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Bella's dream comes true
A foot-perfect cross-country round has kept 24-year-old Bella Innes-Ker in the lead in the CCI3* at the Ssanyong Blenheim Palace Horse Trials in Woodstock, Oxfordshire.
Bella, who was 15th last year on the Duchess of Roxburghe’s mare, Carolyn, was particularly thrilled because she had achieved the optimum time for the first time at three-star, long-format level.
“It’s a dream come true – in fact, I’m speechless,” she said, revealing that she has been working hard with British team trainer Christopher Bartle. “Carolyn was catlike and helped me out and the combination fences just came up like a dream.”
However, she does not have a fence in hand over two vastly experienced riders in Pippa Funnell, a record four-time winner at Blenheim, who is in second place with Jonathan and Jane Clark’s MGH Grafton Street, and world number one Oliver Townend on Paul and Diana Ridgeon’s Ulises.
Oliver said: “He's very fast and has endless gallop, like [half-brother] Armada [on whom Oliver was second at Badminton] - he made it feel very easy; he could have gone round twice. If he comes out of this well, he'll be ready to step up to CCI4* next spring.”
William Fox-Pitt, another former winner, is in fourth place on the strapping dark bay Oratorio, a horse he describes as “pure class – he doesn’t know the meaning of tired, which is exhausting for my age!”
Kitty King had a run-out on Ceylor LAN, third after dressage, but is in sixth place on the grey Vendredi Biats, just behind Australia’s Amanda Ross, the only overseas rider in the top 10, on the ex-racehorse Koko Popping Candy.
Riders were full of praise for the footing on David Evans’s track, which rode well with 64 clear rounds, 20 inside the optimum time, and 78 completions. A thrilling day is in store tomorrow, as the price of one showjumping fence covers the riders placed second to eighth.
“It was the kind of track where if you rode to get the time, taking economic lines, the fences would come up beautifully,” said Pippa Funnell.
She is now currently third in the CIC3* for eight- and nine-year-old horses with Maybach. Laura Collett holds first and second places on Dacapo and London 52 after dressage leader James Avery with Vitali slipped to seventh place after hitting the middle part of the treble and incurring two time faults.
Action at SsangYong Blenheim Palace continues tomorrow (Sunday), with CIC3* cross-country starting at 9.30am and CCI3* showjumping at 2pm.
There is a full programme in the highly popular Attractions Area, including the gate-jumping competition, a stallion parade, a parade of famous ex-racehorses including the great champion Big Buck’s, a hound parade and lots more entertainment.