Set in one of the picturesque and welcoming stately homes in England, Weston Park Horse Trials offered spectators a world class field and competitors a solid and imposing track, set around the 1,000 acres parkland. With 4* riders galore, Olympic medalists, World and European Champions and leading young riders in attendance competition was always going to be fierce across the Novice, Intermediate and Advanced classes, but 4 riders certainly caught the eye more than most.
Sam Ecroyd, or Jung Sam as he's become known across social media channels following time spent with Michael Jung, produced a double win in the Novice sections. Coming to Weston park in good form following a CIC** win at Belton Park the previous week, Sam picked up a win in both section A and C, picking up just 0.4 time faults across the country on one ride. Catena Vant Gelutt Z, a new ride for Sam this season, this 8 year old mare completed her first Novice at Belton picking up 20 penalties cross country. However they put that behind them to replicate their 28.3 dressage and cruise to victory with a double clear and coming home just 1 second over time for 0.4. Section C winner Renegade Marmalade, the 8 year old gelding, has been with Sam for the duration of his career produced a personal best Novice completion score of 25.3 to finish 4.8 penalties clear of the field.
Izzy Taylor is always one to watch, with a strong dressage record and one of the best lady cross country riders in the world, she headed to Weston Park with 10 entered and came away with 9 top 10 placings, 3 wins and 2 second place results. 6 year old Ballycoog Guinness provided the first win of the weekend producing a personal best dressage of 22.5 to complete on a double clear, 7.8 penalties clear of Oliver Townend and Attractive Proposition in 2nd place. Novice section E saw a 1, 2 finish for Izzy with Monkeying Around taking the top spot on 27.5, closely followed by Star Of Memory on 28.6. It was also a 1, 2 finish in Open Intermediate section J with Cadillac producing a 25 dressage with 1 down show jumping to take the win on 29, 8.3 penalties ahead of his stable mate in 2nd. Extreme II, the 8 year old gelding by Robert Smith's former Grand Prix stallion Marius Claudius, was having his first run of the season at Weston Park, producing a 30.5 dressage, double clear and adding 6.8 time penalties across the country to complete on 37.3.
The Pony Trial sections are always cause for an 'ooo' and 'ahh' as these pint size partnerships tackle these imposing tracks. Saffron Cresswell and the 14.1hh Cuffesgrange Little Ric, continued their 2016 season form which saw them produce four pony class wins in a row (Withington CIC* P, Aston-Le-Walls PT, Brand Hall BCP and Barbury PON), to win by 7.7 penalties. They lead from start to finish with a spectacular 25 dressage and a double clear inside the time.
Final mention goes to Advanced winner, form World and European Champion, Zara Tindall (nee Phillips) with the Gleadhill House Stud's High Kingdom. Now 16 years old, High Kingdom, was Zara's partner for a 10th place in their first CCI**** at Burghley in 2011, their individual 8th place at the London 2012 Olympics where they also picked up a team silver medal and a 2nd place at Luhmuhlen CCI**** in 2013. Far down the Badminton waitlist, Zara and High Kingdom now head to Lexington where they will be looking for a little more luck than in 2015 where a last minute injury prevented them from starting. Weston Park provided a perfect prep run for the Rolex bound pair, with the solid and bold advanced track. It was a respectable 29.9 dressage and a double clear, just adding 6 time faults to finish on 35.9, to take the Advanced win ahead of Ros Canter, Paul Tapner and Andrew Nicholson, all of which were snapping at the royal heels in this competitive advanced class.
Gallery below from Hannah Ray