It has long been recognised that SsangYong Blenheim Palace’s CIC3* class for eight- and nine-year-old horses is the most significant stepping stone to success at championship level, and the recent announcements of teams for this year’s World Equestrian Games (WEG) really underlines that.
Graduates of what has become Britain’s most prestigious young horse class feature in the vast majority of the teams of the world’s major eventing nations. Indeed, Australia’s team includes three horses that competed in Blenheim’s CIC3* for eight- and nine-year-olds in 2017, including Cooley Lands, who won the class with Christopher Burton.
Four out of five of Britain’s WEG squad have competed in the class – Tina Cook’s Billy The Red was sixth in 2016. And the New Zealand, American, French, Irish, Italian and Belgian teams all contain Blenheim 8/9yo CIC3* graduates. Germany’s squad may not – but Julia Krajewski and Chipmunk FRH were third in SsangYong Blenheim Palace Horse Trials’ feature class, the CCI3*, last year!
The entries for the 2018 SsangYong Blenheim Palace Horse Trials (13-16 September) are sure to produce many championship horses of the future. This year, spectators will have a unique chance to watch the action from the World Equestrian Games in Tryon, North Carolina surrounded by their fellow eventing fans, international riders and the sport’s officials at Blenheim, having enjoyed the fantastic sport on offer at SsangYong Blenheim Palace itself.
The WEG cross-country will be live-streamed in SsangYong Blenheim Palace’s ringside hospitality facility, the Marlborough Pavilion, on Saturday, 15 September, and an American-themed supper will be available for purchase. Come and watch WEG at Blenheim in a real party atmosphere!
Event Director Mandy Hervieu said: “We didn’t want to miss out on watching the action from WEG and thought eventing fans may like to watch together with friends and have a WEG party. We are hoping it will be a fun night and it will be great to cheer on horses which have done so well here in previous years.”
As well as the two international eventing classes, the CCI3* and the CIC3* for eight- and nine-year-olds, SsangYong Blenheim Palace Horse Trials features a range of popular classes for amateur riders, including a new Retraining of Racehorses (RoR) dressage championship and eventer challenge competitions. There is a new combined training class at CCI2* level for 16-21-year-old riders, a Sport Horse Breeding (GB) stallion parade, a RoR parade of ex-racehorses, including the brilliant former champion Big Buck’s, a hound parade and a packed schedule of demonstrations and masterclasses in the Attractions Arena.
SsangYong Blenheim Palace offers superb children’s entertainment – including Tractor Ted – excellent shopping and a wide range of food and drink options, including an expanded food-walk. To purchase tickets and for more information, visit www.blenheimhorse.co.uk.
World number one Oliver Townend leads the entry field for this year's Land Rover Blair Castle International Horse Trials, which runs from 22nd - 26th August. He currently has seven horses listed for the CIC international three-star classes, Cillnabradden Evo in the Event Rider Masters (ERM) section, as well as Burghley winner Ballaghmor Class, Kentucky winner Cooley Master Class and Badminton runner up Cooley SRS.
Piggy French has two runners in the CIC three-star, including Quarrycrest Echo who has just been named in the squad for the World Equestrian Games, so plans for him may change. She also has two in the CCI two-star. The ever-consistent Cooley Monsoon won the two-star at Tattersalls earlier this year – and if his owner, Jennifer Saunders, makes the trip to Scotland there might be an opportunity for a bit of star spotting.
Blair specialist Nicola Wilson is set to bring four horses, three of her younger ones contesting the one-star class and One Two Many, Nicola's partner at the 2015 Blair Castle European Championships, her ERM entry. Nicola has won five CIC three-star classes at Blair in the last 10 years so is definitely one to watch.
Australia's Christopher Burton is having a phenominal season. He recently won the British Eventing Open Championships at Gatcombe, and his ERM entry Graf Liberty finished runner up in the class at Blair last year. Fellow antipodeans, husband and wife duo Tim and Jonelle Price both come double handed, and are always competitive. Tim's ERM ride Wesko took the runner up spot at the Jardy leg of the series last month.
Scottish Grassroots Eventing Festival
Appearing for the first time at Blair Castle International are 116 BE90 and BE100 competitors (who jump fences of a maximum 90 and 100cm height). Blair is proud to host the Scottish Grassroots Eventing Festival, which runs on the Wednesday and Thursday of the event, Blair's Assistant Director, Nicky Townshend commenting: “We are delighted to be hosting the Scottish Grassroots Eventing Festival this year, the finals of the BE90 and BE100 Championships. We are also thrilled to have the Scottish Novice Championship as part of the CCI one-star and the Scottish Intermediate Championship in the CCI two-star.”
Of course, it's not all about eventing. Showjumping and showing classes will feature in the programme - Blair Castle International is particularly famous for its Highland Pony Show. Pony Club mounted games, and Country Fair demonstrations will also be added to the mix, providing a raft of entertainment for the whole family.
Full details can be found on the website.
Lucy Wheeler and King Creole VD N Ranch kept a clean sheet from pillar to post to win the TopSpec Challenge for The Corinthian Cup, a National Restricted Novice Championship at the Magic Millions Festival of British Eventing.
This was a first ever visit to The Festival for Lucy, 27, who had never been to spectate, let alone compete.
“It’s been a new experience for both of us, but a real buzz. I thought he’d be spooky in the atmosphere, so he has surprised me,” said Lucy, who is head girl at a point-to-point and hunt yard in East Sussex.
“My horses have to fit in around work, but the summer is generally quieter and my boss, Stuart Robinson, has been very generous, letting me have two weeks off to come here and go on to Hartpury next week for the CCI*.”
The pair produced a consistent dressage test to lie fourth on 27.5, jumped up to second with a clear round in the showjumping and took the win when the two phase leaders, Jethro Thompson and Seapatrick Hint Of Cruise, clocked up a hatful of time penalties.
The eight-year-old King Creole, whose stable name is ‘Bubba’, is owned by Graham Jack, who produced him initially.
Lucy took over the ride in 2016. “He’s quite arrogant and opinionated, but he loves the job,” said Lucy.
Runner-up Morgan Kent only started eventing in April this year. She is more regularly seen on the showjumping circuit and had hot-footed it back from Slovakia, where she finished fourth in a grand prix last week, to compete here on her own eight-year-old mare, Felda.
“I bought her as a foal from an auction in Holland. I’d always thought she’d make a good event horse as she really moves, and this year I thought it was about time I gave it a go,” explained Morgan.
Unsurprisingly, the pair were foot-perfect over the coloured poles and a speedy clear across country saw them complete on their dressage score of 29.5. Third-placed Harriet Ford was delighted to be on the podium with her “horse of a lifetime” According To Archie.
“He injured a tendon two years ago while competing at the South of England. I’d always said that anything he did afterwards would be a bonus,” said Harriet, who led the dressage on a score of 25.5, but lost the top spot when she lowered a show jump.
There were 30 clears from 41 cross-country starters; the most influential fence being the House of Fraser Water (11ab) below the Avening Banks.
Course Designer Captain Mark Phillips, commented: “Since the TopSpec Challenge for The Corinthian Cup was introduced to The Festival in 2015 we have seen the best amateur riders take on the unique challenge of riding at Gatcombe Park. This year’s class was a fantastic competition and the winner was thoroughly deserving.”