The omens for Olympic success continue to bode well for Piggy French. She took home the £8,000 CCI*** winners cheque at the Fidelity Blenheim International Horse Trials courtesy of a win with her father Wally and Michael Underwood’s Greenwich Test Event winner DHI Topper W.
‘I’m so proud of him,’ she said of the 11-year-old which was bought from the Woodhead’s last year. ‘Its taken a while for us to get to know each other and I’m so glad that I’ve been able to play around with him for the last year as he’s a completely different horse now and I understand him much better. The Woodheads said he had the potential to be a team horse when we bought him and now he’s really coming into his own and he’s now a ‘definite maybe’ for London next year.’
The pair had gone into the show jumping with a fence in hand over nearest rivals, the USA’s Tiana Coudray and Ringwood Magister. They used this cushion when they lowered the third fence from home to complete on 47.1. ‘I have to admit I got a bit nervous,’ said Piggy ‘as I was desperate to go clear. However, this is my biggest win and its a real relief to finally get a big one under my belt.’
Piggy’s other ride, Lemington Lett Dance, had actually held the lead after the first two phases but was not presented at the final trot up: ‘He’s just a bit sore and its a huge disappointment as he’s such a good little horse and very sad for his owner Judy Bradwall who has put so much work into him,’ rued Piggy. A similar fate befell Pippa Funnell with Billy Landretti who had been third after cross-country: ‘He’s lame on a front leg but is quite happily tucked up in his stable munching hay,’ said Pippa. ‘We’re gutted as he’s had such a good season so far and we’re at a loss at the moment to know what he’s done. We’ve had him x-rayed but this didn’t show up anything – he pulled up sound yesterday and he didn’t hit anything so he’ll have further tests next week.’ Billy Shannon’s performance, however, offered something in the way of compensation when the Walkinshaw’s eight-year-old mare jumped clear to complete on her dressage score of 52.1 and in fourth place in what was her first outing at this level.
A clear round from Tiana Coudray and her Irish Sport Horse Ringwood Magister secured them second place. The pair has had a mixed season, struggling at four star level at both Kentucky and Luhmuhlen, but this result has gone a long way to re-building thepair’s confidence:
‘Its been a rough year,’ she admitted ‘but he’s a really special horse and this event has done just what I wanted it to do in terms of helping us to get back on the right track. I’d always planned to come here as I felt Burghley would be too punishing as we’re both still quite green.’ The 23-year-old former Irish Dancing Champion only took up the sport at the age of 15 after injury ended her dancing career and she now hopes to base herself in the UK for a while having sold her other horses to fund her move here earlier in the year: ‘At this point in my life the UK is just where I feel I need to be as this is where the sport is at,’ she said. ‘When you surround yourself with such high quality sport, some of it can’t help but rub off.’
The pressure was on at the business end of the leaderboard going into the show jumping as just three fences separated the top 11. The top three, however, retained their places although third placed Bettina Hoy and Lanfranco TSF had a lucky moment when they hit the first part of the treble but the pole remained in the cups.
‘I am so happy’ said Bettina ‘as this horse is really keeping my dreams alive. He’s a very complex character and its taken me a long time to get him to listen to me but Badminton is a real possibility now. To be honest, I’ve got to go there and do well if I want to have any chance of getting on the German team next year given how well everyone went at Luhmuhlen. However, what will be will be, I’m just really happy.’
The biggest casualty in the top 10 was South Africa’s Alexader Peternell and AP Uprising, their three rolled poles and two times faults dropping them from seventh to eventual 18th. Paul Sims and French Polish also had an expensive round and dropped from 10th to 24th. Conversely, Charlotte Agnew and Out Of Africa Two rose from 43rd after dressage to eventual ninth by finishing on their dressage score, while the Clark Montgommery’s clear elevated him and Loughan Glen from 12th after cross-country to fifth and posted another good result for Team USA.
CCI*** final results
- DHI Topper W/Piggy French 47.1
- Ringwood Magister/Tiana Coudray 49.4
- Lanfranco TSF/Bettina Hoy 49.7
- Billy Shannon/Pippa Funnell 52.1
- Loughan Glen/Clark Montgommery 53.4
- Borough Penny Z/Vittoria Panizzon 54.4
- Orient Express/Clarke Johnstone 55.9
- Pawlow/Will Faudree 56.1
- Out Of Africa Two/Charlotte Agnew 56.3
- Gaucho/William Fox-Pitt 58.4
BE100 TRI-ZONE EVENTER CHALLENGE
Ellen Goodwin and PG Tips took the honours in this class with Ellen winning the award for the most stylish rider for the second year running. Charlotte Bacon and Ballyvaden Ivy were second with Lyndra Cockrill and Amoreal third.
Blenheim on TV
A two hour highlights programme from The Fidelity Blenheim Palace Horse Trials is scheduled for broadcast in two episodes on Sky Sports 4 on Friday 30th September between 8-10pm. Repeats are scheduled for the following day and approximately two weeks later on Horse and Country TV (Sky 280).
Report: Sue Polley. Images: Lucy Hall