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Piggy French is the tops at Fidelity Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials

Monday, September 12, 2011 - 13:30

Piggy French held onto her lead in a thrilling finale to the Fidelity Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials and scored her first senior three-star CCI win.

Piggy French CCI Winner 2011Piggy French wither CCI Trophy 2011

She had endured the disappointment of not being able to complete on her overnight cross-country leader, Lemington Lett Dance, but was amply compensated when staying on top with her second-placed horse, DHI Topper, owned by her father Wally French and Michael Underwood.

The 11-year-old bay gelding by Optimaal, winner of the Olympic test event at Greenwich in July, only knocked one fence in the final jumping phase to secure Piggy’s victory over American rising star Tiana Coudray, second, and Germany’s Bettina Hoy, third.

“We have always thought very highly of Topper – Greenwich 2012 now feels a very distinct possibility,” said an elated Piggy. “He is definitely a horse for the future. The four faults was my fault as I was so nervous. “Winning a CCI*** was the big aim this year and it feels such a relief to have achieved it.”

Tiana Coudray picked up the Ariat and Océ prizes for best Blenheim debutant and under-25 rider after a fantastic clear round on Ringwood Magister, a handsome 17hh grey gelding, bred in Ireland by Master Imp.

“I wanted to give him a good confidence-building run and go into the winter on a high, and this event has achieved exactly that,” said Tiana, who lives in California but has been based in England this season.

Bettina Hoy, a veteran of Germany’s senior teams since 1982, was thrilled to finish third on her own Lanfranco, an 11-year-old European-bred horse by Bulrush.

“This has kept my dream of Badminton next year alive,” she said. “Lanfranco is not an easy ride. He is talented but complex and it has taken a long time to get him focused.”

The other big event of the afternoon was the London 2012 Eventing Team Qualifier between New Zealand, Japan and Australia.

The Kiwis, who are already qualified for the 2012 Olympics thanks to their bronze medal at the World Equestrian Games last year, came out on top in this regional competition, but it was the Japanese team who were celebrating securing the precious Olympic qualification.

Their best-placed rider, Kenki Sati, who was 16th overall in the CCI*** on Chippieh, said: “It’s a miracle. This is a dream come true for our country, and for my family, to qualify for the Olympics. I owe everything to my horse, and to Michael Jung (German world champion with whom he is based) who trains me.”

The Australians, already vulnerable after Lucinda Fredericks’s cross-country fall the day before, were eliminated after Brook Staples suffered two refusals in the show jumping.

Organiser Mandy Hervieu: “It has been an amazing and memorable weekend of competition at Blenheim, and I would like to thank our title sponsor Fidelity, plus all the other loyal sponsors and volunteers, without whom this horse trials would not be possible.”