Francis Whittington was a popular CCI3* winner at the Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials on Sunday, jumping a perfect clear round on Catherine Witt’s Easy Target.
His clear round gave dressage leader William Fox-Pitt no room for error on Freddie Mac, who hit the first part of the treble, dropping them into second. And Jodie Amos scored a career best result with third despite a dropped rail on her half arabian Wise Crack.
In fact, it was a British top six, with Pippa Funnell, already a record four-time winner of this competition, fourth on Second Supreme, Whittingtons fifth on another horse owned by Catherine Witt, Fernhill Highlight, and Kitty King sixth on Persimmon.
New Zealander Tim Price was best of the overseas riders, dropping from third to seventh with a couple of rails down on Ringwood Sky Boy.
Becky Woolven, 25, had a brilliant first three-star, finishing 11th on LB The Phantom and collecting the Horse Trials Support Group’s cheque for £500 for the best British rider 25 and under plus the prize for the highest-placed Blenheim first-timer.
The main causualty was Italian rider Vittoria Panizzon who had a disastrous round on Merlot’s Magic to drop from sixth to 28th with eight fences down.
It has been a long wait for international success for Francis, who 21 years ago became the first boy to win the Pony European Championships. A great all-round horseman, he has been second twice in major competitions this summer, at Barbury and Gatcombe (both times behind Andrew Nicholson on the triple Burghley winner Avebury), and, now 37 and a trained equine dentist, this is his first major international win.
“I am just so pleased,” he said. “It’s been a long wait and so it means an awful lot. But I remember back when I won that pony title, that I had been second a lot and then suddenly I had a feeling that it was all going to go well.
“I never felt that nervous this weekend. I was obviously anxious to do well, but I felt we were as well prepared as we could be. In fact, the reason we came here was because we felt we had every chance of winning.”
Whittington will now return the 13-year-old “Smokie”, an Irish-bred grey gelding, to four-star level – they’re aiming for Badminton next year – with an eye on the European Championships at Blair Castle and then, in 2016, the Rio Olympics.
Crowd figures at Blenheim were up 15% on last year, organisers said.