Cholmondeley Castle eventing report: Emily King conquers on new ride *H&H Plus*

  • Emily King rules with a new ride from the French-bred Biats family that produced five-star winner Oslo, as the cream of the eventing world gather in Cheshire, writes Jo Prestwich

    Cholmondeley Castle, Cheshire, 1–4 August

    Emily King rode the French-bred Valmy Biats to win one of four competitive intermediate sections at Cholmondeley Castle Horse Trials. Large entries resulted in two extra days of competition to fit in as many starters as possible, within the current rules.

    Valmy Biats, an Orlando half-brother to five-star winner Oslo, joined Emily after she met his breeder Philippe Brivois at Le Lion d’Angers last year.

    “Lockdown has given me time to get to know him,” said Emily, who was making her first visit to the event which now would be termed her local since she moved to the north-west.

    “This was our third event together and I’m very excited for the future. It was a strong showjumping track and the cross-country was a good test – it included a proper coffin, which is good practice for moving up a level.”

    Monday’s second intermediate section resulted in another win for the in-form Wills Oakden, this time with Ella MacGregor’s MacGregors Cooley.

    “Mine hit the ground running once eventing restarted,” said the Perth-based rider. “But they’re good horses and it proves the extra homework during lockdown has been the correct work. I’ll take each run as it comes, but hopefully he’ll be ready for an international at the end of this season or the beginning of the next.”

    Wills was neck and neck through the section with Polly Stockton riding Kate Willis’s Chicko, Wills rolling a pole in the showjumping and Polly picking up 4.4 time-penalties cross-country.

    “Wherever I go, Wills goes half a stride faster,” quipped Polly. “Mind you, he’s a good bit younger than me and I was thrilled with my horse, he has an amazing jump and I love riding him.”

    Craig Barr won intermediate section V on the Tuesday with Dassett Eventing’s MBF Dassett Legacy.

    “I thought I’d scuppered the win with the rail in the showjumping, but the horse finally got the victory he deserved,” said Craig, who has been part of Dassett Eventing for some nine years now.

    Although Craig is Cheshire born and bred, this was his first visit to Cholmondeley. “The cross-county was a little twisty in places, but very rideable and I can’t wait to see what it’s like in a non-Covid year.”

    The horse is by Zambesi and out of the Cavalier Royale mare Lady Kilkenny Cavalier, who is a full-sister to 1.60m showjumper Close Call. He was bought in Ireland as a five-year-old.

    “Like all the Dassett horses he is for sale, but the plan is to do a bit more first,” added Craig. “He’s doing his first advanced next week and will then head for the eight- and nine-year-olds at Burnham Market and we’ll go from there.”

    Local rider Yasmin Ingham won Tuesday’s other intermediate with the nine-year-old Banzai Du Loir, owned by Sue Davies and Janette Chinn, who also won at Aston-le-Walls in July.

    “I think he’ll go all the way”

    Oliver Townend is a regular competitor (and winner) at Cholmondeley, and he duly landed a section of Monday’s open intermediate (OI) with Kathleen Wilkinson and Rose Wood’s Arklow Puissance.

    Bought out of Ireland as a youngster, the now nine-year-old was having his third run of the year and added nothing to his dressage score of 23 to knock Piggy French and Tim Price down to second and third respectively.

    “This horse is an out and out jumper,” said Oliver of the Puissance gelding. “He’s got the ability to do a really good dressage, but at the moment it’s his weakest phase. He jumped himself up the grades quicker than the flatwork developed, but he’s good now at home and I think he’ll go all the way. Ideally I’ll find a four-star suitable for him at the end of the year.”

    Piggy March took an OI section with Emily King’s former ride Dargun, the pair’s third win on the trot. Ros Canter (Annie Makin and Kate James’ Pencos Crown Jewel) and Laura Collett – riding Dacapo, who belongs to Diana Chappell, Gillian Morris-Adams, Alison and Michael Smedley and Carolyn Taylor – were also on winning form at this level on Monday and Tuesday.

    Emilie Chandler won Sunday’s OI with last year’s Blair winner Gortfadda Diamond, owned by Maria Doel.

    “He owed me that!”

    Emma Silman finished second behind Wills Oakden and MacGregors Cooley riding her mother Jayne’s KEC Sazoon, despite sporting a set of rainbow bruises after the Lancelot son flattened her coming in from the field.

    “We’re building the yard and stables so have to cross the stone base to get to the field, and he spooked at the workman, knocked me down and then proceeded to tread all over me, but I didn’t dare let him go,” said Emma. “I was so sore I had to cancel all that day’s teaching and painkillers were my best friend for a couple of days!”

    The gelding was bought in the autumn of his five-year-old.

    “He has not been the easiest, but I think a lot of it is immaturity,” said Emma. “He has plenty of jump and flew round here even though there were plenty of questions. I’m sure I read that they were going to make it easier than usual, but it certainly needed taking on!”

    Cholmondeley’s start list certainly read as a who’s who of the eventing world, with Olympic, world and European medallists all in action below the castle round a track designed by Cholmondeley organiser Alec Lochore. “Our volunteers and team were amazing putting on two more long days at such short notice,” he said.

    “Everything ran smoothly and we certainly used our luck in terms of getting finished in time, but what a privilege to see the world’s top horses – Allstar B, Ballaghmor Class, Toledo De Kerser, Quicklook V and such like – even if we should have been watching them in Tokyo!”

    Ref Horse & Hound; 13 August 2020