Germany’s Malin Hansen-Hotopp tops the 4*-L with Carlito’s Quidditch K. Photo courtesy of Blenheim Palace International.

Day one at the Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials was full of “firsts” – for the leaders of both the feature CCI4*-L class and the CCI4*-S class for eight- and nine-year-old horses, it was their debut on British soil, and they both posted their personal-best dressage scores.

Germany’s Malin Hansen-Hotopp scored 24.6 aboard Bodil Ipsen’s 10-year-old grey gelding Carlito’s Quidditch K to top the CCI4*-L by more than three marks.

The 44-year-old amateur rider said: “I am really delighted. To be overnight leader at Blenheim is just a dream and I am just so happy.

“I had a problem around six months ago in that he was bucking during the canter, so around two months ago I started cantering him a lot before going into the arena and that has helped him a lot. Today he was just a bit nervous but paying attention.

“We have a new German dressage trainer for eventers and she has helped me so much – I saw the test she rode at the world championships for six-year-olds, and she rode every movement for a 10, which inspired me to do the same. It’s a dream for me to be at Blenheim as I’m not a real professional and have not been in England before. I was a reserve for the FEI World Championships in Pratoni del Vivaro, Italy, this week, but the horse is still young and Blenheim was always my first choice – it’s a great place.”

In second are Britain’s Sarah Bullimore and Corouet, who have re-routed to Blenheim after an early run-out across country at Burghley. The individual bronze medallists at the 2021 European Championships scored 27.8.

Third is another German rider, the vastly experienced Dirk Schrade, with a mark of 29 on Casino 80.

Irish-based American Gillian Beale King is in first place in the CCI4*-S with Richard Ames’ nine-year-old Derena Super Star – another eye-catching grey gelding. The pair scored 27.6 and hold the lead narrowly from Sarah Bullimore, who is in second with the mare Evita AP on 27.8.

Gillian, who mostly show jumped before taking a job riding for Richard and Tanja Ames at their Belline Estate in Co Kilkenny 18 months ago, has an pedigree fit for a Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials run by The Jockey Club, however. Her maternal grandfather Major Jeremy Beale won Burghley in 1965, while her paternal grandfather Hunter King rode steeplechasers in the USA.

Gillian, 30, said: “Derena Super Star is just a wonderful horse and lived up to his name today. We went in there and he just put his best foot forward for me, from step one all the way to the end. It has just been a bit of a process with him and for it to all culminate today in such a fabulous manner was really special. Hard work really does pay off.

“This is the first time I’ve competed in the UK – I moved over to Ireland last April. It’s a bit of a different game over here and I’ve been working really hard. It really does take a village and everyone in my village knows who they are – it takes every one of us to put our all into it. It is not just me and the horse who have to deliver today but the grooms and everyone else. It takes months and months of hard work to be in this position and I’m not taking it lightly.

“Blenheim is just stunning. As an American who has been showjumping for the past decade, Blenheim is something you just dream of, so to actually be here I have to pinch myself – it’s just magical. To be on British soil is very special. I have loads of family in the UK who are coming later in the week to watch, so it will be lovely to see everyone on ‘home’ soil.”

American rider Gillian Beale King sits atop the 4*-S on a personal best with Derena Super Star. Photo courtesy of Blenheim Palace International.

Third behind Gillian and Sarah is Selina Milnes, who scored 28.4 on Cooley Snapchat.

Looking to the other North American riders competing at Blenheim, Kimmy Cecere and Landmark’s Monaco currently sit 14th in the CCI4*-L on a score of 33.8. Grace Taylor with Game Changer are in 18th on a 34.7. Canadian representative Jamie Kellock is also in the 4*-L with Summer Bay and they’ll take a score of 42.4 into cross country on Saturday. We have yet to see Valerie Pride with Favian as well as Gillian Beale King with Rebeliant, both of whom will ride their tests tomorrow. In the 4*-S, Kathryn Robinson will ride for Canada tomorrow aboard Cloud K.

Reflecting on day one, Ian Renton, The Jockey Club’s Managing Director for Cheltenham and the West Region, said: “We had our first year last year and were very much novices coming into it but thought we could bring in our experience of running an event. It’s lovely to be involved with one of the most prestigious three-day events in the country.

“There are so many great synergies between equine events, whether that be eventing or racing and we have seen that over the past 18 months we have been involved. Blenheim Palace is such an iconic location in the UK.

“We have a relaxed and friendly atmosphere and to see the dressage, show jumping and cross country against the backdrop of Blenheim Palace is such a wonderful view. We have some fantastic trade stands, significantly more than in 2021, and for those that enjoy shopping there is something for everyone at every level. With children’s activities such as BMX and plenty of space to walk your dog, there really is something for everyone.

“To commemorate the sad passing of Queen Elizabeth II, we are holding a two-minute silence on each of the four days followed by a rendition of God Save The King. On Saturday and Sunday, Laura Wright will be here to sing God Save The King.

“All the riders are wearing black armbands. We want to recognise we are in national mourning and give everyone in attendance the chance to pay their respects – you couldn’t have heard a pin drop during the silence today and the respect shown to Her Late Majesty has been fantastic.

“It has been described that after the country, the Commonwealth and the people. The Queen’s next great love was racing and horses. The Queen was Patron of The Jockey Club and not only had a love of racing but was unbelievably knowledgeable about racing and breeding. The Royal Studs were active throughout her life and she was devoted to the horse.”

Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials continues tomorrow with the second day of dressage, which starts at 9 a.m. BST.

Blenheim Palace International (Oxfordshire, England): [Website] [Schedule] [Timing & Scoring] [Live Stream]

Take a look at some more social media from Thursday at Blenheim Palace — and don’t forget you can tune in live all weekend long at no cost on the event’s website here!

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