Clark Montgomery maintained his lead to set himself up for the biggest win of his career after retaining the lead in the CCI3* at Blenheim Palace International Horse Trial.
The American, who is based in the UK, rode a confident cross-country round on Loughan Glen and now has a lead of 8.2 penalties – two show jumps – over Australia’s Christopher Burton who lies in second place with Nobilis 18.
After cross country, Clark said: “This would mean a lot to win here as we have made the decision to come and live over here in Britain and it would be recognition that it’s paying off. It gave me confidence that the course was riding well and I set off as quickly as I could. He got a little fast coming home, but was jumping really nicely and got me out of trouble,” he said.
Christopher Burton was the first to show that the optimum time of 10min 51 seconds was possible when he finished 10 seconds under on Nobilis 18, who was bought in Germany from the Olympic champion Michael Jung. New Zealander Tim Price is just 0.2 of a penalty behind Christopher in third place after a blistering round on The Court Jester – the pair beat the clock by 16 seconds.
William Fox-Pitt is the best of the British riders in fourth place – rising from 10th after dressage, with Cool Mountain. A five-time winner at Blenheim (of both the CCI3* and CIC3*), William brought the 2010 world silver medallist Cool Mountain for a fun spin. He said: “I didn’t go the wrong way and I managed to finish!”, referring to an accident-prone couple of weekends at Burghley and Blair. Of the horse he added: “He’s had a few blips and blots and time off in recent years and, at 15, he doesn’t owe us anything.”
Dressage runner-up and world champion Sandra Auffarth dropped down the order with 15.2 time penalties on Ispo but, as team trainer Chris Bartle pointed out, the idea was to give the horse a happy run before campaigning him more seriously next year. Pippa Funnell, a record four-time winner of the CCI3* at Blenheim, lost her chances of a fifth win when Billy The Biz, ninth after dressage, ducked out at the brush skinny after the water at the Anniversary Steps (fence 14).
The CCI3* provided a great day of competition with 79 clear rounds and 88 completions from the 98 cross-country starters, with 13 inside the optimum time.
Course designer Eric Winter commented: “I think it’s been a good day for the sport. Last time I ran the course in this direction there was only one horse inside the time, so this time I lengthened the track by 30 seconds to give provide more galloping on the flattest part. But the main reason that there are so many inside the time is that this is a very strong field – there was some lovely riding.”
In the CIC3* for eight and nine year olds, New Zealdander Jonelle Price holds a 10.6 penalty lead on Cloud Dancer II going into tomorrow’s cross country. Second for Ireland is Jonty Evans on Cooley Rorkes Drift whilst France’s Sidney Difresne lies in third with Tresor Mail. Pippa Funnell is the highest place British rider in the class in fifth with Majas hope with Emily King and Charlmagne just behind her in sixth position.
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