position before in a long format competition, holding top spot, especially in such a huge class here at Blenheim so I’m just over the moon to have come back over the finish line. It was a great round.”
The 24-year-old added she was “absolutely” nervous beforehand.
“It’s a case of not wanting to let the horse down and making sure I stick to the plan. Pretty much my whole round was brilliant, I just had a little bit of a sketchy moment at the second last combination. I just didn’t ride him as well as I should have, so that was a mistake on my behalf. He came in and saved the day there. I’m so grateful that we are such a good partnership and he pulled it out the bag a bit.”
“The crowd gave him a really good lift. There was lots of clapping and cheering and I thought that was so lovely going round, especially a bit of encouragement for me just to dig deeper and him to dig a bit deeper. He came over the line in great time and he is recovering very well, so I’m really happy.”
Yasmin added to win would be her “hugest career achievement to date”.
“It would mean the world to me, so I’m going to do everything I can tomorrow to try and make it happen,” she said.
Piggy added the brave, forward distances really suited “Norris”, who is owned by John and Chloe Perry and Alison Swinburn.
“He’s a brave horse. If he»s confident and goes well, he will jump the jumps,” she said. “But I was really pleasantly surprised with how he kept picking up at the end and really galloped home because he’s never been tested for this before. So I knew he was fit, but you’ve still got to get into this sort of environment to know what you’ve got and he had plenty of engine left.”
Piggy added: “Coming here there were a lot of unknowns, with the crowds and everything. He actually felt strong with me walking round. I was like ‘I’m out of control in walk’. Before I went in, I wanted to drop the reins and he was grinding his teeth and sort of scooting about the place. He is quite a complex character.”
“He was hot, gazing at all the crowds and seemed quite distracted and I thought he might run a bit like a rabbit in the headlights and not focus and stay with me, but he was he was great I couldn’t ask for any more of him.”
Looking ahead to the final phase, Piggy echoed her comments from the dressage that the plan has always been to take each day as it comes with the 12-year-old gelding.
“He’s usually he’s usually a good jumper,” she said. “But again, this is all a new day, a new atmosphere, a new ring. Anything can happen. Tomorrow is another day and I’ll just enjoy today with him.”
Emily King and Valmy Biats, provisionally third at the half-way stage, will head into the showjumping no lower than fourth, following their quick cross-country clear.
Ireland’s Susie Berry and John The Bull stopped the clock bang on the optimum time of 10 minutes 28 seconds, meaning they hold provisional fourth and are the highest placed international combination so far.
“I’m so thrilled with him. He’s an incredible horse, I really think a lot of him and a lot of people do. I’ve just been messing up a little bit in the last part of the season. I broke my arm in April, so I’m just getting back into the right frame of mind again. I’ve really struggled and not having those big runs in the last couple of years, I just felt a bit nervous going out today, which usually I don’t. But he didn’t give me a moment to be nervous about when I got going.
“It just has been hard to get going again. I was flying before I broke my arm and when you’re on that hamster wheel of going well, it just keeps coming. I’ve found a little bit since breaking my arm, something negative was happening every time I went out and it has been really hard to get back going.
“Even then having those nerves that I’m not used to, I was worried then that I would freeze or not use the bit of fight that I have. As soon as I left the start box and jumped the first three, he was so chilled, he didn’t pull and everything just came up on a nice distance. I didn’t really have to fight for anything, it just happened nice, smooth and gently. I really enjoyed it and everyone was clapping, we haven’t had that for the last two years and it makes it extra special. The horses definitely grow with the atmosphere.
“I do feel quite emotional about it. Usually I’m so laid back about everything, I really felt like it had to go well this weekend, to just get back in the right frame of mind and get going again.”
Ros Canter (Lordships Graffalo), third after dressage on 26.7, and Pippa Funnell (Maybach), fifth after the first phase on 27.2, will head out to challenge for their places this afternoon. Pippa will be the first of these two out the start box at 3.48pm, followed by Ros 11 minutes later at 3.59pm.
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