|Belton Horse Trials | Hopefully A Sign Of Things to Come This Season|
If today’s conclusion to Belton Horse Trials is a sign of things to come over the rest of the season, this year will live up to all my expectations! Blessed with bright sunshine all day, the crowds poured out of Grantham and the surrounding area for what was a truly great day of Advanced cross country the likes of which you don’t see very often. It was a day of fortunes won and lost, meteoric returns to form of riders & horses sidelined for one reason or another, and a little heartache too.
|Andrew Nicholson & Avebury | Winners Advanced Section O|
Three sections, 2 Advanced & 1 CIC***, with the challenge of a course with pretty good going, thanks to sandy soil, that would prove pretty impossible to complete without penalty. This left the leader board changing almost constantly in all three sections.
As this is cross country day, that usually means Andrew Nicholson dominates the action – and he did! He ran the three greys he has entered for Badminton, Shady Grey, Avebury & Mr. Cruise Control. He completely owned the cross country course, as he often does, and took the Advanced section O on Avebury, and slotted Mr. Cruise Control into 5th, both apparently run without really gunning it. Fellow New Zealander, Caroline Powell ran the wonderful little Lenamore round to finish 3rd just behind Sarah Stretton in 2nd.
In Advanced section N, Mary King suffered at the hands of the course on Chilli Morning, giving away a significant lead and ruling her out of the competition. This left a dozen or so riders with low 30s dressage scores to raise their game and push on round what was quite a galloping track over all, fences relatively evenly spread, but with some tricky lines in the combinations with corners, skinnys and angles. Mark Kyle hammered round just 3 seconds over the time to win the section on Coolio, jumping cleanly all the way, and beating a number of others who were out to be competitive.
|Sarah Cohen | Sharp & Efficient On Cross Country And Back To The Top of The Sport With A Win In The CIC***|
The main class of the day, the CIC*** Grantham Cup was double exciting. A few of the real contenders & the leader were right at the end of the running order with over one hundred entries. I spent a lot of time down the first half of the course as this was where you got better photos thanks to the sunshine, and I thought the horses would be more athletic, and therefore photogenic. I was well rewarded and the sunken road had plenty of drive by’s at the brush fence you see above. Clearly a few had anticipated this and forced their horses to jump the oversized part of the fence. That’s not to say the rest of the course didn’t deliver it’s fair share of wins for the course designer, and Laura Collett who had run Nobleman’s Best so superbly earlier on, glanced off a fence later on, on the course and from her tweet afterwards was clearly kicking herself:
Despite the problem, Rayef is still a real contender for Badminton next month. I suspect there’s really very little Laura needs to work on to match or better last year’s Badminton result, and give the selectors a headache.
Laura’s loss was Sarah Cohen’s gain, and a real joy to watch out in the park. How fabulous to see Sarah returning to the top of the sport again, after a few year’s out of the limelight. She was sharp and efficient all the way round, and only a handful of riders managed to beat her time, including Paul Tapner who was riding it like he’d stolen Inonothing to finish second. Both these horses also head to Badminton, both with wins of the Grantham Cup under their belt.
I’ve plenty more thoughts on Belton, but it’s late so for now I’ll leave you with a few photos & the results: