Blenheim International Horse Trials
Woodstock, Oxfordshire, England
by Rosemary Cooper
Blenheim 2006, held in the grounds of Blenheim Palace from 31st August to 3rd September, had no title sponsors this year, but was jointly sponsored by Waitrose, Ariat, Goopdyear, Gallo, Puffa, the Oxford Times, Oce, Classic FM, and Volkswagen Touareg. It provided a triumph for Daisy Dick, fresh from her team silver medal in the World Equestrian Games at Aachen the previous week, and this time riding Springbok 1V. It was her first ever three-star win, although she has been regularly placed in four-star events on Springalong, her mount at Aachen, and in last year's European Championships, when she rode him into 11th place here at Blenheim.
"Springbok's fantastic! He slipped coming out of the combination and did everything he could to help me out, but he's never done a track as long as this before," said Daisy. Asked how riding at Blenheim compared with the World Equestrian Games, she answered: "I was riding a different horse at a different venue with a different challenge, so I just had to give it my best shot."
After dressage she had lain in third place with a score of 46.0, but picked up 2.4 time faults across country, to reach second place for the show jumping phase. After Springbok lived up to his name by jumping clear again, the long-time leaders, Pippa Funnel and Ensign had one fence down to leave them in second place.
Ensign, an ex-racehorse whom Pippa was originally bringing along to sell, first showed his true ability when Pippa realised he was to be her ride in the European Championships last year and finished ninth on that occasion.
"He came out of racing because he was too laid back, "said Pippa, "and the three people who tried him found him too lazy. He earned his place in the yard here last year."
Towards the end of the first day Ensign took the lead in the dressage with a score of 40.4 and maintained his lead across country with 4.8 time faults, before his one show-jumping mistake cost Pippa her fifth victory at Blenheim.
William Fox-Pitt had three rides, of whom the most successful was Parkmore Ed, whom William described as a carthorse. Actually an Irish Draught/Thoroughbred cross, Parkmore Ed had shared fourth place after dressage with Jeanette Brakewell's Equinox Sidewinder, with a score of 46.9. Then 2.8 time faults across country and a clear show jumping round raised the pair to third place.
"I couldn't be happier with him," said William. "He was second at Bramham in 2004 and if he hadn't done a three-star this year, he would have been demoted to two-star level next year. "He came to me at the end of July. He's very talented, and jumped all the tricky fences very well."
Major Sweep, ridden by Rodney Powell, and Le Samurai, ridden by Amy Tryon from the USA, also improved on their dressage scores by jumping two clear rounds each, with only time faults across country, to finish fourth and fifth. On the other hand, Faere Vision and Jo May, who likewise jumped clear throughout, accumulated 18.8 time faults across country to drop them from the second place they had held after dressage, with a score of only 44.0, so they finished in sixth place.
The only horse not to have time faults across country was Sir Percival III, whose immaculate cross country round raised him from 29th place after dressage to fifth, although he lowered two show-jumping fences to finish seventh. In fact no other horse show-jumped clear, although three more picked up only time faults. These included Valdemar, ridden by Hannah Bate, who finished eighth, and Zinzan II, ridden by Rodney Powell into tenth place. Separating them was Noble Opposition, ridden by Sam Griffiths from Australia, who had 6 cross-country time faults and four show jumping faults to add to a dressage score of 55.0, raising them from equal 22nd to ninth.
Equinox Sidewinder, who had maintained fourth place after cross country, scored sixteen show jumping faults with seven time faults to drop to 15th place.
"The cross-country course was big for a three-star," commented William Fox-Pitt. "Quite a few fences were there last year for the European Championships. I'm surprised the course designer, Mike Etherington-Smith, didn't modify it more."
In fact 16 of the 28 fences caused problems for 27 competitors. Most influential was the water complex. After jumping Cameron's Coop, on top of a hill, a steep slope ran down to the Waitrose Water, consisting of a roll-top spread, followed by two flower-filled fences that formed a bounce into water. Upward Trend and Somerset II fell here, dunking Pip Peters and Sara Dierks in the water, while Niall Ferguson fell off Spring Fever V at the earlier spread and retired. Phantom Pursuit and Tim Rowland also retired after stopping at the bounce and Woodlands Talisman and Hannah Bucknell were eliminated for their fourth stop. In fact Big El and Dee Kennedy were the only combination to stop here, yet still continue.
After a gallop through the water came the Touareg Trial, a large wooden duck in the water followed by a skinny brush on the bank. This caught out the Ostler, who consistently refused with Natasha Eddery, and The Good Witch, with Jennifer Wooten, who stopped.
Springbok, a bright bay 11-year-old, is out of a 15hh mare, Horsehill Birthday Blonds, who was bred for sprint racing, but shown as a hack. His sire, Creden Herewardian, is a show pony type whose breeding includes Arab and Thoroughbred, so Springbok was bred to show, and bought by Annabel Clapham, who suggested to Daisy that she might like him. "I know it's supposed to be bad luck to change a horse's name," said Daisy, "but I changed it to fit in with Springalong. Springbok's got talent and character, but he's quirky, and it took a lot of time for him to get this far. Now he's a possibility for Badminton next year."
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