The dressage leaders at the Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials retained pole position going into their final phase, with Yasmin Ingham posting a perfect cross-country round on Banzai Du Loir in the CCI4*-L, and Ros Canter and Izilot DHI going clear in the showjumping round of the CCI4*-S.
The clear round means that Ingham, 24, has the biggest win of her career tantalisingly in her sights.
Riding French-bred Banzai Du Loir, Ingham finished one second inside the optimum time of 10 minutes 28 seconds to hold a 0.6 penalty advantage over 2019 winner Piggy March, riding Brookfield Quality.
“I’ve never been in this position at a major competition before,” said a delighted Ingham, for whom the huge cheering crowd had proved an inspiration. “I was really nervous — I just didn’t want to let the horse down. This would be my biggest achievement and I’m going to do my best to realise it.”
March, who is also in sixth place on the Irish-bred Sportsfield Top Notch, said Brookfield Quality seemed distracted by the crowd.
“He was hot, gazing at all the crowds and seemed quite distracted and I thought he might run a bit like a rabbit in the headlights and not focus and stay with me, but he was great. I couldn’t ask for any more of him,” she said. “He’s a brave horse.”
World champion Ros Canter is in third place on her rising star Lordships Graffalo, just ahead of Emily King in fourth on Valmy Biats and Ireland’s Susie Berry fifth on John The Bull. Pippa Funnell has dropped a couple of places to seventh on Maybach, having picked up 1.2 cross-country time-penalties.
Canter said that Lordships Graffalo was the nicest horse she’s ever ridden cross-country. “He goes as fast as you want him to go and when you sit up, he slows down in balance. He was on it today – he didn’t bat an eyelid at all the people, and made it feel easy which is exciting. The huge crowd, with kids running everywhere, was a brilliant experience for these horses.”
Olympic team gold and individual silver medallist Tom McEwen is eighth on Bob Chaplin and his Tokyo team-mate Oliver Townend, the world No.1, conjured a beautiful round from new ride Swallow Springs to lie ninth. Gemma Tattersall, the recent winner of the Bicton CCI5*, is 10th on Jalapeño ll.
A thrilling finale ensues as just one showjumping rail (four faults) covers the top 10 riders.
Going into the final cross-country phase, Ros Canter heads the CCI4*-S for eight and nine-year-old horses after showjumping clear on Izilot DHI. It is the eight-year-old’s debut at CCI4* level, but he won the CCI3*-Ls at both Houghton Hall and Blair Castle this season.
Canter and Izilot DHI added just 1.6 time-faults around the demanding showjumping track.
“I couldn’t be more delighted with him — he’s never even done an advanced class before, let alone a four-star, and then I was away in Tokyo [where she was Britain’s reserve rider], so even coming here was a big ask,” Canter said. “I was confident he would have the scope to do it and he’s very brave, but he’s a spooky horse, and this was a clever track.
“I’m very open-minded about tomorrow’s cross-country — if he sets out and he’s green, I’ll slow down. Of course, it would be great to win, but I am more excited about him winning an Olympic medal in the future, so I am realistic about what we will do tomorrow.”
There were only seven clears within the time in the showjumping — for which the spectacular main arena was shrouded in fog — from the 49 starters. Tom Jackson, second on HH Moonwalk, left all the poles up but collected two time-faults. He will therefore set out across country on a score of 29.6.
“It’s obviously frustrating to get time-faults, but he’s an amazingly talented horse and I couldn’t really have asked more of him,“ Jackson said. “He went a little bit tight in his body in the slightly eerie atmosphere, but he still jumped clear and he’s one for which we have big hopes for the future.”
Nicola Wilson has risen four places to third on Coolparks Sarco after posting a clear round inside the time, remaining on her dressage mark of 29.8.
Caroline Harris is in fourth on Miss Pepperpot after adding just 0.4 of a time-fault to her dressage score of 30.4. “She’s amazing!” Harris said. “She’s only been eventing for two years, really, so she’s come a long way. This was a proper jumper’s track – not really in terms of height, but the distances really kept you thinking.
“She’s quite feisty and she likes to go — she’s been double clear [at CCI4*-S level] at Burgham and Hartpury, but anything can happen tomorrow.”
Willa Newton also jumped clear inside the time on Cock A Doodle Doo to take fifth place, while Piggy March is in sixth on Cooley Lancer.