Find out how this dramatic class at Bicton Horse Trials unfolded on cross-country day today...
Just 7.7 penalties separated the top 10 finishers in the CCI4*-S at Bicton Horse Trials, supported by Chedington, today (13 June).
But it was Tom McEwen, who had led after the showjumping phase aboard Fred Barker, Penny Barker, Jane Inns and Alison McEwen’s incredibly consistent Toledo De Kerser (pictured) who took the victory. The pair put in a super-slick cross-country round to finish bang on the optimum time of seven minutes to complete on their 23 dressage.
“He was just phenomenal. He was very keen and was a bit free,” Tom explained. “I never usually do two quick runs in a row with him – I could have done with a steady prep-run before as it settles his mind and body – I’d have loved to take him to Little Downham last week, but I ended up at Millstreet in Ireland with my other horses who were originally going to Luhmuhlen, so I couldn’t get the prep-run into Toledo. I obviously knew he could be right up there, but out of 100 or so competitors, it’s nice that he’s proved himself again.”
Kitty King finished second with Vendredi Biats. They finished two seconds inside the optimum time to complete on their 23.1 dressage.
“I’m delighted with him – ‘Froggy’ was brilliant,” said Kitty. “He was on a mission being quite strong down the hills — coming down to the last, I was like ‘please, get your hind legs underneath you’ and I think I need a steady run after this one to put the brakes back in. But he was really straight everywhere and I am really trusting him. I’ve not overly enjoyed the pressure this week but it’s fine – I’ve always seemed to have managed to do a little bit better than I expect when I’m under pressure, like at the Europeans, so maybe I should learn to enjoy it more!”
Ros Canter was third with Allstar B. They were four seconds over the optimum time, so added 1.6 time-faults to their 23 dressage.
“He’s amazing. I don’t warm him up anymore because he gets a little too excited, but he jumped as straight as a die at all of the skinny fences,” explained Ros. “I always think ‘God, am I going be able to turn him?’ because he’s a big old boat, but he’s so amazing to turn and he’s got a big stride so eats the ground up. I think he’s probably ready to go around again! He’s been picked up and put down so many times since I had a baby and then a year and a half of COVID that he was a bit lethargic about everything and we were a bit worried about him but then the fitter he’s got, the more he has come alive and more on it and he’s seriously on it at the moment – I don’t want him any more on it now!”
“He was unreal – he was just so on it. He was quite keen and just wanted to go faster, everywhere and I was like, ‘no, no, no’,” Laura said afterwards. “I thought about taking him to Little Downham last week to just have a quiet run, but then I thought I’d feel really stupid if he had done something silly.
“There has been pressure this week but I’ve been trying to focus on our performance – you can only control what you can control and I can control being here and doing a good job. All I know is that London has been phenomenal – if it’s good enough, it’s good enough and if it’s not well, you know, I’ve still got an amazing horse to have some fun on.
“Everyone’s in the same boat – the selectors are lucky in a way that they’ve got a ridiculous amount combinations to choose from that are all amazing. But on the other hand, they’ve got a tricky job now.”
Oliver Townend added 1.6 time-faults to his 24 dressage to finish in fifth riding Cooley Master Class.
“He’s a very good horse – he doesn’t need me around courses like this and on the top of the ground, he was just playing with it,” Oliver said. “He’ll definitely come on for the run as he got a little fat after Kentucky, but at the same time, I’m very happy with how he’s gone.”
Australia’s Chris Burton was sixth with Quality Purdey, finishing on their 26 dressage and Piggy March was another combination to finish inside the optimum time, taking eventual seventh with Brookfield Inocent.
“It went really well – I sort of held my breath through most of it just thinking ‘just go and jump the jumps and not do anything stupid’,” explained Piggy. “He’s amazing and so effortlessly fast and he does it pretty easily so I have to keep sort of slapping myself.
“The only thing is he’s got eyes everywhere – he notices a change of colour of grass, or if somebody moves, but that makes him the brilliant, because he doesn’t get tired and he’s so aware of where his feet are. He could have gone 20 seconds quicker if I had kicked him at any point – he does it not under any pressure, which is very spoiling.
“It’s just such a relief, but it’s so hard too – you have no idea what anyone’s thinking and I wouldn’t want to be a selector, but I’m just glad that he’s done what he does well and did it well – I haven’t let him down and he hasn’t had a moment that’s let him down or be the horse that he’s not – that’s the important thing today. He pulled up very well so at least you think you’ve done what you can do so you go home happy and then you’re in other people’s hands and what will be will be.”
Read the full report from Bicton in the 17 June issue of Horse & Hound magazine and keep checking back to horseandhound.co.uk for further updates and insight
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