Reigning world champion Sandra Auffarth leads the CCI3* at the Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials after the first day of dressage.
Riding Ispo, an 11-year-old Westphalian gelding, the German rider scored 37.2 to take a comfortable lead.
“That was the best test we have done,” said Auffarth, who was part of Germany’s gold medal-winning team and also took individual silver at last week’s European Championships. “He’s getting better and better on the flat as he gets stronger. He’s really sweet, and is Opgun Louvo’s best friend.
Auffarth took over the ride on Ispo a year ago after the death of the horse’s rider, Benjamin Winter, in a fall at Luhmhulen CCI4* in Germany.
Three marks behind her in second place in the CCI3* is the young British rider Dani Evans and Raphael II with 40.2. Franky Reid-Warrilow and Dolley Whisper, competing at their first CCI3*, are in third with a mark of 40.6. The pair recently won individual gold at the European CIC2* Championships.
Britain’s Piggy French rode OBOS Cooley to a score of 41.9 for fourth, fractionally ahead of Australian rider Christopher Burton with Nobilis 18, who are on a mark of 42.
“I’m very happy – he was obedient and stayed with me well,” Burton said.
Three-times Blenheim winner William Fox-Pitt is in sixth on the experienced Cool Mountain with 43.3, the horse with whom he won team gold and individual silver medals at the 2010 World Equestrian Games.
“It’s brilliant to have Cool Mountain here at Blenheim,” Fox-Pitt said. “He’s a great horse and it’s a great team effort and, at 15 years old everything is a bonus.
“Things do go wrong and we’ve been lucky to enjoy those amazing years with him when he was young.
“They don’t all find it easy physically, they don’t all have the same resilience. He has shown some good form and it’s very exciting so let’s see if he can show some again. We’re here to have a good time and enjoy him, and it’s his first time at Blenheim, so a new experience for him.”
Last year’s winner of the CIC3* for eight-and-nine-year-old horses, New Zealand’s Jonelle Price, leads the class again. This year she is riding Cloud Dancer II, an eight-year-old whom Jonelle bought with Jacky Green as a just-broken four-year-old.
“He’s smart – he moves very well, especially for an event horse, so I feel a bit of a responsibility to produce something a bit special,” Price said.
“He’s no Ferrari across country but he gives it his best – a few seconds in hand would be handy!”
China’s Alex Hua Tian is in the runner-up spot on a mark of 40.6 with Don Geniro, while Irish rider Jonty Evans is third with 43.8 on Fiona Elliott’s Cooley Rorkes Drift.
French combination Sidney Dufresne and Tresor Mail are next with a mark of 44.1, just ahead of Ireland’s Fraser Duffy on Fernhill Revelation with 44.6. Last year’s CCI3* winner Francis Whittington is sixth on Cavalier Venture.
Friday’s action starts at 8.30am with Sam Jennings (Coleplay) in the CCI3* and at 9am with Izzy Taylor (Briarlands Birdsong) in the CIC3*.