Bella Innes-Ker scored her biggest victory to date as she claimed a pillar to post win in the CCI*** at the Ssangyong Blenheim Palace Horse Trials.
The 24-year-old, riding her mother, the Duchess of Roxburghe’s mare Carolyn, didn’t have any breathing room going into the show jumping. But she was given some breathing room when second placed Pippa Funnell and MGH Grafton Street had a rail down, dropping them to eventual sixth, and third placed Oliver Townend dropping three rails with Ulises, giving the pair a pole in hand.
And she used that life up with a rail down in the final phase. But their final score of 28.4 was enough to take victory, putting them just 0.3 penalties ahead of second placed combination William Fox-Pitt and Oratorio II.
After her win she commented: “I was speechless yesterday after cross-country – but this really is a dream come true,” said the 24-year-old, who was 15th last year, “Carolyn has done her best all week. It’s all down to her – she’s one in a million.”
Fox Pitt, who had been out at the World Equestrian Games helping Japanese rider Kazuma Tomato before jetting back to the UK to compete at Blenheim, commented of his second placed finish: “I came here hopeful of a good result and was a bit disappointed after dressage. He was lovely across country and to finish second is a lovely surprise. He’s class; you can work with him, he tries hard and he’s a fighter.”
A clear round from Alex Bragg and Zagreb saw them rise from ninth to finish in third, finishing on their dressage score of 29.6, making amends for their fall on the cross country at Burghley two weeks ago.
The top 10 was dominated by British riders, with Australian Amanda Ross being the only international rider to break the home nations stronghold, finishing 10th with Koko Popping Candy.
Laura Collett dominated the CIC*** for eight and nine year olds taking the title with London 52 and finishing third with Dacapo.
“London 52 finds it so easy it’s scary,” Collett said of the nine-year-old she bought two years ago out of a show jumping yard. “He’s pure class. It’s some feeling riding a horse with a long stride like that. Yet again, I’ve bought a horse I don’t want to sell – I really don’t have much of a business head!”
Izzy Taylor’s superb clear round, one of only three inside the optimum time, saw her finished second with Springpower.
“He now feels as if he has become my horse – it was one of those rounds that felt as if could have been at home,” said Taylor. “It was a very, very good course. The terrain here always makes horses concentrate and David Evans does such a good job in using the ground. It’s a difficult class to build for, but he’s really got it right.”
Richard Jones, who is enjoying a great autumn, was fourth on Dinah Saunders and Ros Jones’s Irish-bred chestnut, Kilballyboy Bob, ahead of speedy Italian rider Vittoria Panizzon, fifth on Super Cillious, and the dressage leaders, James Avery and Vitali, eventual seventh for New Zealand.
Following four days of top class action, Event Director Mandy Hervieu said: “We have had four fantastic days of competition and entertainment at SsangYong Blenheim Palace. We have enjoyed wonderful weather, which has attracted bumper crowds, and we are very grateful to SsangYong and all our sponsors, to our officials, to the riders, owners and grooms, and to our exceptional team of volunteers for making our 2018 event so special.”
Images courtesy of Hannah Cole Photography