A change of venue, from the grand surroundings of Burghley, to the even grander surroundings of Blenheim Palace, gave many a change of fortune, expect perhaps the British, who excelled at both. William Fox-Pitt added 1st & 3rd in the CIC*** (split by Sarah Cohen) to his historic Burghley win, and finished 10th in the CCI*** won by Piggy French aboard the horse she won the Olympic test event on.
The fate of nations in eventing is so often cyclical, dependent on bringing enough elite horsepower together at the same time. British & New Zealand are currently the super powers with riders having invested heavily in breeding and selective purchasing like no other nation except perhaps Germany, in a bid to break the cycle. The Australians who, not too long ago, could boast triple Olympic medalists on their team with elite 4 star horses, are currently climbing out of ‘recession’ with fresh talent like Paul Tapner & Sam Griffiths, and may perhaps not make up an all conquering team in time for London 2012, having failed to qualify so far, plus two of Paul Tapner’s elite list horses are currently on the injury list. None of this would prevent them from fielding some pretty strong individuals.
Japan’s team qualification at the Blenheim regional qualifier, after a string of dramas that befell the Australians, I predict will lead to more horse rustling. Japan has only ever won 1 individual medal onboard a horse, way back in 1932 in the showjumping, and I’m not sure how many times they’ve ever qualified a team for the eventing before. They do however have a history of importing good horses, particularly dressage horses, and I just wonder whether they will arouse some interest back home now that they have 2 riders into the top half of the leaderboard at Blenheim, and a clear route to London 2012.
The state of the union just improved, and American fortunes were distinctly on the up at Blenheim compared to Burghley with 3 riders in the top ten (Tiana Coudray 2nd, Clark Montgomery 5th, Will Faudree 8th). These three (along with Boyd Martin) represent the rising tide of talent across the pond, and if they can continue to post this type of result against European based riders, it could make for an interesting Olympics for the US. I think I’d actually put money on Clark making it onto the US team, and if Australian gangster, Neville Bardos, doesn’t make it after his performance at Burghley, someone needs to deselect the selectors.
As for the rest of Blenheim, had both Pippa Funnel & Piggy French not withdrawn 2 of the top 3 after cross country, the CCI*** final score board might have looked quite different. Both Billy Landretti and Lemington Lett Dance were no shows at the final inspection as they ‘didn’t feel right’, and these were joined by Paul Hart’s disappointment when Heartbreak Hill was held and then failed half way through the trot up.
In what has become something of a tradition, there continued to be as much effort put into presentation of the riders as that of the horses. Bettina Hoy wore a stylish but casual number, probably Chanel, I wouldn’t really know, even if you showed me the label! I was more drawn to how shiny and well all the horses looked in the early morning sunshine, and the odd smile. When the weather’s good, the horse inspections can be the second best part of a three day event (second only to cross country), and if a CCI & CIC 3star wasn’t enough to keep you or the family from boredom, you had everything from a flight simulator to side saddle riding and ‘loose your shirt’ puissance.
Blenheim for me always heralds the start of the end of the eventing season, at least here in the UK, and it’s usually very well attended. This year seemed less well attended, perhaps I’ve misread the size of the crowd, but the trot-up was sparsely attended, and the Sunday morning cross country seemed very empty, Saturday was much quieter than I’d anticipated too. Come Sunday lunchtime though, and the crowds had woken, washed and recovered more to the numbers I had expected, reappearing for the start of showjumping, with what must be the most ostentatious backdrop to any three day event, Blenheim Palace, in all it’s gilded finery.
What A Venue! What A Show! What A Result!
Probably time to venture abroad for more eventing…..