Day one of the Land Rover Blair Castle International Horse Trials has drawn to a close, with some impressive dressage performances, most notably by Oliver Townend and Tom McEwen, who gave nothing short of masterclasses.
Four-star long format
Oliver Townend and Cooley Rosalent sit at the top of the four-star long format class at the end of the dressage phase. Last in to the arena in front of the Ground Jury of Robert Stevenson, Valery Pride and Nikki Herbert, Cooley Rosalent looked superb – but for one missed flying change which would have been costly.
Cooley Rosalent, an eight-year-old Irish Sport Horse, by Valent out of Bellaney Jewel and owned by Paul Ridgeon, is making her debut at the four-star long level.
Oliver’s score of 29.4 just toppled Tom McEwan’s hold on the class. Riding Martin Belsham’s Luna Mist, Tom posted a score of 29.9. “It was the first time she has done dressage in such a big atmosphere and she was a little nervous in the first few movements, but she settled well and I am absolutely delighted with her. She’s a beautiful horse with lots of ability.”
The nine-year-old mare, who won the Intermediate Championships last time out, is by Alvescot Paper Moon out of Monsoon Matilda.
The rest of the field, led by Louisa Milne Home and Future Plans, is over five penalties off the pace at this stage, the two mares head and shoulders above their challengers.
Four-star short format
Oliver also tops the short format competition, holding a 1-2 with Tregilder lying on 27.9 and Swallow Springs on 28.1. Caroline Martin is flying the flag for the United States, holding third place at this stage with Islandwood Captain Jack in third on 33.3.
Thirty-one further combinations will go before the judges tomorrow, including Oliver again with his Tokyo gold medal winning partner, Ballaghmor Class.
Tom McEwen and Alison Swinburn, John and Chloe Perry’s Brookfield Cavalier Cruise has an impressive lead in the three-star. The pair performed a lovely, fluent test to lie on a score of 22.9, five points ahead of second placed Sam Ecroyd and Withington.
Tom was delighted with the horse. “I don’t run him very often – his last two outings were three-star short formats; he was in the lead at Burgham but the ground was on the firm side so I looked after him, in preparation for coming here. It’s always hard trying to achieve great things again but he’s a stunning horse to watch, very eye-catching and he moves beautifully through his body. He’s also level-headed.”
Asked about the cross country courses, Tom laughed: “Well, it’s Blair! The ground is phenomenal and if you want to find out something about your horse, this is the place to come. It’s a decent course, plenty of questions, big and bold. I think it will suit him – we’ll find out on Saturday!”
Twenty-four combinations are still to perform their dressage tests tomorrow.
Caroline Powell took the two-star lead early in the day and retains a firm grip on the class. Riding Mrs Jo West’s six-year-old Tik Tok, she posted a score of 26.5, Steven Smith her closest challenger with Bright Spark on 29.2.
“We’ve had him since a three-year-old, but he’s not done much before. We came here with several youngsters so the horses could get used to the hills: they won’t have seen anything like the terrain out there before so I fully expect them to struggle a bit. It’s a great education to get them out in the atmosphere.
“I think the two-star cross country is quite tough and long, although the lines are good – I’m thinking from a six-year-old’s point-of view, of course. But they have to get on with it, you never know what sort of horse you’ve got until you get out there.”
Forty-nine combinations will be trying to knock Caroline off the top spot tomorrow.
With 184 entrants in the one-star, the class had to be split in two. Scores in both are tightly packed, leaving all to play for in the jumping phases. The two overnight leaders are Amelia England on Eluna and Maia Fleming with Candyman Leanorth, with another full day of dressage taking place tomorrow.
The action kicks off again at 8am for the Scottish Grassroots BE90 dressage, the remaining one-star dressage and showing at 8.30am, showjumping and international dressage at 9am, and finally grassroots cross country at 9.40am.
Photo caption: Tom McEwen and Brookfield Cavalier Cruise