Mark Todd: Strong courses at stunning Blair *H&H VIP*

  • Opinion

    I hadn’t been to Blair for years before this weekend. It really is beautiful, with the most stunning backdrop — but I have to say flying there rather than driving all the way does help!

    It was well run, with big, enthusiastic crowds and lots going on, although I’ve finally realised I’m becoming a bit of a grumpy old man and didn’t go to any of the many parties.

    Unfortunately a lot of rain on the Tuesday night and further rain on other nights did knacker the cross-country ground, particularly on the early uphill section, which was a shame. The main arena held up reasonably well, but was a bit sticky on the last day for showjumping.

    I was only riding three-star horses there, but from what I could tell the cross-country courses were universally quite strong — the CIC3* and CCI3* tracks certainly were for the level of horse present.

    Mc Claren, my “pocket rocket”, was in the CIC3* and I just wanted to give him a nice, educational round — he was a novice a few months ago. He was sensational, however, and way exceeded my expectations. He’s getting quite a fan club.

    He was the best of my rides — it didn’t work out in the CCI3* and, despite Kiltubrid Rhapsody being second after the dressage in the Event Rider Masters (ERM), he got rather stuck in the holding ground in the showjumping and had a very uncharacteristic three down. I elected not to run him across country as he wouldn’t have liked the going any more in that phase and I would have had to push him hard for a minor placing. He will be saved for the final at Blenheim.

    It appears that the ERM final will probably be at a continental event instead of Blenheim next year, which is a shame. The series is definitely creating lots of interest in the sport; the viewing figures are going up all the time. It’s fantastic for Gemma Tattersall that she has already won the overall title, but it’s a pity that it isn’t going down to the wire at the final stage at Blenheim, although there is a battle for the minor placings.

    Disappointing TV

    The Brits must be delighted with their win at the Europeans, and their coach Chris Bartle is certainly the man of the moment. It’s good that Ingrid Klimke has won a major title after many years of trying, and the Polish apparently put on a very good show. It looked like a proper championship course on TV — but, while it is great to be able to watch it, ERM has so raised our expectations of eventing on television that I have to say I was rather disappointed in the quality of the BBC production.

    Home questions

    On to Burghley, which is one of my favourite events. I’m down to one ride, Leonidas II, as NZB Campino has missed too much work after pulling a muscle a few weeks ago, but I’m hopeful of a very good performance from him.

    On Friday night, Pippa Funnell, Lucinda Green and I are taking on a team of rugby players in A Question of Sport-type quiz, put on by Pol Roger, in aid of Willberry Wonder Pony. It should be good fun — I just hope they don’t ask me too many rugby questions…

    Ref Horse & Hound; 31 August 2017