British Olympic gold medallist scores personal best in dressage on first run since Tokyo: ‘He was pleased to be out’

  • Ballaghmor Class enjoyed a win on his first eventing run since collecting team gold at last year’s Tokyo Olympics when he and Oliver Townend topped the Poplar Park results in open intermediate (OI) section G on Saturday (5 March).

    The 15-year-old, who belongs to Angela Hislop, Val Ryan and Karyn Shuter, broke the 20 barrier for the first time in the dressage and added just 2.4 time-faults across country to finish 1.9 penalties ahead of Ringwood Madras, ridden by Izzy Taylor.

    “Ballaghmor Class felt very fresh and pleased to be out,” said Oliver. “He did a really nice test, showjumped very well and breezed round the cross-country with very little effort at all – he was never at the races.”

    The grey, who is known as Thomas, finished fifth individually at the Olympics in Japan, where he added a single rail down in each showjumping round (plus 0.8 of a time-fault in the second round) to his dressage score of 23.6.

    Ballaghmor Class will now be aimed at Badminton Horse Trials, where he has the opportunity to build on his excellent five-star record – he has finished in the top five on each of his six runs at the level, including two victories, at Burghley Horse Trials in 2017 and Kentucky Three-Day Event in 2020. The horse is entered for the OI at Lincolnshire (18-20 March) as his next run.

    The two horses who contributed to Britain’s Olympic team gold alongside Ballaghmor Class, London 52 (Laura Collett) and Toledo De Kerser (Tom McEwen), are both entered for their first run since the Games on Friday this week (11 March), at Oasby.

    Oliver dominated the Poplar Park results at OI level as he also scooped the other OI on Paul and Diana Ridgeon’s Swallow Springs, a ride he took over from Andrew Nicholson last autumn when the New Zealand rider announced he was stepping down from competing at the top level.

    “Swallow Springs was a pleasure to ride – he’s such a professional,” said Oliver. “He’s potentially the fastest horse I’ve ever had. He goes in a snaffle and I barely have to touch his mouth on the way round.”

    Oliver complimented Poplar’s organisers, James and Bo Hardwick.

    “[The event] had everything you needed and there was a really nice, friendly atmosphere. It was great to see so many spectators out and about again,” he added.

    Additional reporting by Ellie Hughes

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