The leaders from the first day of Blenheim horse trials dressage have thrown down the gauntlet to their rivals. By lunchtime on the second day (17 September), only two riders had managed to infiltrate the overnight top six. The new Bicton CCI5* winner Gemma Tattersall was the first to make the breakthrough. She scored 28.7 to move into seventh place on Chris Stone’s Jalapeno III.
Despite it being a sub-30, Chris Stone’s 13-year-old mare, by his stallion Chilli Morning, is capable of much better in this phase. She scored 19.1 at Wellington and is regularly in the low 20s.
“It was really frustrating,” said Gemma. “She did beautiful trot work, really good walk and then went into extended canter and basically was very rude! I couldn’t get her back for the first change, which is normally her highlight. So we completely fluffed the first canter. Then I did get it back and she did a lovely second change.
“She has the ability to be in the lead, but she’s short of match practice this year,” Gemma added. “She’s been working phenomenally well all week, maybe a bit of excitement crept in, and she thought she’d like to boss me around.
“I think the cross-country is fantastic, beautifully presented, but my feeling is it’s quite straightforward and the dressage scores will be important,” she said.
Just before the lunchbreak, Piggy March brought forward a nine-year-old in the March Stud’s Sportsfield Top Notch, who proved mature beyond his years in this long-format class. His flying changes were well established and clean, earning himself a little in-test pat. He showed lovely, swinging paces to move ahead of Gemma and into fourth on a score of 27.9. Piggy now has two horses in the top four, as Brookfield Quality currently lies second on 25.8.
Nicholson proves a master horseman during Blenheim Horse Trials dressage
Other movers and shakers on Friday morning included Aaron Millar and the Irish Sport Horse KEC Deakon, who scored 30.4 to move into the top 10. While Andrew Nicholson showed all his professionalism to eke out every mark with 10-year-old Monbeg Exclusive on a score of 31 to go into the top 15.
“He went very well for the level he’s at; he probably couldn’t have gone any better,” said Andrew. “He naturally likes to go round with his head down. It’s not his fault he’s built low in front, but it’s about changing the shape for the judges – he only has to do it for seven minutes. And he’s a very good jumper – it’s how he’ll cope with the undulations.”
Wills Oakden slotted into the top 20 with 31.5 on CCI4*-L debutant Cooleys Macgregor.
“It’s the first time in this sort of atmosphere and he pulled himself together really well and gave his best in the ring,” Wills said. “But his jumping is his highlight. He’s a real character, a super horse, and we’re just having fun. Dressage we do our best, but we’re learning on the job together.”
Blenheim’s “quality field” leaves Aussie rider disappointed
Sam Griffiths was one top rider feeling disappointed after lying around 30th on Billy Liffy on 33.1.
“I was hoping for a better mark and to be higher up the leaderboard,” he admitted. “Sometimes you have a great day and today just wasn’t one of my days. We made lots of little mistakes, they mount up and it was very costly. He did some lovely stuff, but it’s such a quality field you can’t afford to make those mistakes.”
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