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French on fantastic form
The in-form Piggy French is on track to nail yet another international victory this season as she has taken the lead after cross-country in the CCI4*-L at SsangYong Blenheim Palace Horse Trials with a superb round on Alison Swinburn and the Perrys’ Brookfield Inocent, a 10-year-old having his first run at this level.
A thrilling finale is assured in tomorrow’s show jumping phase as Piggy, the Badminton winner and Burghley runner-up, has the slimmest of advantages – 0.2 of a penalty – over popular Japanese star Kazuma Tomoto on Brookpark Vikenti.
The price of just one show jumping rail covers the top five riders. In an international line-up, Australia’s Kevin McNab is third on Scuderia 1918 A Best Friend, recent Burghley heroine and four-time Blenheim winner Pippa Funnell is fourth on Billy Walk On and Piggy’s first ride, Castletown Clover, is in fifth place.
American rider Katherine Coleman is sixth on Monte Classico, 2006 Blenheim winner Daisy Dick is seventh on Ballinteskin Cooper S, Alex Bragg is eighth on King of the Mill, Australia’s Sammi Birch is ninth on Direct Tullyoran Cruise and Kazuro’s trainer William Fox-Pitt is 10th on Atlantic Vital Spark.
“I keep telling myself to take it seriously, as I can’t help going round with a smile on my face,” said Piggy, who won the CCI4*-L back in 2011 on DHI Topper. “Brookfield Inocent is as nice a horse as I’ve got and Castletown Clover is just divine – we all treat him as a pet.”
The Japanese are gearing up to be a serious force for their home Olympic Games next year and Kazuma, who already has three horses qualified, is aiming to clinch a fourth string to his bow with the 11-year-old Master Imp gelding, who was second in the CCI4*-S two years ago.
“He is potentially a very good horse. It wasn’t an easy course and he did a really good job, ” he said.
“When the tough get going, he gets going,” said Kevin McNab of his new ride Scuderia 1918 A Best Friend, a nine-year-old ridden here last year by Germany’s Jorg Kurbel. “The track suited him and if we had known each other a little better we might not have got any time penalties [he has 1.2]. He’s got an exciting future.”
Dressage leader Izzy Taylor retired Monkeying Around after what she described as a “babyish” run-out and sixth-placed Willa Newton was eliminated for a fall with Moonlight Dance S.
Course-designer David Evans’ track rode well and riders were full of praise for the work his team had done on the footing after a dry fortnight. There were clear rounds, nine of which were inside the optimum time, from the 82 starters. The biggest leap was for Zara Tindall, up 48 places to 26th on Watkins.
It wasn’t quite the perfect day for Piggy French - she lost her dressage lead in the CCI4*-S for eight- and nine-year-old horses when Calling Card dropped three poles in the showjumping.
William Fox-Pitt, who has won this prestigious class twice before, now shares the lead on a score of 29.7 with Australia’s Chris Burton, the 2017 winner.
Both men were among a small group to showjump clear inside the time in front of a huge crowd, who stayed to enjoy the evening sunshine in front of Blenheim Palace.
William’s ride is eight-year-old Georgisaurous, owned by Robert, Pep and Tara Glen, while Chris’s horse, nine-year-old Clever Louis, owned by Dr Geoffrey and Mrs Guy. Clever Louis is a recent purchase and this is Chris’s first-ever competition on the German-bred by Cor De La Bryère.
Yasmin Ingham, 22, is in third place aboard Rehy DJ with Tom McEwen and Dreamaway II in fourth.
To listen to downloadable audio interviews with all of the top riders competing at SsangYong Blenheim Palace, including Piggy French, William Fox-Pitt and Zara Tindall, please click here