Yasmin Ingham led from start to finish on Banzai Du Loir to take out the CCI4*-L at the Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials at the weekend, cementing her position as one of Britain’s rising eventing stars.
Ingham led throughout the competition from the dressage phase and didn’t add a single penalty in the jumping phases to remain on her dressage mark of 25.2 riding Sue Davies and Janette Chin’s 10-year-old Banzai Du Loir. It is the biggest win of the 24-year-old’s eventing career.
Ros Canter took the runner-up spot on Lordships Graffalo, adding just 0.4 of a time-fault in the showjumping to finish on 27.1.
Piggy French and Brookfield Quality hit one showjump to drop from third to fifth, paving the way for her protegee Susie Berry, the only Irish rider in the field, to take out third place with the Irish Sport Horse gelding John The Bull, owned by Helen Caton and Caroline Berry. They finishing on their dressage score of 27.9.
Jalapeno III finished fourth with Gemma Tattersall, completing on her dressage score of 28.7. Chris Stone’s 13-year-old, a daughter of Badminton winner Chilli Morning, fractured a splint bone at Houghton Hall in May and the majority of her fitness work for Blenheim Palace has been done in the swimming pool.
The top six was rounded off by Helen Witchell and My Ernie, who moved up from 26th after dressage to sixth by adding nothing to their first-phase score of 31.7.
Ingham said the final phase was the most pressurised situation she had been in. “I just couldn’t be more grateful to be sat on such an incredible horse going into the final phase. He gave me his all and tried so hard for me. This is the best day of my life!”
Ingham grew up on the Isle of Man, and moved to Cheshire to be based at Banzai Du Loir’s owners’ stables. She won individual and team gold medals at the Pony European Championships in 2013. Her most significant senior victory before this weekend was when she and Banzai Du Loir — who was bought from France for her to ride in 2019 — took the eight and nine-year-old CCI4*-S usually held at Blenheim Palace at the 2020 replacement event at Burnham Market in Norfolk.
Ros Canter has a worthy successor to her reigning world champion Allstar B in Michele Saul’s Lordships Graffalo.
“I’m very proud of him — he gets better and better with every run,” said Canter. “I’m also delighted for Yasmin — she’s become quite a good friend of mine. We’ve travelled to [the French CCI5* event] Pau twice together with our mothers, just having a really nice ‘family’ time. She deserves every inch of this — she’s a fantastic girl, so good on her.”
Susie Berry was based at Piggy French’s Northamptonshire yard for several years before setting up on her own in 2020. The 25-year-old Irish rider broke her arm in April, and she admitted that she was as relieved as she was delighted to clinch her best result at CCI4* level at Blenheim Palace.
She was emotional in the aftermath, saying: “He is so talented that I put extra pressure on myself just for him, because he is incredible. He did each phase as well as he could, which I am so pleased about.
“He’s aptly named — he’s very cocky and arrogant, but as soon as I get on board, that’s what I love about him, and that is what makes him stand out from other horses. He wants it and he wants to win — when he’s in the ring, he fights for me. I have had such a rubbish year but this has completely turned things around.”
Nicola Wilson had the perfect send-off for next weekend’s European Championships when notching up her first Blenheim victory, in the prestigious CCI4*S for eight and nine-year-old horses.
Wilson, 44, was riding James and Jo Lambert’s nine-year-old Coolparks Sarco, an Irish Sport Horse produced by New Zealander Andrew Nicholson, who announced his retirement from the top level of the sport during the event.
“I am pinching myself,” said Wilson, who won team gold and individual bronze medals at the 2017 European Championships. “It’s always a journey with every horse, and when it comes to a peak at the right time it is very special. It’s been such an exciting week.” She also placed fourth on Hawk Eye
With the highest-placed riders running in reverse order of merit, Piggy March’s fast round on Cooley Lancer, for only 1.2 time penalties, elevated her four places to the runner-up spot.
Caroline Harris enjoyed her best Blenheim placing to date, finishing third on Rebecca Stones’ home-bred Miss Pepperpot.
Ros Canter, who is also bound for Switzerland, was last to go across country, but incurred 20 penalties for a run-out on Izilot DHI and finished in 27th place. Tom Jackson, the overnight runner-up on HH Moonwalk, also faulted and dropped to 33rd.
Prize for best-placed mares
The highest-placed mares at Blenheim received £850 vouchers from the Gemini Stud, to be used on a stallion there within three years.
The CCI4*L winner was fourth-placed Jalapeno III, a 13-year-old owned by Chris and Lisa Stone and by their 2015 Badminton winner, Chilli Morning.
Gemma Tattersall said that Jalapeno had just one open intermediate run since injuring herself in the stable at Houghton in May.
“It was a tiny injury but she had to have time off to fix it and she’s since been swimming and treadmilling loads and loads. I’ve hardly been to the gallops. So I was very scared, but it worked; she was pretty much foot-perfect and gave me the most wonderful ride. She winged the first three cross-country fences and that set the tone for the whole round. She was so smooth.”
In the CCI4*S, the prize went to Becky Stones’ Miss Pepperpot, third under Caroline Harris. Miss Pepperpot is by the great showjumping stallion Peppermill, a British team medallist and Olympic ride for John Whitaker. He is now 24 and still being used for breeding, in Belgium.
Harris said it was the toughest course she had ridden at Blenheim. “The mare was very strong. She was very strong. She has come back from a horrible fall, but it didn’t faze her at all – she was so straight and honest.”
Stones, who manages Ridgeway Stud, is more usually seen on the showjumping circuit, but she used to compete in eventing and says that “the dream” was always to produce an event horse.
“I have four eventers I bred myself, all with Caroline, and watching them is beyond satisfying. It’s so nerve-racking — they are my children — but to see a little piece of Peppermill going round is just wonderful.”
There was one stallion competing at Blenheim Palace at the weekend. PSH Promise Me completed the CCI4*-L in 47th place with a good clear cross-country round under Gloucestershire-based rider Michael Jackson. Owned by Gary Power, PSH Promise Me is a 13-year-old by Ulysses. The diminutive grey completed the CCI4*-L at Blenheim Palace in 2017 also, and the CCI4*-L at Bramham in 2018.
“He’s a real-life unicorn,” Jackson said. “He loves competing and gets quite excited about it, but he was brilliant across country yesterday — foot-perfect — and I’m very proud of him.”
New blood at Blenheim
This was the first year that The Jockey Club has organised the Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials.
“It has been an amazing four days for absolutely top-class horse sport, and our congratulations and thanks go to all the riders, owners and their supporters,” said Ian Renton, Event Director and Regional Managing Director for The Jockey Club’s West Region.
“I must say thank you to the team who have worked incredibly hard to put Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials on. While we were blessed with a huge crowd of more than 20,000 spectators here on Saturday enjoying the sunshine, the brilliant cross-country action and the spectacular surroundings of Blenheim Palace, we are aware of some issues, particularly around traffic flow, which we will address for next year.
“Thank you also to His Grace the Duke of Marlborough and his family and everyone at Blenheim Palace for their support and help. We have learnt so much from this first event; it is a fantastic occasion and one which we hope we can improve and add to in the future.”