Ruth Gregory reports ..
Somerford Park International definitely didn’t disappoint with record entries from BE100 to CIC2* classes. The starting field of over one thousand combinations saw world class riders and horses alike, as well as eventing royalty. The team at Somerford Park International were credited as eventing legends, including William Fox-Pitt and Andrew Nicholson, made the long trip to Cheshire with their star horses to give them a run on Somerford’s “perfect” ground conditions following a tricky few weeks of little rain.
Piggy French dominated the event claiming top spot in the highly contested Rockery Park Stud CIC2*, that saw a record 126 starters. She piloted Alison Swinburn and John and Chloe Perry’s nine-year-old gelding, Brookfield Innocent, to a foot perfect double clear, topping the section on their dressage of 27. “He’s a new horse to me and we’ve worked up to this for our first target”, said Piggy, who has only had the gelding since June. “I’m lucky that Kevin Mcnab has done a lovely job producing him so it’s just a case of me getting to know him.” The pair head to the Land Rover Blair Castle International this weekend, “He gave me a fantastic ride on the cross-country”, said Piggy, “he feels ready to make the step up to CIC*** level at Blair.”
Following another busy weekend for Izzy Taylor, she produced two more lovely performances in the section to narrowly miss out on top honours, finishing in second and third place. Both her rides jumped effortless double clears to finish on their same dressage score of 27.2. “Both horses went very, very well, “says Izzy. It was decided that Liscarrow Conista, was second as the 10-year-mare had a faster showjumping time. “She did a lovely test and a super double clear,” said Izzy. “she’s had a few little ups and downs and we’re a new partnership, so I was very pleased by her.”
The eight-year-old-gelding Fonbherna Lancer, was placed third. “He’s also new to me and is a little greener,” explained Izzy, “it’s his first CIC2* following on from only two or three runs at intermediates so it was difficult for him but he was super.” The two horses will now be aimed to finish their season at Osberton International Young Horse Championships in September.
The section began the day with the top ten riders separated by only 1.5 penalties. Overnight dressage leaders Mark Todd and Kiltubrid Rhapsody, used their cross-country round as a last-minute tune up for the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trails, finishing double clear with only 2.8-time penalties, dropping them to an eventual seventh placing on 29.1.
Heading the Cooke Coachbuilders CIC1* was Millie Dumas on board Ellie Guy’s six-year-old mare, Universal Cooley. “I’m delighted with my win,” said Millie, “she has put in her best performance this weekend.” The pair lead from start to finish on their eye-catching dressage score of 19.9 from over one hundred starters. “She has been on form all season with this being her fifth win, I hope to take her to Le Lion D’angers for the six-year-old championships.”
Piggy French added to her CIC2* first with a second in the CIC1* finishing double clear on 23.8 with Tom March’s, Sportsfield Top Notch. Whilst the world number one, Oliver Townend, provided another consistent run to finish third on 27.2 with Innislusky Paddy.
The national intermediate and open intermediate classes saw a precession of WEG team riders and Burghley hopefuls. Badminton winner Jonelle Price lead the Open intermediate section C, with Cloud Dancer II on 24.2. Whilst Zara Tindall, made her eventing return after having time out for the birth of her second child. She rode Class Affair,to an eventual seventeenth place in the open intermediate section E.
Piggy French added to her successful weekend by claiming an intermediate win in section D. She lead from start to finish with the seven-year-old gelding, Highdown March to secure top spot on 31.7. “He’s really progressed this season and keeps stepping up the levels,” says Piggy, “he’s still quite green in lots of ways but he has a lot of ability, so finds everything easy.” The gelding is on track to be taken to Osberton seven-year-old championships to finish his season in September.
Laura Collett also had taken advantage of the great conditions by scooping up three wins throughout the weekend, “I was delighted with all of them and it was great to run on good ground!” She headed the open intermediate section G on board her own, London 52. The pair only added 1.2 cross-country time penalties to finish in 22.6. “London 52 was having his prep run for Blair ERM”, said Laura. “Just hope her performs that well up there!”
Laura also clocked up a novice victory in section Q with Hanson DHI. The combination started as they meant to finish by topping the section by adding nothing to their dressage score od 24.3. “He is a super six-year-old”, said Laura, “he has won all three of his novices runs having only started eventing in April!”
Her final win of the weekend was in the BE100 section K on the five-year-old, Flight Master. Again, leading from the off to finish on a score of 23.6. “Flight master is a special five-year-old whom I bought as an unbroken three-year-old, “said Laura. “I have always thought an awful lot of him.”
Somerford based rider Tyler Cassels stamped his place at the event by taking the win in the novice section P. He piloted the seven-year-old mare, Francesca Du Domaine R, to top spot with a foot perfect double clear to finish on a score of 24.0. “Myself and team Frankie were thrilled that all three phases came together on home turf,” says Tyler, “The mare is a homebred product of one of her owners Gwen Robinson’s, with real character!” Tyler hopes to take the confidence from the pairs win with them to Gatcombe International in September. He also had praise for his sponsors Bailey’s Horse Feeds, who had recently taken the sponsorship of the event “It was really special to do so well on Frankie as I’m a keen supporter of theirs and their products!”
Images courtesy of FRW Photography