Ruth Gregory reports …
Brilliant Blair Brings the goods
Scotland’s premier event was all action over bank holiday weekend, as Blair Castle estate welcomed riders who were eager to contest at the beautiful highland location. The event held its usual CCI-s and CCI-L sections alongside the Scottish Grassroots Championships. Alec Lochore put forward some testing international tracks as it was certain only fit horses would be victorious over the hilly terrain.
Emilie Chandler won the preeminent prize, the Land Rover CCI4*-L. She was in poll position after dressage with Maria Doel’s Gortfadda Diamond. The pair then skipped around the technical cross-country track and jumped a lovely show jumping round to take the victory with an impressive 12-point margin.
“I’m thrilled- he gave me a fantastic ride. He never really tired and kept galloping for me. I think he’s real class- an out -and-out event horse who’s good in all three phases.”
Runners up were the Scottish based combination of Rosa Onslow and Cindy Onslow’s Diamond Sundance. It was their first run back since their 12th place performance at the Young Rider European Championships in Maarsbergen, Netherlands, as well as being their first attempt at CCI4*-L together. Rosa is no stranger to Blair Castle, having completed the Event Riders Masters class there last year upon her senior team nations cup horse RLE Limbo Kasier.
“I was thrilled to jump double clear and he felt on top of the world today- ready to go around the cross country again! We have had him in the family since a 5YO; my mum used to event him before me. We are finishing our season now as he has had a long season as part of the GB YR squad.
This has been my best season by far as I have been fortunate to represent my country at both the GB YR Europeans and also in the senior nations cup team.
My goal next year is to do Bramham U25 championships and then compete at CCI5* level with both RLE Limbo Kasier and Diamond Sundance.”
Olympic gold medallist Astier Nicholas look the CCI4*-S title with the striking grey Babylon De Gamma, which also named them as the Scottish Open Champions. He was second after dressage but dropped down to fourth after rolling a pole show jumping. However, Astier’s expertise showed as the pair ate up the cross-country course posting the fastest time in the class to firmly place them on top of the podium.
The course certainly proved testing as William Fox-Pitt was unseated from Yes I Can, Harry Mutch was unlucky to come out the side door when HD Bronze left a hide leg at fence 12 and Phoebe Buckley provided the crowd with some action with her spectacular dismount from Tiger Mail at the final water complex.
Overnight leader Daisy Berkley finished an eventual third place with her own, Caroline Dick’s, Roxana White’s and Mary Scott-Gall’s Ballinteskin Cooper S. Whilst, Sam Ecroyd finished only 0.4 penalties behind Astier to be second with Vicki Irlam’s Davinci III.
The podium positions in the CCI3*-L were unchanged from cross country with each combination coping with the pressure to secure their placings.
It was a perfect 20th birthday for Eleanor Hope as her and Limestone Romeo took the win, claiming Eleanor’s first senior international title. The Reading University student, who juggles eventing alongside her studies, lay in 13th after dressage before jumping a foot perfect double clear to rise up the placings to finish on top.
“It was my first time at Blair, and it was a great event! I did not expect to win at all, this is Romeo’s first time at the level, and he made it all feel very easy! The cross-country course was very long and challenging, waiting till 4pm to go was very nerve wrecking!
Luckily my trainer Gill Watson was at the event and has been able to help me, especially in the dressage which he continues to improve in.
I have had Romeo since a 5YO, my parents bought him from the Gorsbridge Going for Gold Sale, which makes the win even more special as I’ve taken him up the levels myself.”
Narrowly missing out on the win in second place was Victoria Wilson riding Don’t You Know, who also finished on their dressage of 36.7 at Victoria’s first long-format event.
Making up the top 3 were Ashely Harrison and Zebeedee IX. It has been a dramatic week for Ashley as her wagon broke down on her way to Blair and Zebeedee threw a shoe after the cross country. However, the mishaps were made worthwhile as she also picked up the prize for being the horse and rider combination closest to reach the optimum team as they were only 1 second over!
It was well worth the long journey for Cheshire based Haydan Hackney who had a dream weekend scoring his first international win in the CCI2*-L, as well as finishing 4th and 9th with his other rides from a field of 70 starters!
His winning horse Cartown Galaxy is only a six-year-old and was purchased by Haydan last year on a trip to Ireland when judging at the Dublin Horse Show. They were in fourth after dressage on a score of 30.6 and put in a very polished cross-country performance to lie in third going into the last phase.
They finished on their dressage mark after the show jumping to put pressure on those above him, but when poles fell for both the overnight leader Polly Stockton and Sir Alfred II and Germany’s Josephine Schnaufer, Haydan and the mare rose up the leader board, crowning them the Scottish Novice Champions.
Second place went to a very emotional Morven Pringle. She piloted Miss Contender, a horse who was owned and previously campaigned by her best friend Natasha Galpin, who was tragically killed in a fall on the gallops in January.
Germany Josephine Schnaufer finished third with Viktor 107.
Blair Castle also hosted the annual Scottish Grassroots Championships.
Rose Macpherson retained her crown from last year to be named Scottish BE100 Champion with HHS Canya. It was a victory well deserved as the pairing earned the best dressage mark of the entire event of 25.3, putting them in the lead from start to finish and being the only combination in the class to finish on their dressage score.
“I am absolutely delighted with my mare she tried her heart out in all three phases. It was incredible to win two years running with two very different horses. I’ve had since five-year-olds, both mares.
Blair is my favourite event so to do well there is very special to me!
I thought that both of the jumping tracks were challenging and had a real championship feel, dressage and show jumping in the main arena created a really exciting atmosphere. The tracks were beautifully built and presented, and the ground was perfect.”
Annie Sandell and her 15.1hh Murrah Midnight Maelstrom took the BE90 Championship title in a very close section where only 4 penalties separated the top 10 placings.
Annie has had William since he was a yearling and has backed and produced him herself. The pairing has only competed a few events this season as Annie now has to balance eventing around caring for her 10-month-old daughter.
“Having the chance to be in the main arena not once but twice is amazing and I’m honoured to have such a privilege. William has never stayed away from home before and has handled everything from the atmosphere to the challenges asked all within his stride. He knew his job when it came to the cross-country which really helped me immensely for, I was a bag of nerves, after a few fences we were together and having so much fun!
The track provided some tough questions and wasn’t to be ridden lightly of which nothing seemed to phase William.
Having a horse with such a big heart is wonderful and I trust him immensely even with his cheeky teenage attitude.”
Images courtesy of Andrew Grant