Nick Turner: Blenheim cross-country posed the right questions *H&H VIP*

  • Opinion

    I was at Blenheim last weekend with my coaching hat on, where both courses seemed very fair. The team had done a brilliant job on the ground, too.

    The course-designer, David Evans, posed just the right questions for the level of horse. They weren’t the biggest three-star tracks, but they demanded that riders make decisions from the outset. They encouraged forward riding, which I love, while maintaining the horse’s rhythm and balance.

    Fence four in the CCI3* featured a box to a corner, and it proved influential enough without being unkind. It was on a forward line, but you could contrive an extra stride if necessary. The Dragons on the Blenheim lawn also had an open distance — a box five or six strides to two angled skinnies on a very forward two strides — which encouraged positivity.

    The top three in the CCI3* all put in great performances, and congrats to the winners, Bella Innes Kerr and Carolyn.

    However, the horse who stood out for me was Kitty King’s grey, Vendredi Biats, who finished fifth. This horse is talented in all three phases and proved his quality across country here. He has a very promising future.

    The CIC3* was a strong, high-quality field, and I imagine we’ll be seeing a lot more of these eight- and nine-year-olds, potential Olympic stars. Huge congratulations to Laura Collett, with an extremely creditable first and third.

    What a performance

    The Blenheim organisers did a great job to create a fantastic atmosphere for us to watch the World Equestrian Games, and there was plenty of support for the Brits as well as other nationalities. It was fun for me just to enjoy watching the sport after managing Brazil and Ireland for the past two Olympic cycles.

    And what a performance by the Brits! Every single one of them rode phenomenally. In the dressage they did as much as they could to get the best possible start, then showed complete resolve to pull out five superb cross-country rounds. I’m delighted for the riders that they have justified their selection — even if we’re still awaiting the showjumping phase as I write.

    Because of my history with the Irish team, I was excited to watch them as I’ve always believed they were capable of pulling out a cross-country performance like this.

    However, one more team that really deserves credit is Japan for their cross-country rounds. It augurs very well for their home Olympics in Tokyo. They have the money behind them, and some lovely horses, and the riders are working very hard.

    Could they get a medal in two years’ time? Never say never — it’s noticeable how much they’ve upped their game.

    By all accounts the track wasn’t big, but it was intense enough and I felt the balance was terrific with a variety of creative and clever questions. It allowed the lesser nations to get involved, while the cream still rose to the top. And there were a few disappointments for some prominent players, such as dressage leader Julia Krajewski.

    The Germans letting their lead slip was a surprise because they have raised the level of the sport, and forced everyone else to up their game. But unless they have fresh blood, they could struggle through the next Olympic cycle. My money’s on the Brits and the Irish.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 20 September 2018