The USA’s Kim Severson won the main CCI3* class at the SsangYong Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials, 16 years after her first victory at the Oxfordshire event.
The 44-year-old takes home a check for £16,000 ($21,732), and title sponsor SsangYong added a Tivoli 4x4 to the prize-fund this year, which was presented to Severson by SsangYong Motors UK CEO Paul Williams.
Riding the Cross Syndicate’s Irish-bred Cooley Cross Border, a 10-year-old gelding by Diamond Roller and out of Whos Diaz, Severson produced a perfect clear show jumping round to pile pressure on leading contenders and, when Germany’s Julia Krajewski on Chipmunk FRH and Pippa Funnell riding MGH Grafton Street hit two fences apiece, the U.S. Olympian found herself the stunned and delighted winner.
Laura Collett jumped a superb clear on her exciting prospect Mr Bass to rise two places to second. Krajewski, who was sporting in defeat, finished third ahead of three British riders, Gemma Tattersall (Pamero 4), Pippa Funnell and young rider Will Furlong (Collien P 2) in only his second three-star contest.
“I am thrilled,” said Severson. “It’s been a long partnership – I’ve had the horse since he was four. He’s had a few little issues but he’s always been competitive and a super horse. I knew he had a big win in him.”
Cooley Cross Border won the USEA Young Event Horse East Coast Championships in 2012 as a 5-year-old.
It’s Severson's first visit to Blenheim since 2001 and the omens are good: her winning horse that year was Winsome Adante, with whom she went on to win the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event three times, plus world and Olympic medals.
“I feel a lot younger than I did when I got here thinking that I won it 16 years ago,” Severson said with a smile. “This win made the whole summer worthwhile and all the traveling back and forth worth it. Huge thanks to my sponsors, owners, Dr. Brady, my groom, and the Cooley team who got him fit all summer. I’m so thrilled!”
Kim Severson going for a ride in her new Tivoli. Adam Fanthorpe Photo.
Three fellow U.S. combinations had strong performances among a field of serious competitors. Hannah Sue Burnett and RF Demeter, Jacqueline Mars’s 15-year-old Oldenburg mare, scored an impressive 39.7 on their dressage test prior to collecting 2.8 time faults in the cross-country phase and 16 jumping faults in the show jumping phase to finish in 12th place on a score of 58.5.
Doug Payne and Vandiver, the 13-year-old Trakehner gelding he owns with Debi Crowley and Jessica Payne, received a score of 46.6 on their dressage test, tallied 5.2 time faults on cross-country, and had 12 jumping faults in show jumping to finish in 14th place on a score of 63.8. Payne and Vandiver attended Blenheim thanks to a Jacqueline B. Mars Developing Rider Grant, kindly given through the United States Equestrian Team Foundation.
Andrea Baxter and Indy 500, her 12-year-old Thoroughbred mare, scored 63.1 on their dressage test, added 8.0 time faults on cross-country, and had a four-fault round in show jumping to finish in 25th place on a score of 75.1.
The other three U.S. pairs (Lauren Kieffer and Landmarks Monte Carlo, Elisabeth Halliday-Sharp and Carpe Diem IV and Tiana Coudray and Under the Clocks) all withdrew before show jumping.
Australian Olympian Christopher Burton won the prestigious CIC3* for 8 and 9-year-old horses, another pointer to greatness - previous winners have gone on to multiple four-star and championship glory since it started in 2009 - with a typically stylish cross-country performance.
The smart Cooley Lands, a nine-year-old by Cavalier Land, is produced at home by his owner Kate Walls.
“Kate does all the hard work,’ said Burton modestly. ‘It’s no secret that we think a lot of this horse.”
Burton also won the lease of a SsangYong Tivoli 4x4 for a year.
The big story was the success of second-placed Japan’s Kazuma Tomoto on Brookpark Vikenti, who was beaten by just 0.1 of a penalty. Tomoto's achievement was huge because he only started eventing 18 months ago.
Tomoto was watched nervously by his trainer, William Fox-Pitt, and was held on the cross-country as the course was briefly halted due to a fall ahead. However, he kept his head to complete a beautifully ridden round for just two penalties.
Fox-Pitt explained that Tomoto was previously a show jumper but was recruited into eventing by the Japanese federation as a prospect for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.
‘He’s got a very good eye and feel and he sits well,’ said Fox-Pitt.
Tomoto was reserving judgement about his new sport: “I am very, very pleased today, but it’s quite scary, to be honest!”
Britain’s Holly Woodhead was third on Parkfield Quintessential, an emotional result as the horse, a champion as a youngster, spent some time on the sidelines with injury last year.
Halliday-Sharp and Deniro Z, The Deniro Sydnicate’s nine-year-old KWPN gelding, scored 44.4 on their dressage test, had a double-clear show jumping round, and tallied 8.8 time penalties on cross-country to finish in fifth place on a score of 53.2.
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