The in-form Piggy French is on track to nail yet another international victory this season as she has taken the lead after cross-country in the CCI4*-L at SsangYong Blenheim Palace Horse Trials with a superb round on Alison Swinburn and the Perrys’ Brookfield Inocent, a 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Inocent x Shalies Pet) having his first run at this level.
A thrilling finale is assured in tomorrow’s show jumping phase as French, the Badminton winner and Burghley runner-up, has the slimmest of advantages – 0.2 of a penalty – over popular Japanese star Kazuma Tomoto on Brookpark Vikenti.
The price of just one show jumping rail covers the top five riders. In an international line-up, Australia’s Kevin McNab is third on Scuderia 1918 A Best Friend, recent Burghley heroine and four-time Blenheim winner Pippa Funnell is fourth on Billy Walk On and Piggy’s first ride, Castletown Clover, is in fifth place.
“I keep telling myself to take it seriously, as I can’t help going round with a smile on my face,” said French, who won the CCI4*-L back in 2011 on DHI Topper. “Brookfield Inocent is as nice a horse as I’ve got and Castletown Clover is just divine – we all treat him as a pet.”
The Japanese are gearing up to be a serious force for their home Olympic Games next year and Tomoto, who already has three horses qualified, is aiming to clinch a fourth string to his bow with the 11-year-old Master Imp gelding, who was second in the CCI4*-S two years ago.
“He is potentially a very good horse. It wasn’t an easy course and he did a really good job,” he said.
“When the tough get going, he gets going,” said Kevin McNab of his new ride Scuderia 1918 A Best Friend, a 9-year-old ridden here last year by Germany’s Jorg Kurbel. “The track suited him and if we had known each other a little better we might not have got any time penalties [he has 1.2]. He’s got an exciting future.”
American rider Katherine Coleman is now in sixth on Monte Classico, her own 10-year-old German Sport Horse gelding (Monte Bellini x W-Sally). The pair finished just one second over the time to move up from 23rd place over night.
“I am absolutely delighted,” said Coleman. “I know exactly where I lost that second. Coming out of the arena to the dragons I just held and actually kind of missed to that big oxer and bless him he had to jump up really high and we just lost some seconds around that turn – I think that rattled me just a little bit and to the next oxer I just waiting again and he had to go really high and then I gave myself a kick in the butt and off I went.”
Coleman and Monte Classico had a good run in the 8/9-year-old class here last year, but Coleman has emotional memories of returning to Blenheim again. “This time last year I was here with a dear friend of mine who then committed suicide in March, so it’s been a really tough spring so to come out and have that is awesome,” she explained.
Dressage leader Izzy Taylor retired Monkeying Around after what she described as a “babyish” run-out and sixth-placed Willa Newton was eliminated for a fall with Moonlight Dance S.
Course-designer David Evans’ track rode well and riders were full of praise for the work his team had done on the footing after a dry fortnight. There were 51 clear rounds, nine of which were inside the optimum time, from the 82 starters. The biggest leap was for Zara Tindall, up 48 places to 26th on Watkins.
Buck Davidson retired his first ride, Park Trader, Carl and Cassandra Segal’s 17-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Master Imp x Ballyhast Polly), after he felt a funny step on course. Davidson then was given 15 penalties with his second ride, Carlevo, but the decision was reversed and the Carlevo LLC’s 12-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Euroxommerce Caresino x Ramatuelle) now sits in 31st after picking up 11.2 time penalties.
Both Cornelia Dorr and Lexi Scovil picked up 20 penalties for runouts at the C element of the coffin – one of the final combinations on course. Dorr and her own 13-year-old Zweibrucker gelding, Sir Patico MH (Sempatico M x Queen’s Little XX) also added 4.8 time penalties to move down to 47th place. Scovil and Chico’s Man VDF Z, the 9-year-old Zangersheide gelding (Chico’s Boy x Chardonnay Z), added 26.0 time penalties to finish the day in 61st.
CCI4*-S 8/9-year-old class
It wasn’t quite the perfect day for Piggy French – she lost her dressage lead in the CCI4*-S for 8- and 9-year-old horses when Calling Card dropped three poles in the showjumping.
William Fox-Pitt, who has won this prestigious class twice before, now shares the lead on a score of 29.7 with Australia’s Chris Burton, the 2017 winner.
Both men were among a small group to show jump clear inside the time in front of a huge crowd, who stayed to enjoy the evening sunshine in front of Blenheim Palace.
Fox-Pitt’s ride is 8-year-old Georgisaurous, owned by Robert, Pep and Tara Glen, while Burton’s horse, 9-year-old Clever Louis, owned by Dr. Geoffrey and Mrs. Guy. Clever Louis is a recent purchase and this is Burton’s first-ever competition on the German-bred by Cor De La Bryère.
Yasmin Ingham, 22, is in third place aboard Rehy DJ with Tom McEwen and Dreamaway II in fourth.
The only U.S. participant in the CCI4*-S, Elisabeth Halliday-Sharp and Cooley Quicksilver, the Monster Partnership’s 8-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Womanizer x Kylemore Crystal) added 12.4 penalties to their dressage score to drop down the leaderboard from 29th to 48th.
The SsangYong Blenheim Palace Horse Trials continues tomorrow with show jumping for the CCI4*-L class and cross-country for the CCI4*-S.
U.S. CCI4*-L Show Jumping Ride Times:
U.S. CCI4*-S Show Jumping Ride Time:
Find the live scores and ride times here.
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