Tom McEwen wins the battle of the British Olympic longlisted riders as the cross-country proves influential again at Bicton, supported by Chedington, in Devon
IT was generally agreed at Bicton that no one wants to be a British selector and while there were 106 starters in the Chedington CCI4*-S, attention was focused on the seven competitors longlisted for the Tokyo Olympics.
Oliver Townend’s Ballaghmor Class and Harry Meade’s Superstition were the only longlisted horses not present, having played their hand at Kentucky, and for the rest, this was a final trial in all but name.
Tom McEwen won on Toledo De Kerser, who belongs to Fred and Penny Barker, Jane Inns and the rider’s mother Ali. If the 2019 Pau winners have a slightly weaker phase, it would be dressage, but they played a blinder here to sit equal fourth on 23 and finished on that score.
“I never usually do two quick runs in a row with him and I’d have loved to take him to Little Downham for a steady prep run to settle him, but I ended up at Millstreet in Ireland with horses who were originally going to Luhmühlen,” said Tom. “I added strides around the course because I didn’t want a silly run-out, but I knew he had all the power in the world to be able to do that.”
Kitty King was 0.1 of a penalty behind on a clean sheet with Vendredi Biats (“Froggy”), owned by Diana Bown, Sally Lloyd Baker, Sally Eyre and Samantha Wilson.
Kitty also had Rio Olympic horse Ceylor LAN (“Sprout”) – who now focuses on short-format competitions – in ninth. She was grateful to get a feel for the track on him as, unlike the other longlisted riders, she didn’t ride the CCI4*-L track, which covered all the CCI4*-S combinations, as she withdrew Cristal Fontaine, feeling it wasn’t the right course for his first CCI4*-L.
“Sprout filled me with confidence,” she said. “When I walked the course, it felt like my worst nightmare with the sort of right-handed angles or corner fences that Froggy used to be a little bit cheeky at. So for him to jump through those foot-perfectly reassured me that all the training over the years is paying off.”
World champion Ros Canter was third, having equalled Tom’s dressage score and added 1.6 time-faults across country on her own and Caroline Moore’s Allstar B (known as Albie).
Ros said: “He’s been picked up and put down so many times since the 2018 World Equestrian Games – I had a baby and then we’ve had a year and a half of COVID – that he was a bit lethargic about everything. But then the fitter he’s got, the more he has come alive and he’s seriously on it now – I don’t want him any more on it!”
“I held my breath”
THE dressage played to form when Laura Collett led with Pau winner London 52, scoring 21 despite an error when he cantered into the right trot half-pass.
“I just didn’t give him the time to change over into the right half-pass before I asked for the big trot,” Laura said. “We know he can do a safe, smart test and coming here was about trying to see how much we can push him in the arena, so I was pleased that he took it all really well.”
A brick out of the wall dropped the pair down to ninth, but their fault-free cross-country round brought them back up to fourth.
“I sort of held my breath through most of the cross-country just thinking, ‘Just go and jump the jumps and don’t do something stupid’,” admitted Piggy.
This section was so hot that the sub-28 dressage scores of the other two Olympic longlisted riders, Nicola Wilson (Bulana) and Pippa Funnell (Majas Hope), left them slightly off the pace. Nicola moved up the order to finish 11th, but Pippa pulled up after run-outs.
Oliver Townend was fifth on Cooley Master Class, who is on the Olympic nomination reserve list but needed a confirmation qualification, which he now has.
Australia’s Chris Burton (Quality Purdey) and Ireland’s Austin O’Connor (Colorado Blue) – both also targeting Tokyo – finished sixth and 10th respectively. Chris had 15 penalties for missing a flag on another possible Olympic campaigner, Clever Louis.
China’s Alex Hua Tian was second and third after dressage on Jilsonne Van Bareelhof and Don Geniro, but he ran the former quietly and “the Don” had 12.8 faults showjumping and was retired across country.
In a sad twist on an otherwise excellent weekend of sport, British rider Holly Needham’s ride Hendrix was put down after an accident at the rolltop at fence 15. Holly was not injured.
The top three on competing with Olympic selection in mind…
● Tom McEwen: “I like the added pressure. I like being at a big show and among good horses. It’s nice to have a bit of competition, so even though we’re still sort of training, it’s towards hopefully bigger goals and a stepping stone in the right direction.”
● Kitty King: “I’ve not overly enjoyed the pressure this week, although it’s fine – I always seem to manage to do a little bit better than I expect when I’m under pressure, such as at the Europeans in 2019, so maybe I should learn to enjoy it more.”
● Ros Canter: “I feel less pressure than I have all year – being put on the longlist has given me clarity. The rest of the year has been a bit wishy-washy – we’ve double-entered a lot of places and not decided until the last minute where we were going. It’s actually been nice for the last month or so to be able to focus on this competition and that’s really where ‘Albie’ comes into his own.”
Chedington CCI4*-S results
1 – Tom McEwen (GBR) on Toledo De Kerser
2 – Kitty King (GBR) on Vendredi Biats
3 – Ros Canter (GBR) on Allstar B
This report can also be read in H&H magazine, on sale Thursday 17 June
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