Saturday was cross country day for Land Rover Blair Castle Horse Trials CCI4*-L competitors and show jumping day for CCI4*-S competitors, and both scoreboards saw a shakeup — details below! Your new leaders heading into Sunday: Tom McEwen and Luna Mist in the CCI4*-L and Astier Nicolas and Babylon de Gamma in the CCI4*-S.
Caroline Martin is the sole U.S. competitor in this year’s edition of the iconic Scottish event. Her two CCI4*-S mounts switched hierarchy on the leaderboard after today’s show jumping; Redfield Champion, who was 9th after dressage, had eight jumping and 2.4 time faults to fall to 17th place, while Islandwood Captain Jack moved from 14th to 9th thanks to a clear round with 1.2 time faults.
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An activated mim clip at fence 15 (a safety device on some cross-country fences to help prevent falls which result in 11 penalties if activated by horses) by dressage leaders Oliver Townend and Cooley Rosalent handed the lead in the four-star long format to Oliver’s Tokyo Olympics team-mate Tom McEwen and Martin Belsham’s Luna Mist after today’s cross-country phase.
Tom and Luna Mist completed with two time penalties giving them a total score of 31.9 and a healthy two show jumps in hand over Oliver with Cooley Rosalent and the rest of the field going into tomorrow’s final show jumping phase:
“She’s a proper little fighter and came home full of running as she’s very fit,” said Tom. “She was a bit feisty and didn’t really settle until the eight-minute mark which made life more tricky than it needed to be in a couple of places but she was amazing. It was a proper four-star track with lots of people, atmosphere and hills – for me riding here is no different to riding at Bramham or Badminton.”
No-one made the optimum time but Oliver and Cooley Rosalent came closest, finishing just three seconds over time for 1.2 penalties:
“The optimum time was as it should be,” said Oliver. “It’s supposed to be hard to get at this level as when horses go up to five-star they need to run for an extra minute. The great thing about Blair is that you leave knowing what type of horse you’ve got if they get close to the time.”
He was delighted with the eight-year-old Cooley Rosalent whom he described as “a dream”. “She more than ticked all the boxes today” he added, “She’s a natural athlete who wants to do the job – I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Piggy March’s sister, Nini French, finally fulfilled the objective she has had since 2018 with Time For Harry of competing in the four-star-long at Blair Castle and finished the day in third place on 48.4 to boot:
“I’m so kamikaze,” she laughed. “Every year I try to get here I pick up silly injuries but I’ve finally made it! Time For Harry is my only horse and I really wanted to come here as he enjoys the softer ground and I felt the undulating course would suit us as neither of us are the fastest but we like to get stuck in and attack. It’s a really fun place and a great atmosphere too.”
Ireland’s Susie Berry and Kilcandra Capitol lie fourth on 50.1 after jumping clear and picking up 13.6 time penalties:
“He was class,” Susie beamed. “This is his first four-star long-format and he was a bit inexperienced in places, but he was very quick with his legs when he got into trouble and kept trying for me – that’s all I could ask for really.”
Tomorrow’s show jumping starts at 4.15pm local time.
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Blair specialists Astier Nicolas and Babylon de Gamma have moved up into the top spot after today’s show jumping phase. The 11-year-old Selle Francais gelding was runner up here last year and winner in 2019.
The pair jumped a clear round, adding 1.2 time penalties to their dressage score and have a one penalty advantage over Tom McEwen on Brookfield Quality.
“It’s the first serious class of the year for this horse, who has come back from surgery. He’s been really electric this week with all the atmosphere which is pretty big in the main arena; there were lots of nerves to manage, especially in the dressage.”
Looking forward to tomorrow’s cross-country, Astier added: “The course is what I expected – big, bold and testing, but the horse is a great jumper and very good with these hills. He loves it here and the ground is perfectly suited for him. Fingers crossed.”
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As in the three-star long-format, Tom McEwen goes into tomorrow’s show jumping with the luxury of two fences in hand over the chasing field. A clear round inside the time with Alison Swinburn and John and Chloe Perry’s Brookfield Cavalier Cruise means he sits 8.1 penalties clear of nearest rivals Max Warburton and the Paske Syndicate’s Deerpairc Revelry.
“I had a lovely ride to be honest,” said a relaxed Tom after his round. “We’ve been waiting for good ground all season so this was the first time I’ve asked him to open up which I did on the flat as he was finding it all super easy. It’s a proper three-star track out there which is what we want as riders as that’s what sets you up for the future.”
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Max and Deerpairc Revelry also came home clear inside the time to elevate them from ninth after dressage to second place on a score of 31.0. Third placed Sam Ecroyd and his mother Penelope’s 11-year-old Withington completed on the same score but Max and Deerpairc Revelry finished closer to the optimum time, hence their higher placing:
“The course rode a lot twistier than I thought it would, to be honest,” said Sam, who picked up 2.4 time penalties with Withington. “That adds to the endurance the horses need but I thought the fences were all really fair.”
Two time penalties for Jo Rimmer and Mrs Merrill Halstead and Mrs Nikki Axon Chilli’s Midnight Star elevated them to fourth place on 31.1 while a clear round inside the time saw Wills Oakden and Cooley Pot of Gold rise to fifth.
It was all change at the top after today’s cross-country. The optimum time of 8 mins 53” proved challenging to achieve but those who did manage it were rewarded with escalations up the leaderboard. That said, with less than four penalties, equating to one show jump, between the top eight, we’re in for an action packed final day tomorrow. The two-star showjumping starts at 10.45am.
Lucinda Atkinson and Pippa Reynold’s Twice Proved moved up from second after dressage to first after cross-country when they added nothing to their first phase score of 28.2. Wills Oakden and Keep It Cooley sit a hair’s breadth behind in second on 28.3. Nine out of the top 10 after cross-country all went clear inside the time on what was deemed by riders as a stiff but fair course over perfect ground.
Twice Proved is just six-years-old and is competing in her first long format event having posted some good results at Novice and CCI2*-S this season:
“She found the course tiring but she kept jumping for me,” said a delighted Lucinda after her round. “She was a bit inexperienced at some of the combinations but there’s a lot to jump out there for a six-year-old. I’m so pleased with her.”
Wills Oakden and Keep It Cooley, a seven-year-old gelding owned by Wills’ wife Stephanie, set the standard early in the morning with their classy round:
“I don’t think it’s easy out there,” he commented, “but he’s a horse we have a lot of belief in and what will be will be tomorrow – I’m pleased to be in such a good position.”
Italy’s Vittoria Panizzon with Dido Darling’s Irish Jig III moved into third on 29.2 with Caroline Powell and Nicholas and Fiona Lambert’s Legally Grey fourth on 29.9. Caroline had led after dressage with Jo West’s Tik Tok and were out early on cross-country. The pair jumped clear but picked up 5.6 time penalties to drop to 8th.
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Competitors from both sections completed their show jumping today. Those in section E also ran across country with Amelia England with her Dutch-bred mare Eluna taking the win. They completed on 30.6 having added just 1.6 cross-country time penalties to a dressage score of 29.
“I’m really happy,” said Amelia. “I only got her a month or two ago when I was in the middle of doing my A levels so we’re still getting to know each other. I’ve never ridden in an atmosphere like this before – it was so lovely to hear people cheering me on when I was going across country.”
Amelia now plans to take a gap year to concentrate on eventing and hopefully contest for Young Riders next before before heading off to university to study for a BSc in Biological Science.
Second place went to Hannah Pearce with her own Valdoctro. They completed on their dressage score of 31.2 on the horse’s first FEI competition. Both horse and rider have only competed up to BE100 previously.
“That was amazing and so much fun,” enthused Hannah who is based in Dorset with Jo Rimmer.
“The atmosphere around the show jumping ring was incredible and something I’d never experienced before. Valdoctro was fantastic across country and everything went according to plan other than me forgetting to press start on my stopwatch!”
Competitors in section F go across country tomorrow from 8am local time. Maia Fleming and Candyman Leanorth will start the day as leaders on 28.3, with Ireland’s Alex O’Hare and Greylands Diamond Girl second on 29.7 and Megan Bainbridge and Silver Fox third on 29.8.
CCI4*-L Top 10 After Cross Country:
CCI4*-S Top 10 After Show Jumping:
CCI3*-L Top 10 After Cross Country:
CCI2*-L Top 10 After Cross Country:
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